The wild and breathtaking continent of Africa is home to some of the most amazing wildlife and awe-inspiring scenery on the planet. Catching a glimpse of some of the world’s most captivating animals in their natural habitat is one of the best travel experiences one can live. Africa is home to an astonishing number of national parks, which help preserve the diverse species that live in these areas. Here are some of the best national parks you can visit in the continent:
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is one of the oldest and the best-known wildlife sanctuary in Africa. It covers an area of 12,950 sq km and is considered one of the least disturbed natural ecosystem on earth. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the Big Five animals – elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo. But it’d not just the wildlife sightings. The park is famous for the annual migration of millions of wildebeests plus hundreds of thousands of gazelles and zebras, followed by their predators, providing one of the most impressive nature spectacles in the world. The Great Migration that follows a 1,000 km long annual circular trek takes place in a unique scenic setting of a vast treeless expanses of spectacularly flat short grasslands dotted with rocky outcrops interspersed with rivers and woodlands. It is a phenomenal sight that shouldn’t be missed on any visit to the Serengeti.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
The enormous Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa. Covering around 19485 km² of untamed bush in north-eastern South Africa, Kruger is home to an unrivalled diversity of wildlife. Inhabitants include 145 mammal species, the most mammals found in any game park in Africa, along with nearly 500 bird species. Considered the flagship park of South Africa, it is divided in 14 different ecozones, each supporting different wildlife. Other than wildlife spotting, visitors can also explore the unique historical and archaeological sites located within the boundaries of the park and witness things like ancient Bushman rock paintings. Other than the best, Kruger is also the most equipped of national parks here, owing to its webcams showing live animal activities, signposts, restaurants, and gas stations. The park also has an excellent road network and it’s one of the few game reserves where you can travel around in your own car.
Etosha National Park, Namibia
Etosha National Park is home to some rare and unusual wild animals, as well as the Big Five of Africa, boasting the tallest elephants on the continent. After good rains this cracked-clay land transforms into expanses of blue-green algae, thick woodlands, and lush grasslands, attracting plenty of game and birds, including thousands of flamingos and water birds. Etosha National Park is one of the most important wildlife reserves in Africa, and many rare and endangered species are preserved within its borders. Here, you’ll have the chance to see the black rhino, as well as the tallest elephants in Africa. The park has a wide range of landscapes and varying geology, with its grasslands, salt pans, and dolomite hills. After good rains this cracked-clay land transforms into expanses of blue-green algae, thick woodlands, and lush grasslands, attracting plenty of game and birds, including thousands of flamingos and water birds. During winters (April to October), the vegetation is sparse and animals congregate at the watering holes. This is the ideal time to go game viewing.
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Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
What will you choose between an iconic waterfall and a drive through one of the best national parks? What if I tell you that you can have both? On the edge of the Kalahari Desert, you will find the largest wildlife reserve in all of Zimbabwe—Hwange National Park. The national park is home to over 100 mammal species, including lion, leopard and Rhino, and is best known for its vast elephant population, and for having the highest population of wild dogs in the continent. You will get a chance to travel through a diverse landscape as the Hwange has a mix of semi-desert scrub, forests, valleys of mopane woods and rocky granite hills. But it is the stunning Victoria Falls that will take your breath away. A trip to Hwange is not complete without visiting one of the largest waterfall in the world. The endless flow of water that tumbles over the cliff almost defies belief.
Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
The list will feel incomplete without probably the most popular game park in the world. Masai Mara is the quintessential African safari destination. The park actually shares a border with its sister park, the Serengeti, just over the border in Tanzania, and therefore witnesses the great migration. This annual wildlife spectacle sees millions of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle stampeding across the plains in search of greener grass, from around July to October. This top African game park is also home to large predator populations, including numerous lions, leopards, cheetahs and jackals, as well as large numbers of other wild animals and over 450 bird species. Encountering the local Maasai tribes in their bright red robes is another highlight of visiting Masai Mara Reserve. These proud and striking-looking traditional people live in and around the Masai Mara, coexisting with its wildlife.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
One of the world’s most endangered and fascinating creatures, the gorillas are found in just a few select national parks in Africa, and Bwindi in Uganda is one of those magical spots where you can undertake gorilla trekking. Known for its biodiversity, this tropical national park is one of Africa’s most special conservation areas. The park is situated on steep terrain on the edge of the Albertine Rift, and is the last remaining habitat for the highly endangered mountain gorillas that live within it. Bwindi is home to half the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population, and as one of the only places in the world where you can visit them in the wild: it’s not to be missed. The park is also home to more than 100 species of mammals. If you are lucky, you will come upon a herd of forest elephants, other types of primates and even the rare giant forest hog.
Chobe National Park, Botswana
Chobe National Park is one of the most popular parks in Africa because of its huge concentration of elephant and Cape Buffalo. Situated in the north of this country, a sunset cruise on the river here is truly unforgettable as scampering baboons move past yawning hippos, while relaxing buffalo and thirsty giraffe all come down to the water’s edge to join the party! As you glide silently along the Chobe River in a mokoro (a traditional dugout canoe), you’ll get to see incredible wildlife at eye level. If you’re patient you might just spot a terrapin lounging on a floating log, a fish eagle watching and waiting for a meal to swim by, or a herd of elephants cooling off just around the bend. Your mind will probably wander to the mysteries concealed in papyrus reeds swaying gently in the evening breeze.
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