Known for its diversity of experiences, South Africa is a stunning destination for a great all-round vacation. This is a first-world country with the most advanced safari industry on the continent. Exceptionally high standards of accommodation and good prices across the board make South Africa a genuine contender for the best destination for a first trip to Africa.
Cape Town, the Winelands, shark diving, whale watching, Zulu battlefields, rock art, fishing, the famous Garden Route… all are examples of what the country offers outside its excellent Big Five safari. It is this range of experiences that puts South Africa firmly on the map for a first-timer’s trip to Africa. Safari is almost a bonus for this destination!
However, safari itself is first rate, especially for the ease of seeing the Big Five in a short period of time, which makes South Africa the continent’s best destination for a short safari. The country also boasts the only malaria-free safaris in Africa, making it the first choice for families! The only negative to South Africa is that some believe the country does not offer truly authentic safari and that feeling of ‘real’ Africa found elsewhere. However, the quality of Big Five viewing is undeniable and the diversity of attractions a compelling reason to travel here. Unquestionably a great vacation destination overall!
Plus points: The sheer diversity of experiences on offer, the highest accommodation standards anywhere, excellent guiding, and malaria-free safari areas.
Negative points: Debatable lack of authenticity on safari.
Top parks: The Kruger including the Sabi Sands and Timbavati, Madikwe, Phinda, and the malaria-free eastern cape reserves.
Probably most famous for being Africa’s most expensive safari destination, Botswana is a great destination for a first-time safari… but you have to pay a high price for it! Known primarily for the Okavango Delta, this is a country that focuses on high-income, low-impact safaris as opposed to the mass-market safaris on offer in other destinations. The result is an unbeatable level of exclusivity, high-quality sightings, and a personal approach to safari where clients will see very few other travelers. It is also worth mentioning that Botswana is undeniably beautiful – a truly stunning ‘pure’ safari destination!
Botswana is busy in its main parks, but this country is most renowned for the private reserves of the Okavango Delta and Linyanti – areas where only people staying in those reserves are able to go on safari. These private reserves offer all the safari activities – boating, walking, night safari, canoeing, fishing, and so on. It’s this sheer quality of safari experience, in beautiful private areas, that is the country’s strength.
Plus points: Exclusivity, privacy, and high-quality safari camps in beautiful areas.
Negative points: Price!
Top parks: The Okavango Delta, the Linyanti, Moremi, Chobe, the Makgadikgadi Pan, and Kalahari.
Zimbabwe and Zambia
The adventurous choice! Known for seriously good guiding and passionate, often family-run, small safari camps, Zambia and Zimbabwe have long been known as the destinations for safari connoisseurs.
Home to the best guides in Africa as well as the continent’s best walking safaris, Zambia also offers excellent night safari and seriously good boating/canoe trips. It is this focus, on more adventurous activities, that means most clients leave the region to their second safari. Victoria Falls is also a major attraction, easily accessed from both Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Choosing between the destinations is tricky, as they are similar in the style of safari they offer. Accommodation standards in Zambia are more comfortable than in Zimbabwe overall – Zambia has a more developed industry and is home to a few spectacular individual camps. Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is also the official home of the walking safari – extensive walking trips from camp to camp are encouraged. It’s for these reasons that the majority of our trips focus on Zambia. Zimbabwe, however, can be slightly more affordable overall – and it is the home of the wildest camps we offer!
Plus points: Small camps, great guiding, wide diversity of safari activities, well priced. Africa’s wildest destinations overall!
Negative points: Too adventurous for some, whilst seasonality means that some parks and camps are shut for the first few months of the year.
Top parks: The Luangwa, Lower Zambezi, and Kafue (all Zambia), Hwange and Mana Pools (Zimbabwe). Victoria Falls is accessed from both countries.
Namibia is a country I truly love, but it does not stack up to its competition in safari terms alone. Namibia is famous for its deserts and phenomenal scenery, but not for its quality of safari. The country has only one major safari park – Etosha – where the safari experience is much more commercial than elsewhere. There are private reserves on its borders, where you can stay away from the crowds, and including a few days in Etosha as part of a larger Namibia trip is still a superb vacation, but choosing Namibia for the quality of its safari is simply the wrong way to go about choosing your destination.
The exception to this rule is the country’s amazing desert rhino and desert elephant. Both are endangered species, true rarities that make for exceptional wildlife sightings!
Plus points: The desert and the country’s scenery. Desert rhino and desert elephant!
Negative points: Debatable lack of authenticity, lack of quality safari parks. This is not a safari destination.
I hope this assists as an introduction to Safari Africa, helping you to gain more of an understanding of the differences among the destinations. I’ll finish all this with what I first mentioned on this blog – speaking to us is the best way to start the whole process! I cannot recommend this highly enough – we are a friendly and experienced bunch, who simply love talking Africa!