The best safaris in Africa

As you drive through the picturesque savanna landscape, tall grass and pristine acacias dot the horizon. The animal sightings are overwhelming. At first glance, you will run towards your camera to take a photo of the grazing animals; giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, impalas, water antelope and oryx. It is incredible to think how many centuries have wandered these lands. The real hunt on safari is looking for the Big Five. Find elephants, rhinos, buffalo, leopards, and of course lions, they all come with time. On some safaris, they can arrive in one day.

Have you always wanted to go on safari, but imagined an incredibly high price? If you’re looking for a good safari on a budget, some are easily accessible, autonomous driving is allowed, and the entrance fees are wallet-friendly. How about packing for a safari? There are some essential items not to forget. With our top picks in Africa, you’ll see all the expected animals, including a good shot in the Big Five.

What animals will I see in Safari?

Seeing a lot of wildlife is normal and can be overwhelming at times. Expect to see LOTS of wildebeest and antelope. Some parks have many elephants and giraffes. Depending on your luck and patience, seeing Lions is common, but you may only see a few. Seeing leopards and rhinos is rare. They are in many parks, but they are elusive. Leopards tend to hide in trees while rhinos stay away from vehicles.

Can I go on a safari on a budget?

Yes, you absolutely can! Safaris in East Africa are the most expensive, starting with the Serengeti and Masai Mara. If you are on a tight budget, cut your plans to visit those parks, as they will rack up a cost of several hundred each day you visit. While they are worth it, they are not inexpensive. Safaris in South Africa and Namibia are great, they have very cheap entry fees, and you can drive alone in a small sedan. Renting a car is cheap in those countries, which makes a safari very affordable. Another way to save money on safari is to bring or rent a tent. The National Parks in Namibia and SA have campsites and it gets expensive if you don’t intend to camp.

What is the Best Safari in Africa?

Each safari is unique. The landscapes create a different environment for what you are seeing each day. Some make it very difficult to spot animals, while others are wide open and much easier. Some safaris require 4 × 4s and you generally need to hire a driver, especially those in East Africa. Autonomous driving is allowed on most safaris in South Africa, ideal for independent travelers or backpackers on a budget. Finding the best safari in Africa for you depends on what you are looking for, but you will likely find it in one of these parks:

The best safaris in Africa:

Masai Mara National Park, Kenya

What to expect:

This iconic park, when you think of a safari, undulating savannahs teeming with animal life like no other, the Masai Mara fits the bill. Popular for decades as Africa’s premier park, the action here is second to none. Within minutes you can see lions, rhinos, a leopard, and some cheetahs. The Big 5 are all in this park and you have a good chance of seeing them all, possibly even in one day. Come during the wildebeest migration between July and early September to enjoy the most action and the famous river crossing, with the best time to come in early September.

• Autonomous driving is an option. The park requires only 4 × 4.

• The entrance fee to the park is $ 80 per day.

• Camp is available from $ 7 – $ 15 per person outside the park gates.

Norongoro Crater National Park, Tanzania

What to expect:

The Norongoro Crater is the world’s largest inactive and unfilled caldera, with a floor of more than 100 square miles (260 square kilometers). The wildlife is awesome. Elephants, buffalo, giraffes and lions graze inside the crater. Elephants spend their last days in the Norongoro crater. They travel hundreds of miles just to get there. The views are stunning with the crater walls surrounding the flat plains, and the wildlife is dense considering the size of the crater. It is a common side excursion like a day trip during a Serengeti safari.

• Autonomous driving is an option. They require 4 × 4 only.

• The entrance fee to the park is $ 60 per day plus 18% VAT and $ 40 per day for the vehicle.

• Camping costs $ 30 per night per person.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

What to expect:

When most think of big game parks and some of Africa’s most iconic parks, the Serengeti is often the first to drop their tongue. This famous park in Tanzania borders the Masai Mara to the south and is a huge park. With more than 3,000 lions and 1,000 leopards, Serengeti is home to what most say is the largest population of big cats in Africa. There are also more than 2 million wildebeest, of which more than 1.5 million migrate annually to the north of the Masai Mara as part of the Great Migration. Come during the migration between July and early September for the most action and famous river crossings, with the best time to come in early September.

• Autonomous driving is an option. They require 4 × 4 only.

• The entrance fee to the park is $ 60 per day plus 18% VAT and $ 40 per day for the vehicle.

• Camping costs $ 30 per night per person.

Etosha National Park, Namibia

What to expect:

This gem of a park in Namibia, not far from the picturesque Namib sand dunes, is one of the best parks in Africa. It is a very large park with a central salt plan that floods during the rainy season. The park has excellent trails along the salt flats and the savannah, as well as through the forest. Many natural and man-made watering holes help the animals congregate, especially during the dry season. There are three main camping areas with water holes to view at night. The park is full of wildlife. Lions, cheetahs, leopards, rhinos, wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, antelopes, and elephants. everyone calls Etosha home. We had several close encounters with lions. A mother cheetah tried to kill an antelope with her two cubs. Hundreds of giraffes would flock to drink water. Etosha was one of our favorite safaris and is a great option for those on a budget. For the quality of the animals and the accessibility, this might be the best inexpensive safari in Africa. The best time to visit is from May to October during the dry season.

• Autonomous driving is an option and 4 × 4 is not required.

• The entrance fee to the park is $ 6 per day plus $ 2 per car per day.

• Campsites up to 8 people cost $ 18 per night.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

What to expect:

Mountain gorillas can only be found in four national parks, all bordering the Virunga Mountains. You can visit the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, the Virunga National Park in the Congo, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, and the Mgahinga National Park in Uganda. The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has the highest number of mountain gorillas of any park, home to nearly 400 of the 900 living mountain gorillas. Visits are daily and you can often track large families with several large silverback males and young gorillas. This is unique to most African safaris, which is in search of a single species and is entirely on foot, but the memories of this can beat all the others.

• The best time to visit is from May to September when it is not the rainy season. Prices are lower during the rainy season, making this a great time for those on a budget.

• The Bwindi Mountain Trek costs $ 600 per person during the main season and $ 450 during the low season (April, May and November).

• The camp costs $ 5 per person in the national park and $ 7 – $ 10 in the rest camps outside the park.

Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

What to expect:

This highly underrated park is possibly the most diverse of these parks. It is home to the largest waterfall on the Nile River, Murchison Falls, along with excellent safaris and scenic boat cruises on the Nile River. The delta here by Lake Albert offers excellent hippo and bird watching. The savannah is impressive with rolling hills. We loved the unique landscape in Murchison which was full of palm trees, rare in the savannah. The park is home to many giraffes, hippos, exotic birds, lions, antelopes, buffalo, crocodiles, and the occasional leopard. There are also chimpanzee walks available. The best time to visit is from May to September.

• Autonomous driving is an option and 4 × 4 is not required.

• The entrance fee to the park is $ 40 per day.

• Camp is $ 8 per person at Red Chili Rest Camp.

Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

What to expect:

The Moremi Game Reserve in northwestern Botswana is located next to the Okavango Delta, and is worth a visit when you go to Moremi. This park is one of the best safaris for self-driving enthusiasts. The coarse sand roads make for fun but difficult driving conditions through forests and smaller open plains. You can either drive for a couple of days or do the longer trek through Moremi to Chobe for a 5-7 day Safari. The wildlife is very dense with elephants, giraffes, wildebeest, antelope, lions, leopards, hyenas and the rare wild dogs. The best time to visit is from June to September during the dry season, but when the floods are at their highest in the Okavango River Delta.

• Autonomous driving is an option. They require 4 × 4 only.

• The entrance fee to the park is $ 11 per day plus $ 5 per day per vehicle.

• The cost of camping ranges from $ 15 to $ 50 per person depending on each campsite.

Chobe National Park, Botswana

What to expect:

Chobe National Park is one of the main parks in Africa and has some of the densest concentrations of animals in Africa. They are home to the second largest number of elephants in Africa. The animals travel hundreds of kilometers to make the journey to the Chobe River. Along with Moremi, this park is excellent for self-driving enthusiasts. Their safaris are excellent, but the real bonus is the Chobe River. Take a sunset boat cruise and watch elephants cross the river, hundreds of hippos eating, exotic birds, lying crocodiles and many other animals can be seen. The occasional lion can be found on the banks of the river having a drink. The best time to visit is from May to September.

• Autonomous driving is an option. They require 4 × 4 only.

• The entrance fee to the park is $ 7 per day.

• The cost of camping ranges from $ 15 to $ 50 per person depending on each campsite.