It’s a big statement to make but there really is an African safari tour for everyone; if you’re wondering where to go, we can pinpoint Africa’s most iconic and popular African destinations as well as those hidden gems and off-the-beaten-track hideaways. We’re the experts in safari travel so let us guide you on where to go in Africa.
East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda & Rwanda
Kenya and Tanzania have been the classic safari African destinations of choice for decades, thanks not only to their amazing wildlife but also because of their exceptional lodges and tented camps, reliable tour operators, and diverse itineraries.
Southern Africa: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia & Malawi
As diverse as their northern neighbors, the countries of Southern Africa offer safari African destinations ranging from echoing deserts, teeming wetlands, and Big 5 reserves to crystal-clear lakes and footprint-free beaches – a multitude of experiences from which you’ll be hard-pressed to choose just a few!
Indian Ocean Islands: Zanzibar, Mauritius, the Seychelles & Mozambique
Like sparkling jewels, the islands of the Indian Ocean add a distinctly exotic edge to an African safari holiday. Combine your safari with a few days on a private island in Seychelles, enjoy a family getaway at a popular Mauritius resort, or discover the remote and romantic beauty of the Quirimbas and Bazaruto Archipelagos in Mozambique.
Tanzania and Kenya: Go on a quintessential Tanzania safari or Kenya safaris with game drives in search of the Big 5 at Serengeti or Masai Mara, wildlife spotting near Ngorongoro Crater and bird watching at Lake Manyara.
South Africa: Traverse the charming Garden Route, give in to the allure of the Kruger National Park and Kgalagadi Trans-frontier Park, brush up on your diamond mining knowledge and follow the wine trail during a Safari in South Africa.
Namibia: Discover intriguing desert wildlife in the Namib Desert, look for wild game gathered around waterholes at Etosha National Park, spot colorful birdlife at Caprivi Strip and enjoy the coastal scene of Swakopmund on an exciting Namibian safari.
Botswana: Canoe through the Okavango Delta, have close encounters with the San people, indulge in adventurous activities in the Kalahari scrubland, take game drives in Chobe National and get a rare chance to see white rhinos at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary on a memorable Botswana Safari
Uganda: After walking alongside chimpanzees at Kibale Forest National Park go on a Safari in Uganda in the Murchison Falls National Park. Trek through the wild mountainous jungles of the Bwindi Imperial National Park where you can observe mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
Zimbabwe and Zambia: Visit Victoria Falls, enjoy a river safari at Zambezi River, spot elephants on a game drive in Hwange National Park and look out for white rhinos at Matobo National Park as part of an exhilarating Zimbabwe safari or Zambia safari
In African, there are over 157 parks in different countries that offer the best safari experience for tourists that visit Africa and these include Serengeti National park in Tanzania, Mana pools National park in Zimbabwe, Mala mala game reserve in South Africa, Okavango Delta in Botswana, Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia, Moremi game reserve in Botswana, South Lungwa National park in Zambia, Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania, Sabi Sand game reserve in South Africa, Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, Bwindi impenetrable National park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to mention but a few.
Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is Africa’s best safari park. Deserving of this accolade, this stunning park impresses with the sheer numbers and variety of wildlife contained within its borders. The abundance of predators and spectacular wildebeest migration are two bigger drawcards to the Serengeti. Rating second is the pristine wilderness of Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe. This sublime park appeals to the adventurous with canoeing a popular way to see the animals. The expertise of the guides here ensures exciting encounters with wildlife. All National Parks in Africa offer the best experience to tourists and can be visited all year out.
Africa safari tour essentials
- Wear brown, khaki, or olive green colored clothes.
- Carry only your bare essentials on a walking safari and do not panic if a wild animal stares at you. Keep your enthusiasm in check and do not stroll off on your own.
- Avoid smoking or wearing strong cologne and perfume as wild animals can become wary.
- Keep a safe distance and never attempt to pose for a photo with a wild animal, even if they appear friendly.
- Do not stare at your phone screen, instead pay attention to what’s ahead.
- Pack any specific emergency medications you may require. Insect repellents and anti-malaria medication are a must during stays at national parks.
- Maintain silence as much as possible to avoid drawing attention to yourself or your group.
What to expect on an African Safari
Africa evokes hundreds of impressions, the untamed continent reveling in its mesmerism and mystique. Wild, rugged, untouched; each adjective has a tingling allure yet can be tinged by the negative, Africa’s undeserving stereotypes often off-putting to the first time visitor. Will it be safe? Will it be comfortable? Most returns from African safari-inspired, the experience blending perpetual surprise with an encompassing and sophisticated quality. The inimitability of an untrammeled big game landscape is elevated by the rest of the safari experience. Here’s what to expect.
There’s often little hesitation in imagining that a safari will bring fresh experiences and unique sights. It’s an undeniably alluring. However, there’s often a “but”, a niggling thought that inhibits safari reverie from becoming a firm reality. Isn’t Africa underdeveloped and potentially dangerous? Universal stereotypes and preconceptions about Africa aren’t helpful in portraying the continent as a vacation destination. There’s no denying that the continent can be a culture shock, especially when there are elephants crossing the highway or monkeys swinging past the lodge verandah. But Africa is as comfortable as any other continent, and it’s luxury tourism industry regularly leads the world in offering quality and exclusivity. After just a couple of hours in Africa, any lingering negative preconceptions have been shattered. Not only are the destinations safe, they immediately dampen any initial fear.
Safari has always been the mainstay of the continent’s tourism and it remains a core part of some countries’ economies. It’s not a new concept. Safari tourism has developed over many decades, flourishing into a sophisticated and well-developed industry that comes as a surprise to many visitors. The logistics of organizing amenities in the wilderness necessitate ingenious solutions and not cutting corners. Erecting a camp in the heart of a lion country is not easy. The rewards for making it happen are endless. African safari accommodation imbues an unexpected quality, combining the colorful character of the continent with the modern touches demanded by Western visitors. They’re exceptionally located, immersed in the landscape you came to explore and overlooking prime wildlife congregations.
Distinctive and delightful, the accommodation is another piece in a jigsaw of encompassing quality. Gourmet food combines local organic produce with international panache, land, or air transfers are journeys and experiences in their own right, while guides and staff provide a personal touch. An African safari is very much a luxury experience, regardless of the budget: campfires surrounded by wandering four-legged silhouettes, picnics beside a popular waterhole, kerosene lanterns flickering as a lion roars. As well as offering traditional notions of luxury, Africa is wonderfully adept at creating its own definitions. While the surrounding hinterland is one of the vicinity, filled with roaming big game, the whole experience imbues both old-African charm and the continent’s innovation.
African Safari tour experience
As the sun sets on a day of safari, memories are imbued with surprise. Preconceptions have molded and twisted into reality, foreign concepts now understood as the safari itinerary plays out. Picturing an African safari initially comes with dozens of questions. What happens after sundown? How long is a game drive? Is there time to relax? Safari itineraries burst with exotic reverie. Rhino tracking walking safari, lunch stops beside a waterhole, mobile camps in the forest; it all sounds exciting, but taking the snapshots and creating a firm picture of a safari vacation is difficult. So, what happens on an African safari? What does a typical day look like? Here’s an overview.
It can be easy to picture a European program, with visits to museums, city walking tours, or dinner tables. But even the staple safari activity, the game drive, comes as an alien concept to first-time visitors. How long is a safari? How much is a game and how much is driving? As much as the destination is exotic, so is a safari itinerary, filled with new concepts and unique experiences. As a starting point, the general mood is one of serenity and tranquility. For all the thrill and excitement of being on safari, most itineraries follow the rhythm of life out on the landscape; cool mornings and late afternoons are when the action is intensified, while the hot midday sun is usually for downtime and relaxing at camp. With the procession of wildlife continually wandering past, these quiet hours radiate charm. Every day is full of a diverse collection of activities that are flexible at heart and driver guides are well knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of all the natural endowments in Africa and can maximize the wildlife encounters but is each country the experience is unpredictable.
Visa and immigration requirements vary across Africa. With a US, Canadian, or European passport, none of the countries in East African or Southern Africa provide any significant challenges. However, some planning in advance is required for particular countries.
All information contained here refers to people who are citizens of the USA, Canada, or the European Union. This information is relevant for people visiting these countries for tourism purposes. Visa and entry requirements for other nationals and purposes vary.
For most countries, you will be required to have a passport with six-month validity, two blank pages, and no noticeable damages or tears. It’s also always recommended to carry a print-out of your travel documents, particularly any confirmation from the tour company and your return flight tickets.
No visa is required for stays of up to 30 days. Passports are stamped upon arrival with 30-day validity at land borders and airports.
Visas are required to enter Ethiopia. These cost around $50 for one month and are valid for a single entry.
Visas can be obtained upon arrival at Addis Ababa (Bole) or Dire Dawa International airports. If using any land border or another airport, you’ll need to arrange a visa in advance. Proof of a yellow fever vaccination is required.
Visitors must apply for and obtain an e-visa before traveling to Kenya. Note that this replaced the previous system of obtaining a visa upon arrival at the airport. Apply for a visa here.
Single-entry tourist visas cost $51 while multiple-entry visas cost $101. Processing time can be up to one week so applied far enough in advance. Note that you are allowed to visit Tanzania, Uganda, or Rwanda, and then return to Kenya on the same single-entry visa. However, immigration rules change regularly, and this should be checked before travel. If traveling between different East African countries, you may be more comfortable with obtaining a multiple-entry visa.
A certification of yellow fever vaccination is required of all visitors. This certificate will also need to be presented for onward travel to other African countries.
A single East Africa Tourist Visa has been introduced and allows a stay of up to 90 days in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. The visa costs $100. Implementation of this visa has been slow, and it remains easier to obtain individual visas for each of the countries. Furthermore, continual changes in the cost of tourist visas mean it’s still unclear if the East African Tourist Visa will be fully rolled out. The Kenyan e-visa system is being developed so that the East African Tourist Visa can be obtained online. However, this facility is not yet operational. Should this become available it will make this visa a recommended choice for travel in these three countries.
A free entry visa can be obtained upon arrival at any of Lesotho’s borders. The length of this visa can vary but will cover all your planned activities in the country, provided you can show your travel documents.
Visitors to Malawi require a visa. This can be obtained upon arrival and costs $75. It can also be obtained in advance although the ease of obtaining at the border far outweighs the complications of sending a passport to the Malawian embassy. It’s also more expensive to get the visa in advance.
Visitors require a visa which must be obtained before arriving in the country. The cost of this visa varies dependent on your nationality and the country in which you’re applying for the visa: oddly, a visa for a US citizen will cost significantly different amounts at the Mozambique embassy in Washington DC and the Mozambique embassy in Swaziland. Expect to pay around $60 – 120 for a single-entry visa. Proof of an onward ticket and a confirmed travel itinerary is required. Your tour company can provide this.
While Mozambique has introduced a visa upon arrival, its implementation is not widespread, and there are occasional stories of visitors being turned away. It’s always recommended to obtain a visa in advance.
No visa is required for stays of up 30 days. Passports are stamped upon arrival with 30-day validity at land borders and airports.
30-day tourist visas can be obtained upon arrival at all entry points. These cost $30, payable in clean post-2006 bills. International airports and some land borders also accept payment by Visa / MasterCard.
No visa is required for tourist visits of up 90 days. Proof of onward or return travel is required so have your flight details readily available for immigration. Visitors are given a 90-day stamp upon arrival at any of the borders or airports. Note that if you leave to a neighboring country and return to South Africa, you will enter upon the same 90-day validity and existing stamp. Also, note that immigration officials could give you a reduced number of days if you’re unable to show evidence that you’re visiting as a tourist. A copy of your flight details stops any issues.
New rules regarding traveling with children were introduced in June 2015. If traveling with a child to South Africa, you must be able to produce the child’s full unabridged birth certificate. A shortened birth certificate is not accepted. There are additional requirements if the child is traveling with just one parent. This leaflet from the South African Department of Home Affairs has more information, and your travel agent can assist in clarifying the situation. Note that this change in visa requirements is being challenged by the tourism board within South Africa due to its adverse effect on tourism numbers. It may be revoked at a later date.
These rules regarding traveling with children mean that birth certificate checks will be made by airline staff before you depart to South Africa. Also, note that they apply to anyone traveling via South Africa so are likely to apply to family vacations in Botswana or Namibia.
Visa is not required for stays of up to 30 days. Passport stamped upon arrival at all entry points.
A single-entry 90-day tourist visa can be obtained upon arrival at any of the airports or land borders. This costs $50, to be paid in untarnished post-2006 bills. The Tanzanian government promotes the idea that the visa costs can be paid in UK£ and euros, however, immigration officials are likely to ask you to exchange your money into US$ upon arrival to pay for the visa.
Visitors require a visa. This can be obtained upon arrival at Entebbe Airport (the country’s main airport). A visa can also be obtained upon arrival at the country’s land entry points. However, there are indications that Ugandan authorities may be making this more difficult. If not landing at Entebbe Airport then it’s recommended to obtain a visa in advance, unless your tour company advises otherwise.
Single-entry tourist visas cost $100. At Entebbe International Airport, this must be paid with untarnished post-2009 series bills. Immigration officers will determine the length of the visa, from two weeks to three months. Carry a printout of your travel documents to confirm the details of your trip and the length of visa you’ll require.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for anyone visiting Uganda.
A visa is required, and this can be obtained upon arrival at any of the country’s entry points. This costs $50 and needs to be paid with clean post-2006 bills.
A new UNIVISA allows travel to both Zimbabwe and Zambia and can be obtained upon arrival at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (Lusaka), Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport (Livingstone). It also costs $50.
A certification of yellow fever vaccination may be required to enter Zambia if you are traveling to the northwest of the country.
Visitors require a visa to enter Zimbabwe, and this can be obtained upon arrival at the airport or any of the land border points. A single-entry visa is valid for 30 days and costs $30 for US citizens. Costs for other nationalities vary from $30 – $50. This must be paid in clean post-2006 bills. You are required to show your onward or return ticket.
Zimbabwe and Zambia recently introduced a joint UNIVISA that offers 30 days within both countries. It costs $50 and is available at Harare International Airport, Victoria Falls International Airport, plus the land borders at Kazangula and Victoria Falls.
While facilities vary by country, it’s not required to bring thousands of dollars in cash into Africa. Facilities in Africa have improved drastically in recent years, and it’s now possible to pay by Visa and MasterCard, especially in capital cities and at airports. Cash can be taken from ATMs, and things can be purchased with credit cards.
Most East and Southern African countries have their own currency, the exception being Zimbabwe (US$).
In Southern Africa, the South African rand is also a de-facto currency in Namibia, Swaziland, and Lesotho. These countries have a local currency that’s pegged 1:1 with the South African rand.
In East Africa, the US Dollar is used interchangeably with local currency and is the preferred currency for anything that costs upwards of $40. Currency fluctuations mean tour operators and high-end lodges prefer the dollar and quote their prices in dollars. They still accept local currency and will calculate the price based on the day’s current rate. Note that it’s very rare to find an ATM that dispenses US Dollars. Therefore, you have the option of bringing dollars, taking out local currency, or paying with a credit card.
Money exchange is relatively easy across Africa. It can be done at kiosks across the continent, most readily at airports and the towns or cities visited by tourists. Rates can vary dramatically in the same town. Your guide can advise about the places with the best rate and if you’re likely to be visiting an area where money exchange isn’t possible.
US$ is the easiest currency to change and the most universally accepted. Changing euros and British pounds is also relatively easy. Currency can also be exchanged in banks; this requires you to present your passport.
Some visitors encounter problems when trying to change traveler’s cheques. Most exchange offices do not accept them, and when they do, there’s usually an excessive commission. Your tour company can provide more detailed information about the country you are visiting.
ATMs are found in towns and cities all across Africa. In some countries, they’re extremely reliable, notably South Africa. In others, like Malawi and Uganda, the availability is less consistent. Southern Africa has a more developed network of ATMs that accept foreign cards than East Africa.
Not all ATMs will accept foreign cards. However, each country has at least two major banks with ATMs that take international cards. Visa is most widely accepted, followed by MasterCard. It’s difficult to find ATMs that take American Express. Many of the ATMs charge a fee that is in addition to any charges from your own bank.
Airports and major cities are the easiest places to find an ATM. Upon arrival, your guide can advise whether you’ll need to obtain cash in the city or whether there are options for withdrawing cash elsewhere during your trip. Carrying two different cards is useful as it’s sometimes difficult to predict which will be accepted by each bank.
One potential challenge is the size of the highest denomination bill. Even in a country like Tanzania, the highest bill is equivalent to just US$5. So paying at a high-end lodge in local currencies requires the proverbial wheelbarrow of cash.
Paying By Credit Card
Credit cards are now readily accepted across the African continent. South Africa is also moving towards introducing a contactless payment system. Particularly within the high-end tourism industry, establishments are now able to accept credit and debit card payments. This is more universal in Southern Africa and major cities, compared to rural areas and the less-developed countries in East Africa (Uganda and Malawi in particular). Tourism in Africa’s five most-visited safari countries is a sophisticated and developed industry. Establishments understand that they must provide credit card facilities, so they don’t miss out on business. This applies to safari in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Kenya. If a place doesn’t accept a card, your guide can advise in advance.
Visa is the most readily accepted, followed by MasterCard. Only a small percentage of establishments accept American Express.
Where to stay on your African Safari tour
For your African safari tour, Boutique and eco-lodge are buzz words in the travel industry. In the last few years, there’s been a conscious move away from clearly recognizable yet monotone markers of quality. Offering distinction now demands distinctiveness. Boutique hotels and eco-lodges are in fashion. Five-star hotels that look the same in every city are out. Africa has been doing boutique and eco-lodge since long before the terms were coined. Unique styles are stimulated by traditions and history, the local furnishings and colors often wildly exotic to foreign eyes. Transporting materials to the heart of the wilderness is challenging so, by necessity, the accommodation has been built using what’s locally available and following the longstanding architectural designs that are best suited to a demanding environment. There’s ingenuity to African living and it’s reflected in the accommodation on offer.
It’s sometimes difficult to picture world-leading lodges and five-star quality when it comes under the banner of Africa. It’s hard to imagine unrivaled luxury when the setting is the Serengeti or some other big game landscape. Naturally, some amenities aren’t provided in the bush. You’re unlikely to find a minibar or trouser press in the room. There won’t be an electronic swipe card to open the door. Think less about bubble baths and more about en-suite bathrooms with beautiful panoramas across iconic landscapes. Don’t worry about closing the windows to minimize traffic noise. On safari, the accommodation ensures that nature’s resonant soundtrack always provides an additional coating of charm.
Luxury comes from both the accommodation and its setting. Always expect space and seclusion. In such wide-open landscapes, it wouldn’t make any sense to be cramped. Camps and lodges are designed to maximize and elevate the submersion in nature; in many cases, you only need to open the curtains to watch the wildlife wander past. But wait. Camping?! Tents?! Here are further popular preconceptions that are quickly squashed. While the word camp is disconcerting, it merely reflects accommodation that doesn’t provide any permanent damage to the environment. Concrete and glass would look hideously out of place. But wooden flooring, chairs set around a crackling fire, and low-level solar lighting help maintain nature’s spell.