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By Kelly 14 April 2020

East Africa or Southern Africa – where to safari?

Can’t decide whether you should go to East Africa or Southern Africa for your safari? Here we take a look at both areas, so you can work out which is the right destination for you:

Choosing where to safari is often a tough choice, especially for the first-time safari goer. There is so much information out there that it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed by it. More often than not, the decision comes down to East Africa or Southern Africa – but which is the better area for you?

The answer, as with many things in life, isn’t straightforward! As someone who has safari’d extensively in both regions, I can honestly say that both will offer you a phenomenal safari experience, but for different reasons. The question shouldn’t be which is better, but which is better for you.

Firstly, let’s consider the options.

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The wide plains and Great Migration in East Africa

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Victoria Falls, the adventure capital of Southern Africa

In East Africa, the major destinations that many people will focus on are Kenya and Tanzania, with the Great Migration often being the main attraction. Head south and you’ve South Africa and Botswana, not to mention Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia! For now I’m going to focus on Tanzania and South Africa, as trying to decide between these countries is the task faced most frequently among our clients – they are two of the finest ‘Big Five’ destinations that you can travel to.

East Africa – is Tanzania the destination for you?

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First up, Tanzania – a country with some of the highest concentrations of wildlife on the continent. Safari here is great all year round with the exception of April and May, when you are likely to experience heavy rains. Generally speaking, the style of safari here is pretty adventurous – think tented suites and bucket showers, with the endless plains of the Serengeti rolling out in all directions from camp. It’s also possible to find well-located top luxury accommodation, but these properties come at a very high cost.

This is very much ‘big game’ country, with a really wild and authentic feel. Guiding standards are very high and you’d be surprised at the level of dining and service that you’ll receive in a tented camp. The slight downside is that the Serengeti is a national park, which means it’s an area open to the public. You’ll find a lot of ‘human traffic’ here, particularly when you’re following the Great Migration. It’s still a phenomenal place to safari, but if you’re looking for ultra-exclusivity then it may not be right for you.

That said, if you’re not interested in chasing the migration and you want a safari that’s quieter in terms of avoiding the crowds, the Serengeti can still deliver. Try heading away from the migration – the game viewing is still fantastic, and although you won’t see the huge herds, you’ll get more for your money as luxury lodges lower their rates when they’re not at the epicentre of the migration.

Is South Africa the right choice for your safari?

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How does Tanzania compare with South Africa, though? That’s a tricky question to answer! South Africa does not have a phenomenon like the Great Migration, but what it will offer you is some of the best ‘up-close’ Big Five game viewing on the African continent. For the ‘best of the best’, head to the private reserves that border Kruger National Park.

Unlike national parks, private reserves are not open to the public – only guests booked into these reserves’ lodges are permitted to drive here with their guides. You will never see more than two other vehicles at predator sightings (it’s against reserve rules), and you can also drive off road and enjoy a night drive or two! In my opinion, South Africa doesn’t have the same ‘really wild feel’ that Tanzania does, but it will offer you a far greater level of exclusivity.

In addition, the lodges here are rarely tented – generally they are permanent structures, with fully plumbed bathrooms. Most lodges in South Africa will also have a communal swimming pool and often private plunge pools too. Overall South Africa does have a slightly more commercial feel, but this shouldn’t detract from the unbelievable quality of game viewing that it offers.

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when choosing where you’d like to safari! The fact that there is so much choice across Safari Africa can be difficult to digest at first, but this diversity means that there really is the perfect safari for everyone.

If you would like more advice on whether East Africa or Southern Africa is better for you, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our specialists here, who can help you plan a safari tailored to your requirements. Alternatively, do take a look below for more inspiration: