by E Francis,
For years you’ve watched every wildlife program you could – watching wildebeest migrate, or lions chase down their prey. But there’s nothing like the real thing, seeing all the in-between parts like leopards lounging in the trees or herds of gazelle delicately taking their first meal of the day. If exploring the African wilds sounds like the ideal holiday to you, you might want to check out going on an African Safari.
Isn’t Africa Huge?
It is, and you’ll either have to book a lot of time of work, or choose a particular area to focus on. We recommend looking mostly into the south of the continent, as it’s filled with National Parks and safe areas for endangered wildlife. Of course, this is still a huge area to choose from, so we’ll go through a couple of recommendations in detail.
Cape Town is on the southern coast, and it’s perfect for those of you interested in going on a safari but having a beautiful city to return to when you’re done. With it being on the coast, there’s some options open to you that other locations may lack – you could go out looking for whales and sharks one day, and lions another. It’s very close to the Inverdoorn Game Reserve, home to giraffes, hippos, cheetahs and even adorable meerkats. This is the best place for those of you who want a taste of the wilds, but aren’t quite sure about staying out there all that long!
Johannesburg is another major city, this time far inland. It’s very close to the Kruger National Park, though not close enough that day trips are practical. If Cape Town sounds a bit too city-focused for you, but you still want to spend some time in one, Johannesburg is the best alternative for you. If you want to say elephants, lions and rhinos, you’re in luck. You could also head out to Victoria Falls from here, or if day trips still sound preferable there is the Pilanesberg Nature Reserve within appropriate distance.
The Duba Plains are perfect for those of you most interested in seeing lions hunting. Whilst most lions are nocturnal hunters, the main group here hunt by day – meaning you’ll get to see their high-speed chases first hand. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to watch their methods from the initial stalking through to the final kill. Just be aware, they’re very isolated so it’s best for those of you who don’t mind being far away from the major cities.
Perhaps you’re less interested in lions and elephants, and fancy seeing something more unusual. Like, gorillas, perhaps? Then the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is for you. Based in Rwanda, you’ll be able to head out on foot to see the Mountain Gorilla. It’s different from what you may expect of many safaris – instead of being in savannah, it’s below a chain of volcanoes (Virungas), and you’ll head into forests rather than wilderness.
Finally, there’s the Maasai Mara, Kenya. This is the place to go if it’s big cats you’re interested in. There are leopards, cheetahs and lions, and if you can time your visit to coincide with the July migrations of zebra and wildebeest you’ll have the best chance to see them hunt. You’ll almost certainly see hyenas as well as they trail behind, and, if you’re lucky, a black rhino or two. There’s a variety of lodges and camps consisting of tents so you can find something to fit. We recommend Keekorok Lodge – which is in the path of the migrations themselves!
What Animals Could I See?
The main animals safaris are known for are the big five- the lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino. These, as well as others like giraffes and hippos are the kind many expect.
But Africa is home to so much more, so if you’re considering it, why not keep an eye out for:
Crocodiles live around rivers, so if you’re interested in these you’ll need somewhere with water. If you’re heading into the forests, you may even get to see a dwarf crocodile – which are simply adorable.
Zebra can be found out in the plains, though some species are rare due to hunting – such as the mountain zebra.
Baboons and Bonobos will definitely keep you awake at night. You’ll find baboons throughout the savannah wandering in troops. Bonobos are mostly found in forests in the Congo Basin.
Dik Diks are absolutely tiny antelopes, making them a challenge to spot. Standing just 40cm high, they’re found throughout the bushlands in the south.
Warthogs can be found in grassland and wood, as well as the savannah. If you’re lucky you’ll get to see these and some meerkats, making the whole thing feel like Disney.
Ostriches live in herds of up to fifty birds, and roam the savannahs – or even, semi-deserts. They’re incredibly fast, and incredibly aggressive when cornered, so maybe hunt for them with a guide.
Hyrax look like giant guinea pigs, but they’re actually related to the elephant! They’re mostly found in rocky areas, and are one of the more unusual animals you may encounter.
Whether you decide to spend your time in the luxurious Cape Town villas or out in a tent in the Maasai Mara, there’s a safari out there for you. From day trips to week-long wildlife hunts (with cameras only, of course) there’s plenty of choice and depending on what animals you’re most interested in seeing, there’s a whole host of locations open to you.