Guide to Africa for Wildlife & Primate Watching Safari: Car Rental Congo.
Car Rental Congo has explored the most destinations for wildlife & Gorilla safaris in Africa as a combined Africa Safaris offered by many Tour operators.
Africa has long been known as the best continent in the world for wildlife viewing. Within Africa, there are a number of countries that deliver outstanding photographic safari experiences, each with their unique benefits and differences. The key when choosing a country or countries for your safari is to consider your specific wildlife interests, and any other priorities for the trip, such as activities other than wildlife viewing, or landmarks you want to visit. From there, our planning team can share how each of these various countries would or would not meet your needs. Together, we arrive at an educated decision on the best choice for your safari.
If you’ve never before been to Africa, you’ve so much to look forward to. But choosing where to go on your first safari can be quite daunting.
Below is an overview of the top safari countries listed alphabetically. Each country has its own “best of” factors that could fit your interests. However, our top recommendations for the wildlife enthusiast and first time safari-goer are;
- South Africa
1. The Republic of Kenya
They’ve been doing safaris in Kenya since the very concept was invented, and safari actually means ‘journey’ in Swahili. Nowhere in Africa has a more professional safari industry than Kenya’s, and with that experience comes a rare combination of infrastructure and service. There are hundreds of excellent lodges and tented camps, standards of service from local staff are generally high, and they’ve mastered the logistics of moving between national parks for each leg of your safari itinerary.
Tens of thousands of wildebeest stand in the long green grasses of the Serengeti; they are so tightly packed that the grass is hard to see.
The annual wildebeest migration is a huge draw for visitors to the Serengeti and Masai Mara
Kenya’s wildlife offering is also outstanding. The main safari circuit takes place in the Masai Mara, Amboseli and Lake Nakuru, with Tsavo West, Tsavo East and Samburu popular add-ons. Any combination of these parks should ensure ample sightings of big cats, plenty of elephants, a few rhinos, and all of the plains game, such as buffaloes, giraffes, zebras and all manner of gazelle and antelope species. Extend your stay by a week and you could even scale Mt Kenya, Africa’s second-highest peak.
Kenya has a downside, it’s Nairobi. Most travellers pass through without difficulty, but the city is a robust introduction to the continent with endless traffic snarls and questionable security in some quarters. Stay long enough to visit Nairobi National Park – an extraordinarily well-stocked park on the cusp of one of Africa’s largest cities – and then move on. And spend as little time as possible on Kenya’s roads, both because the combination of distance and traffic means you can take forever to arrive, and to minimize your risk of accidents. Flying from one park to the next makes better use of your time, although it does cost more.
2. The Republic of Tanzania
Tanzania is often considered the ultimate safari country. In Tanzania, you find the classic safari of most people’s dreams: staying under tented canvas and traversing wide, open plains teeming with animals in amazing quantities. Tanzania is loaded with famous destinations, like the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Zanzibar and Mount Kilimanjaro. It also has parks that are barely known, yet would be the crowned jewel in almost any other country, like Ruaha, Katavi and Mahale National Parks. All of this supports the greatest wildlife quantities in all of Africa. With an estimated 4 million wild animals, Tanzania is home to the continent’s largest populations of many safari species, such as lions. Tanzania is home to the legendary Great Migration of roughly 2 million wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle moving through the Serengeti ecosystem.
The majority of tourism takes place on the Northern Circuit, which includes the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, and Tarangire. The best locations to visit within the Serengeti change throughout the year in accordance with the movement of the Great Migration. As such, many of the best camps are seasonal tented camps that move with the Migration. A special feature of a Northern Circuit safari is that travelers will have a private guide and vehicle that stays with them throughout their entire safari.
Safaris in southern and western Tanzania are very different scenically from the typical northern circuit area and can provide unique experiences in remote wilderness. At Lake Tanganyika, you can experience the magic of Mahale National park with white sand beaches, thick jungles, and the thrill of hiking to view chimpanzees. Katavi and Ruaha are among Africa’s best kept secrets, offering astounding big game viewing in very wild areas.
3. The Republic of South Africa
South Africa can be a good introduction to the African safari, not least because it allows you to combine watching wildlife with more sedate pleasures, such as wineries and Cape Town urban cool. Many of the safari offerings are also priced for the domestic market, which makes them some of the best value options on the continent. Kruger National Park is a terrific place to get acquainted with Africa’s wildlife. The Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) are present in large numbers as are all manner of different mammal species, plus brilliant birdlife. The infrastructure is also excellent – the main roads are paved, there’s well-run accommodation across a range of budgets, and it’s very easy to get around. South Africa’s safari operators, car rental companies and other service providers also rank among the most professional on the continent.
The only reason why many first-time travellers might hesitate before flying into Johannesburg is the country’s reputation for crime. Most visitors never encounter any difficulties, but there’s no denying security can be an issue in South Africa, particularly in urban areas. If you stick to South Africa’s parks and abundant private reserves, you’ll greatly reduce your risk of experiencing any problems.
When you think of South Africa, the incredible Kruger National Park most certainly comes to mind. Not only can you catch a glimpse of the famous Big Five, but you will find yourself surrounded by hundreds of species of birds, ancient trees, winding rivers, superb accommodation and adventure. Basically, it’s a one-stop shop for all of your wildlife dreams.
Imagine rising with the South African sun. Driving out of your camp, filled with anticipation as you keep your eyes peeled for an overnight lion kill, a leopard casually draped over the branch of a big tree or a herd of elephants taking a morning stroll. Then ask yourself, is there anywhere else in the world you’d rather be?
The Kruger National Park was proclaimed in 1894 by President Paul Kruger.
The Kruger National Park is home to thousands of animals. From giraffes browsing for Acacia leaves to chew on and a herd of buffalo crossing the road right in front of you, to elusive big cats enjoying a spot of shade and fish eagles letting out their distinctive call – it’s the Lion King in live action.
It’s hard to believe your eyes when you see the herds of hundreds of antelope or crocodiles basking in the afternoon sun while the hippos keep cool under water. Not to mention the things you’ll hear, they are just as unbelievable – hyenas cackling the night away as male lions roar for dominance, and if you’re lucky, the almost silent footsteps of a pack of wild dogs on the prowl.
This is just a small taste of all the things you can see, hear and do in one of the world’s most-loved game parks. The Kruger National Park enjoys a great year-round sunny climate and offers all kinds of activities, from guided game drives and bush walks with an armed ranger to three-night walking trails in deep wilderness areas.
With so much to see and do, it’s hardly surprising that the Kruger National Park gets over 1.4 million visitors a year. However, because it’s so big – 352km from north to south, and covering over 1.9 million hectares with 2500km of tar and dirt roads – you will be amazed at how often you find yourself being treated to a private sighting. Don’t be fooled though, with so many expertly-camouflaged animals calling the park home, you’re never really alone.
4. The Republic of Namibia
Often marketed as ‘Africa for Beginners’, Namibia is a fine choice for your first African journey. Like South Africa, many prices are aimed at the domestic (and South African) market, which makes them good value. For wildlife, Etosha National Park is simply wonderful and has excellent infrastructure, while the intimacy of wildlife-rich private reserves such as Okonjima and Erindi are ideal for first timers. Elsewhere, wildlife is pretty difficult to track down, but you could combine wildlife with other attractions – the shipwrecks and seal colonies along the Skeleton Coast, time spent with the Himba in the country’s north, and the sand dunes of Sossusvlei. If you’ve the time, it’s a long drive south to Fish River Canyon, which might not have much wildlife but remains one of the continent’s most dramatic hiking destinations.
Beyond these major attractions, most of which are accessible along the country’s well-maintained network of paved roads, some of Namibia’s other major attractions, such as Damaraland with its stirring mountains and desert-adapted elephants consist of pretty rugged country that’s probably best left to more experienced Africa hands. If money is no object, you can easily fly into luxury camps in some of the country’s most beautiful and more remote corners. Getting there is far more difficult if you’re on a more modest budget.
The front of a mokoro (dugout canoe) is visible going through long reeds in the waters of the Okavango Delta; ahead, deeper in the reeds and moving past a tree is another mokoro being poled by the guide.
5. The Republic of Botswana
Botswana is one of Africa’s premier wildlife-watching destinations. The wildlife is prolific and extraordinary and the landscapes – the Kalahari, the Okavango Delta, the salt pans of Makgadikgadi – are likewise. As one of the wealthiest countries in sub-Saharan Africa and with one of the lowest population densities on the planet, diamond-rich Botswana is a pleasure to travel in, with empty roads, very few large cities and a highly accomplished safari industry.
But Botswana’s appeal comes with a caveat, and it comes down to cost. Keen to avoid the pitfalls of mass tourism, Botswana’s government aims high, putting an emphasis on low-volume, high-cost safari experiences. You could rent a 4WD vehicle and go camping, but the price of doing so will still be out of reach for many budget and even midrange travellers.
A canoe with a guide sits in the Zambezi River with a large elephant on the bank.
6. The Republic of Rwanda( Land of thousand Hills)
Gorillas in Rwanda
Rwanda is best known for mountain gorilla trekking which is the driving force for the bulk of tourism in the country. Gorilla trekking is one of the pinnacle wildlife experiences on Earth and well worth the trip to Rwanda for that reason alone. Rwanda has excellent logistics for high quality gorilla trekking. Because it is a very small country, it is possible to experience a good deal of the ‘flavor’ of the country during a brief 2 to 3 night stay focused on the gorillas.
Rwanda is forever linked with the tragic genocide that occurred there during 1994. However, it has rebounded from that turbulent time to become one of Africa’s most progressive countries. Visitors comment on how friendly, welcoming, and lovely the people are. This creates a real awakening opportunity for travelers who are struck by the friendly culture and yet realize how shocking it is that horrific genocide occurred here, driving home the point that all human cultures are at such risk.
There is a great national pride, and the country has made the decision to keep the genocide history out there to educate rather than shrink from it. As such, there is an impressive genocide museum, which recounts just how often genocide has happened throughout the world. Shocking reminders still exist at many sites where atrocities occurred.
Often logistics make it necessary to stay a night in the capital city of Kigali. Including the Genocide Museum and a city tour rounds out a full picture of Rwanda during your visit, traveling to the mountains where the gorillas reside is simple with just a 2 ½ to 3 hours of driving on good quality roads that wind through scenic mountain areas with terraced farming communities. Small villages give a glimpse into local culture, with the possibility to visit local businesses or schools to expand your cultural experiences.
Beyond the gorilla focus, other wildlife areas have recently gained traction. Nyungwe National Park features a unique forest that is ecologically important. It is an outstanding park for a variety of primates, but sightings are not reliable enough to compete with other chimpanzee trekking regions such as Kibale, Uganda and Mahale, Tanzania. However, travelers to Nyungwe are helping to protect the best preserved montane rainforest in Central Africa.
Akagera is the only general safari game area in Rwanda, and has recently undergone extensive investments with African Parks. The park now features Big Five viewing opportunities; however most of our clientele combine gorilla trekking in Rwanda with traditional game viewing in Kenya or Tanzania.
7. The Republic of Uganda ( Pearl of Africa)
Chimpanzee trekking is a highlight of visiting Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.
Gorilla trekking is the driving force of tourism in Uganda even though the country is full of other safari gems. Many people combine mountain gorilla trekking with excellent chimpanzee treks in Kibale Forest for the ultimate primate safari. Between Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (where the gorillas are) and Kibale Forest (where the best chimp viewing is) lies Queen Elizabeth National Park, making it a natural inclusion to see general game on a primate-focused safari.
Murchison Falls is a popular addition for those looking for an extended safari in Uganda. Possibly the best-kept secret in Africa is Kidepo Valley National Park. It is hidden away against the border with Sudan and Kenya in an extremely remote corner of Uganda. Unfortunately, expensive flights are needed to include Kidepo Valley.
Bush flights between destinations are available for those who want to avoid long drives over poor roads. Comparatively, Uganda safari lodging and activities are lower cost (and more rustic) than most other safari countries, but the high costs of logistics equalize many of the savings on lodging. Gorilla trekking permits cost about half of what they cost in Rwanda and Uganda really stands out for its overall diversity of scenery, experiences, and wildlife.
Enjoy pristine white sand beaches and turquoise waters in Mozambique.
While maybe not one of the best safari countries in a classical sense, Mozambique is an exceptional destination for beaches, island paradise, and scuba diving. There are pristine islands delivering the dream settings of near deserted islands with gorgeous beaches, turquoise waters, and almost no people. The diving and snorkeling is equally impressive with excellent reefs and diverse marine communities. Mozambique has a coastline that stretches for over 1,500 miles, almost double the length of California (840 miles). It runs from a border with South Africa in the south all the way to Tanzania in the north, making Mozambique a possible beach addition to both Eastern and Southern African safaris. The southern half of Mozambique is home to the paradise of the Bazaruto Archipelago, while the north has the incredible Quirimbas Archipelago. Both areas have astounding islands with supreme marine environs.
For mainland wildlife safari Mozambique is a recovering destination that receives very low density tourism. The Niassa Reserve in the far north is one of the largest protected areas on the continent and has large populations of many species. Gorongosa National Park is another potential safari destination. It suffered great wildlife losses during civil war times, but restoration efforts have been impressive. Unfortunately, at this time it is a challenge to visit these locations as there are not high quality operations available. The best way to visit would be with a private guided expedition, for which we can make special arrangements.
Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia
Zambia is often referred to as “The Real Africa.” Of course, all other safari areas are very real too, but Zambian safaris are rightfully distinguished by the expedition of old adventure that they deliver under the care of exceptional guides, in off-the-beaten-path wilderness areas teeming with wildlife. This atmosphere carries back to the camps as well. Unlike other Southern Africa destinations, there is still a preponderance of bush camps. The bush camps are small and intimate, roughly half the size of a typical Botswana luxury camp. These camps retain a rustic charm and a wonderful on-the-ground connection to the surrounding wilderness areas while still delivering extreme comfort and pampering service.
Zambian guiding standards are rivaled only by Zimbabwe. In fact, many guides from Zimbabwe have moved to Zambia over the years. The result has been exceptional skills cultivated in the local Zambian guides. This top standard of guiding is an essential strength of a Zambian safari.
Outstanding guiding makes diverse activities, such as walking and canoeing, possible in Zambia. In fact, South Luangwa National Park is the birthplace of walking safaris. It is a rare treat to walk in areas where animals are habituated to humans on foot. In the Lower Zambezi National Park, river activities, such as canoeing and power boating, add to the adventure. Game drives can be exclusive with very few vehicles in the areas. Night drives are extremely good in the Zambian parks as well. Beyond these two prime parks there are Kafue and Liuwa Plains National Parks which would be near the top of Africa’s “under the radar” safari areas. Livingstone lies at the Zambia side of Victoria Falls and it offers a great option to tour the fall from the Zambia side.
Several independent operations in Zambia, as opposed to larger safari corporations that dominate most countries now, each offer their own flavor of accommodation. Many of these owners are very involved with conservation and upliftment of local communities. It is possible to include cultural visits on Zambia safaris to fully round out the experience.
10 . Zimbabwe
Elephants in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is best known as the home of Victoria Falls, and that remains one of its biggest attractions. Many safari-goers visiting Botswana and/or South Africa add on Victoria Falls but do nothing else within Zimbabwe. Safari insiders know, however, that Zimbabwe is legendary for its guides. Zimbabwe has the most stringent guide exams, with a focus on walking. This has produced a rich legacy of the highest quality guiding.
Zimbabwe tourism has suffered greatly under the reign of the Robert Mugabe regime, unfortunately. As the years have passed, safari tourism has begun to rebound. Zimbabwe offers a supreme experience for travelers with a high adventure quotient. Many safaris focus on finding wildlife on foot through active tracking. This is especially true in Mana Pools National Park, where you can add adrenaline on top of the walking with a thrilling canoe trip on the Zambezi River. Another fabled park is Hwange, where pumped water holes in a dry environment attract huge quantities of large species like elephants and buffalo.
Part of the resurgence in Zimbabwe is the quality for value. Zimbabwe is trying to rebuild its attraction and, despite the high level of guiding, costs can be considerably less than similar quality safaris in neighboring Zambia or Botswana. It is also growing in popularity as more safari-goers are looking to be active on safari. Zimbabwe excels in this area with lots of opportunities for walking, canoeing, and boating – even mountain biking is now being introduced.