When it comes to travel bucket lists, “going on safari in Africa” is an item that appears on many of them. And understandably so – seeing things like elephants and lions and hippos in their natural wild habitats is magic; going to the zoo is never the same again.
I’ve been lucky enough to go on several safaris in a handful of different countries on the African continent. Each African safari has varied in everything from terrain to wildlife sightings, but they’ve all been incredible.
Being able to pinpoint the best safari in Africa is probably impossible since it’s so subjective, but this is such a bucket list item for so many people. Hopefully, by detailing some of my favorite places to go on safari in Africa (so far) can help you narrow down the options when you plan your own trip.
The best parks for safaris in Africa
1. Kruger National Park
My very first safari was in Kruger National Park in South Africa. Covering more than 7,500 square miles (nearly 19,500 square kilometers), Kruger is one of the largest game parks in Africa. It’s also an excellent place for a first safari since it’s easily accessible.
Kruger fun fact: It was the first national park created in South Africa in 1926.
How I experienced it: My safari experience in Kruger National Park was a luxurious one; we stayed in a private concession within the park (the Jock Safari Lodge), slept in a fancy mini-villa, and went on multiple game drives per day. Because we were staying at a private game lodge, we went mostly off-road on our safaris and very rarely saw other vehicles; the park never felt “crowded.”
Other ways to experience it: You can also self-drive and camp within Kruger, though if you’re driving yourself you have to stay on dedicated park roads.
Kruger landscape: Kruger is a relatively flat park with plenty of trees and bushes for animals to hide in. You’ll find lots of thorny acacia trees and red-bush willow, and some areas of dense vegetation.
What you can see in Kruger National Park: You can see just about everything in Kruger, from the Big 5 (buffalo, elephant, rhino, lion, and leopard) to hyenas to giraffes to even wild dogs if you’re lucky.
Most unique thing to see: We saw a pack of wild dogs trying to chase away a pack of hyenas. There are thought to only be about 400 wild dogs in the whole of South Africa, so if you manage to spot some in Kruger it’s very special.
The best time to visit Kruger: The rainy season in Kruger runs from September through April, and the dry season from May to September. The “best” times to visit are usually in between the two seasons: in April/May and in September, when temperatures are mild. I visited in May, and the weather was mostly dry with warm days and cool nights.
How to get there: Flights operate between major cities in South Africa and either the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport or Skukuza Airport, both near the south part of the park. You can also drive to Kruger from Johannesburg in 4-5 hours.