AFRICA’S TOP 10

SA­FARI DES­TI­NA­TIONS

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Top 10 | Safari Destinations - Words: ANISHA SHAH

Long gone are the days of a big ad­ven­ture trip to colo­nial Africa for game-hunt­ing sa­faris. In the past, the debonair sa­fari suits and sun hel­mets of Hem­ing­way’s Hol­ly­wood era dom­i­nated; nowa­days, it’s nor­mal to es­cape on a long week­end sa­fari with lit­tle more than ca­sual clothes thrown in a ruck­sack.

mean­while, though, Kenya and Tan­za­nia re­main pop­u­lar op­tions. Africa’s pre­vi­ously po­lit­i­cal no-go zones are rapidly emerg­ing as new sa­fari des­ti­na­tions, now that more na­tional parks are be­ing des­ig­nated and pro­tected, while tourism is in­creas­ingly wel­comed. And there are ex­cit­ing new sa­fari op­tions, from pri­vate he­li­copters to sail­boats in pris­tine ma­rine re­serves to night­time game drives through volup­tuous vol­canic lands. Here are our picks for the 10 best sa­fari des­ti­na­tions in Africa.

BWINDI IM­PEN­E­TRA­BLE FOR­EST RE­SERVE

Where: Uganda

Guides ask you not to stare at the moun­tain go­ril­las, but it’s tough. The gen­tle giants have deep mys­te­ri­ous eyes that lull you into a sense of seren­ity. Home to roughly half the world's moun­tain go­ril­las, track­ing is a high­light of Bwindi Im­pen­e­tra­ble For­est Re­serve. Gifted with the­atri­cal land­scape, vol­ca­noes in­ter­sperse jagged val­leys and wa­ter­falls are shrouded in al­ti­tude mist. The prin­ci­pal bird­ing des­ti­na­tion prides it­self with 23 of Uganda's 24 Al­ber­tine Rift en­demics, in­clud­ing the spec­tac­u­larly en­dan­gered African Green Broad­bill.

In­sider Tip: Go­ril­las of­ten en­ter Sanc­tu­ary Go­rilla For­est Camp. Nes­tled deep in­side Bwindi UNESCO World Her­itage Site, this camp is re­mote and at­mo­spheric.

ETOSHA NA­TIONAL PARK

Where: Namibia

Namibia is rous­ing se­ri­ous sa­fari at­ten­tion with its stark beauty, rugged coast­lines, and evolv­ing land­scapes. Etosha Na­tional Park is home to Africa's tallest ele­phants, the en­dan­gered black rhino, chee­tah, and peren­nial

springs lur­ing the big cats. Unique scenes across a shim­mer­ing salt­pan of mi­rages are seen via self-drive sa­faris. Up­mar­ket lodges and camps fringe park bound­aries, where guided sa­faris are in­clu­sive.

Don’t Miss: A stay with a dif­fer­ence, Onguma Tree­top Camp is built on stilts amongst tree­tops, with panoramic views over Onguma Game re­serve. The sense of re­mote­ness is un­par­al­leled. Four very in­ti­mate thatched rooms fea­ture can­vas walls and out­door show­ers.

CHOBE NA­TIONAL PARK

Where: Botswana

Africa’s dens­est game con­cen­tra­tions lie along a bril­liant peacock-blue river, mak­ing Chobe Na­tional Park a prime game des­ti­na­tion. Sit­u­ated within the Oka­vango Delta, we rec­om­mend Savute marsh: teem­ing with wildlife year-round, eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble and with a wide range of lodg­ings for all bud­gets. Chobe is a strong­hold of en­dan­gered species such as wild dog, chee­tah, and brown hyena. In­sider Tip: Take a wa­ter sa­fari to watch wildlife hud­dled around pa­pyrus-clad curves in the river. Meet the orig­i­nal in­hab­i­tants, the San Bush­men, to learn their ex­tra­or­di­nary cul­ture. In­dul­gence is para­mount at the Sanc­tu­ary Chobe Chilwero lodge, with spa, gourmet food, and undis­turbed views.

MASAI MARA NA­TIONAL RE­SERVE Where: Kenya

Africa’s most pop­u­lar sa­fari des­ti­na­tion boasts ef­fort­less vis­tas and dra­matic game view­ing. Masai Mara re­mains most vis­ited, with rolling grass­lands and scat­tered aca­cia wood­land home to the Big Five. July through Oc­to­ber is a Mara high­light—an­nual mi­gra­tion, where a stam­pede of mil­lions of wilde­beest makes the ground vi­brate. Nai­bor Camp is a lux­ury-tented camp of con­tem­po­rary com­forts, tucked away within river­ine wood­land on Talek River.

In­sider Tip: Spec­tac­u­lar sa­faris are spe­cialty of Ena­soit. Dhow sail­ing on the serene Lamu ar­chi­pel­ago, soar­ing over de­serted beaches and vis­it­ing no­madic tribes by he­li­copter, or tra­di­tional Jeep through foothills of Mount Kenya; Ena­soit re­de­fines lux­ury sa­fari.

HWANGE NA­TIONAL PARK

Where: Zim­babwe

Un­ri­valed guides and unique back­drops are Zim­babwe’s as­sets, amidst low-ly­ing semidesert to lush high­lands strewn with lakes and forests. Hwange Na­tional Park in the North­west is the largest. The ele­phants are world-famed and, here, you’ll find one of the world’s largest pop­u­la­tions. The mighty Zam­bezi River, from Vic­to­ria Falls, cre­ates wa­ter­holes for thirsty wildlife. Emerg­ing from re­cent trou­bles, tourists are flock­ing in. In­sider Tip: View game from an un­der­ground hide at The Hide, which also of­fers night game drives. So­ma­l­isa is an el­e­gant bush camp with six so­lar-pow­ered highly lux­u­ri­ous tents. The pool over­looks the en­tire pan of wildlife be­low.

KRUGER NA­TIONAL PARK

Where: South Africa

Kruger is a clas­sic. One of Africa’s old­est and best-main­tained parks typ­i­fies the high­est va­ri­ety of wildlife. It’s renowned as the eas­i­est spot to see the Big Five, aided by its un­fenced bor­ders with Africa's finest game re­serves. So­phis­ti­cated lodges of­fer the ul­ti­mate in lav­ish lux­ury and in­ti­mate bush hide­aways.

In­sider Tip: Set in pri­vate Sabi Sands Game Re­serve, sus­tained by the Sabi and Sand rivers, Dulini’s six suites ooze el­e­gance. Ro­mance is height­ened by a sym­phony of birdlife and pas­sage of wildlife. The orig­i­nal eco pri­vate game re­serve, Lon­dolozi, is unashamedly fam­ily-run and win­ning awards for its qual­ity of food, ser­vice, ac­com­mo­da­tion, and eco­tourism.

VOL­CA­NOES NA­TIONAL PARK

Where: Rwanda

The land­locked beauty of Rwanda stuns visi­tors. Misty moody rain­for­est, forested vol­ca­noes, un­du­lat­ing grass­lands, and tran­quil lakes are ideal for trekking and dugout ca­noe­ing. The up­per slopes of Virunga vol­cano’s con­ser­va­tion area com­prise three na­tional parks, en­cap­su­lat­ing Rwanda, Uganda, and DR Congo—the most fa­mous res­i­dents be­ing 350-strong moun­tain go­ril­las.

In­sider Tip: On the fringes of Parc Na­tional des Vol­cans, Sabyinyo Sil­ver­back Lodge is min­utes from walk­ing treks. In the dra­matic foothills of the Virun­gas, this res­i­dence is beau­ti­fully ap­pointed and at­mo­spheric. After a hard day’s trek, lux­u­ri­ate in a mas­sage to ease aches, or ad­ven­ture-seek­ers can head out on moun­tain bikes.

ZAM­BEZI VAL­LEY

Where: Zam­bia

Glo­ri­ously wild amidst raw na­ture and with deca­dent wildlife view­ing—south­ern Zam­bia’s Lower Zam­bezi Na­tional Park is a haven of hippo, ele­phant, and birdlife. Less fre­quented than its neigh­bour, Tan­za­nia, Zam­bia’s na­tional parks are the essence of wilderness. South Luangwa spawns sym­me­try of ex­ot­ica and ex­panse.

Don’t Miss: Camps are driz­zled along the im­mense val­ley’s tran­quil river­bank.

The Royal Zam­bezi Lodge Bush Spa is en­veloped within na­ture’s em­brace. Try post­sa­fari ca­noe­ing or fish­ing. A quick dip in the pool be­fore a sun­set mas­sage at Royal Bush Spa com­pletes a per­fect day. Li­layi in Lusaka is a haven for horse­back and bush walk sa­faris.

SERENGETI NA­TIONAL PARK

Where: Tan­za­nia

Ar­guably the most mag­nif­i­cent park in Africa, the Serengeti basks in pro­lific amounts of game and is in­vig­o­rat­ing in its sheer vast­ness and dra­matic stag­ing. An­nu­ally, 1.5 mil­lion wilde­beest and some 250,000 ze­bra mi­grate through. Prides of lion thrive here, up­wards of 3,000, spot­ted hyena laz­ing on ‘kopje’ out­crops. Grumeti River houses some of the largest Nile croc­o­diles in the world.

In­sider Tip: Even non-campers can tent overnight with­out omit­ting crea­ture com­forts. The La­mai Serengeti nes­tles among rocks of a kopje with ex­pan­sive views. The el­e­men­tal theme en­sures a back-to-na­ture feel.

GORONGOSA NA­TIONAL PARK Where: Mozam­bique

With more than fifty coral is­lands and abun­dant ma­rine life, the Quir­im­bas Ar­chi­pel­ago has re­cently been des­ig­nated a na­tional park. The is­lands re­main an un­ex­plored un­der­wa­ter sa­fari sanc­tu­ary.

Gorongosa is the coun­try’s flag­ship re­serve. It once at­tracted more visi­tors than South Africa and Zim­babwe com­bined, but the harsh­ness of war left re­sources de­pleted. Hip­pos, lions, and ele­phants have re­cov­ered fol­low­ing re­stock­ing, help­ing Mozam­bique re­gain its rep­u­ta­tion as a game-view­ing des­ti­na­tion.

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