Every bucket list should include an African safari. Seeing some of the world’s most fascinating animals in their natural habitat is a truly rewarding travel experience. Meeting Africa’s Big Five, which includes the lion, African elephant, the Cape buffalo, the elusive leopard, and the rhinoceros, is always delightful and unforgettable. To help you plan an unforgettable safari holiday, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 national parks in Africa that offer everything you’d expect on a safari and more. These 10 incredible African national parks range from ancient deserts to urban mountain ranges, rain forests to savannahs.
Kruger National Park by Tomasz Dutkiewicz
The Kruger National Park is South Africa’s oldest national park and its most famous safari destination. Spanning roughly 7,500 square miles of wilderness in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in northeastern South Africa, the Kruger National Park is iconic. The park’s vast size includes an amazing variety of different habitats, and thus an incredible diversity of wildlife. You have a good chance of seeing the Big and Little Fives, as well as rare predators like cheetahs and African wild dogs, whether you do a self-drive or join a guided safari.
Namib-Naukluft by Benny Marty
From eery silence and vast, undeveloped landscapes, to night skies, Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft National Park offers an incredible escape from urban life. With nearly 20,000 square miles, it is one of the world’s largest national parks and the largest in Africa. The park includes the world’s oldest desert, the Namib Desert, deep canyons, and a stretch of wild Atlantic Ocean coastline. It’s best known for the massive, rust-red dunes of Sossusvlei and the famous Deadvlei clay pan with its striking dead camel thorn trees—one of Namibia’s most photographed scenes.
Serengeti National Park by Amit Erez
The Serengeti, Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was designated as the world’s seventh wonder. The park is famous for its annual Great Migration, an epic journey of over a million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras chasing the rains in a race for survival while being pursued by ferocious predators. When you visit the area during the right season, you have a good chance of seeing all this in action—from columns of animals plunging through crocodile-infested waters on their annual exodus in June, or when they replenish their species during calving season in February.
Hwange National Park by Paula French
Hwange National Park is the place to visit if you enjoy elephants. The park borders Botswana, and the two countries boast the world’s largest elephant population, with a significant chunk of it in Hwange. The best time to see these “super herds” is during the dry season between August and October, when the elephants congregate around water holes. During your safari holiday here, you can also see lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, and rhinos. One of the best things about Hwange is that it’s only a short drive from Victoria Falls and its international airport, making it a fantastic destination for combining a safari with a visit to the famous attraction.
Chobe National Park by Kavram
Chobe National Park is located in northern Botswana between the Caprivi Strip and the Okavango Delta and is the country’s safari crown jewel. It is crossed by the mighty Chobe River, which serves as a year-round water source for one of the continent’s most diverse wildlife populations. The Big Five are all present, with large herds of elephants and buffalo standing out. Hippos, Nile crocodiles, and aquatic antelope such as the red lechwe thrive here, and the park’s 450 bird species include rarities such as the Pel’s fishing owl and the African skimmer.
Volcanoes National Park by Tschuma 417
If it’s a life goal to see endangered mountain gorillas, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is a solid choice. One of the most unique experiences in the region is tracking endangered mountain gorillas through the eerie rainforest that is alive with the calls of 200 different species of vibrant birds and the chatter of a rare golden monkey. Those visiting the National Park can also experience gold monkey tracking, as well as spot plenty of other wildlife species within the dense forest.
Amboseli National Park by Kiko Janneman
Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya is proof that dynamite comes in small packages, with a total area of only 150 square miles. The Park gets its name from the Maasai word for “salty, dusty place,” which refers to the dried-up bed of Lake Amboseli. The defining feature of Amboseli is Mount Kilimanjaro, which can be seen from across the Tanzanian border. The mountain, Africa’s tallest, provides a stunning backdrop for photographs of Amboseli’s wildlife, which includes massive herds of elephants, including the continent’s largest tuskers.
South Luangwa NP by Paula French
South Luangwa has been dubbed one of Africa’s best wildlife sanctuaries, and for good reason. The park offers uncrowded wilderness combined with a spectacular concentration of wildlife, ensuring an unrivalled safari holiday. There’s no shortage of dramatic topography in this stunning park, which is bounded on the west and north by the Muchinga Escarpment and on the south by the meandering Luangwa River. The game concentrations along the river and on the wide-open plains are among the most intense in Africa. The park is particularly well-known for sightings of the elusive leopard and packs of wild dogs.
Maasai Mara National Reserve by Juergen Schonnop
Maasai Mara, located in southwest Kenya, is possibly the continent’s most popular safari destination. It is not a National Park, but rather a National Reserve owned by the Maasai and managed by county councils. Together with Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, it forms one of Africa’s most diverse and spectacular ecosystems, home to over 95 species of mammals and over 570 bird species. The reserve is particularly well-known for its abundance of predators such as lions and cheetahs, as well as over a million wildebeest that migrate through the Mara from July to October and cross the crocodile-infested Mara River.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park by Angelika
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in southern Africa is a large wildlife conservation area. The park straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana and is made up of two adjoining national parks: South Africa’s Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and Botswana’s Gemsbok National Park. The majority of tourism occurs on the South African side, which has excellent facilities. There are no campsites on the Botswana side. The inhospitable desert’s red dunes provide a stunning backdrop for wildlife viewing and photography. The park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including large predators like cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, and massive black-maned lions.