Africa is like a delicious pie.
You know you will like it. The only question is where to dig in.
Every part of the continent has so much to offer anyone keen for adventure and discovery but when it comes to Safari it is the East and the South that deserve a closer look.
Long considered the iconic Safari destination, as glamorized by Hemingway and Ruark, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda have game-filled plains and the Great Wildebeest Migration. Here you will find the original picture postcard view of an African Safari made famous by decadent hunters, National Geographic and Sir Richard Attenborough.
In answer to the 1980s luxury of Southern Africa, East Africa has also defined itself in recent times by offering authentic tented Safaris in the Masai Mara and the Serengeti.
Great Reasons to go East
🧭 There are game drives and then there is the Greatest Show on Earth – the Great Wildebeest Migration involving millions of animals from zebra, wildebeest, and buffalo to the apex predators who dine on the traveling masses along the way. The sheer volume of animals in East Africa is astounding.
🧭 Iconic African scenery of rolling savannahs, Acacia trees and the grasslands of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem.
🧭 Other than the vast open spaces you will also find the dry soda lakes of Nakuru and Manyara, the baobab forests of Tarangire, the Ngorongoro Crater (the largest unbroken caldera on earth), Mt. Kilimanjaro and the scrubland of Samburu.
🧭 Large numbers of all the other game (not participating in the Great Migration in one way or another) can be spotted on the open plains.
🧭 The views from the bottom or the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.
🧭 Cultures such as the Maasai who maintain a traditional way of life and are happy to invite you in to experience their unique existence. You can also indulge in deep cultural interaction with tribes like the Hadzabe, Samburu and Datoga.
🧭 An audience with the Gorillas and chimpanzees in the mountains and forest areas.
🧭 The beautiful coastline and an opportunity to add Seychelles, Pemba, Lamu or Zanzibar for a bush and beach vacation.
🧭 Relatively short international flights from America into Nairobi in Kenya.
🧭 Hot air ballooning is simply spectacular here.
🧭 Two dry seasons: June to October and January to March
🧭 Flat terrain with fairly good roads… for Africa.
To Consider Before you Pack
⚠️ In East Africa, Safaris can cover vast areas. This may result in lengthy transfers.
⚠️ You may have a guide accompanying you throughout your trip with the lodges and camps hosting you for the nights.
⚠️ As you will spend more time driving when you are traveling the Northern Safari Circuit in Tanzania, for instance, you will need an enclosed car with a pop-top for photos and game viewing.
⚠️ There is no limit to the number of cars at any wildlife sighting in the Ngorongoro Crater.
⚠️ Most wildlife areas are unfenced and the tourism is controlled by the migration patterns in some parts. This has resulted in mobile tented camps that move with the animals
⚠️ Off road, night driving and walking are only permitted in private concessions and specially designated areas.
⚠️ April and May are the wettest months of the year in East Africa and conditions in the parks may be muddy.
Our favorite East African Safaris
The home of the luxury Safari since the 1980s, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia all have top brands and wellness spas galore.
Great Reasons to go South
🧭 Lodge or camp centered Safaris allow for morning and afternoon game drives with free time in between.
🧭 Open-sided 4WD vehicles allow for the maximum intimacy, with nothing but air between you and what you observe.
🧭 The strict rules on vehicle concentrations and in private concessions will ensure that no more than a maximum of three cars are viewing one animal or group of animals.
🧭 The Big Five roam the South.
🧭 The area is diverse with habitats ranging from savannah to woodland to the sand dunes of Namibia, the Kalahari desert, the wetlands of the Okavango Delta, the glorious Drakensberg Mountains, a wildly beautiful coastline and the Cape Winelands.
🧭 You can take in Table Mountain and Victoria Falls.
🧭 Smaller camps and lodges are more exclusive with limits of 8-12 rooms the norm.
🧭 Standards and practices of guide training, interpretation, and conservation are high.
🧭 Walking Safaris especially in Botswana and Zambia.
🧭 Off-road and night tracking in private concessions.
🧭 Boating Safaris in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, as well as other activities on offer in the South, including extensive walking opportunities, mokoro (canoe), motor boat, hot air ballooning, kayaking and mountain biking.
🧭 Itineraries are heavier on flight transfers and lighter on long-distance driving due to greater distances between the wildlife areas.
🧭 Family-friendly Malaria-free game viewing in certain areas of South Africa.
🧭 Combines well with Mauritius and the Mozambique islands.
To Consider Before you Pack
⚠️ Game drives are often looped within a 20 mile (32 km) radius of your lodge or Camp.
⚠️ The game density is not as high as you may find in the East but the smaller herds are more concentrated in smaller private concessions.
⚠️ Costs for a personalized and exclusive Safari can be higher.
⚠️ Fewer cultural experiences although you can visit with the San Bushman, the Zulu community and take a township tour in the cities.
⚠️ Only one dry season between May and October (but the wet season is not as dramatic as East Africa).
⚠️ In Botswana, Zambia, and Namibia many camps have a minimum age requirement.
⚠️ Private guides are very expensive.
Our Favorite Southern African Safaris
Should I see both in one trip?
It is possible but we recommend a minimum of three weeks to dedicate to a Safari that will do justice to both regions equally.