Travelers who have visited Africa already know some of the famous destinations. It is true many love places like Maasai-Mara, Serengeti, and Kruger due to their superb wildlife viewing opportunities. Thus, you’ll have to bear with many visitors and their vehicles which flock those places. If you want to get away from the crowds, you could plan a safari to some of the less visited national parks but still experience wildlife and real African culture.
Liuwa National Park -Zambia
Liuwa National Park in western Zambia is for the blue wildebeest migration: its home to the second largest migration of wildebeests and zebras. With Kenyan Maasai Mara reserve and Tanzania’s Serengeti facing overcrowding, Liuwa National Park could be the best option to for travelers who want to witness the migration of wildebeest in solitude.
With the back country roads being improved, it’s easier to access the park from Kalabo the nearest small town and Mongu the capital city of western Zambian province. The best way is to stop at African parks office. From there you can arrange entrance to the park and get all information.
Due to long drives in between, visitors stay within the park. It’s suggested among the most popular accommodation include Matoya fishing lodge, mobile safari company and Liuwa community campsites.
In Liuwa national park, thousands of wildebeest mingling with zebra, oribi, roan antelope, steinbuck, migrate from Angola to the park for water and green pasture during rainy season. From August to December visitors can view herds of wildebeest as well predators including prides of lions, packs of African hunting dog, hyenas, wild and serval cats. The park has vast plains of savannah and it takes long game drives to maximize wildlife viewing opportunities.
This park also appeals to nature photographers. The moments when lightening and storms straddle the parts of the park to contract with green and golden savannah plains giving visitors dramatic views.
Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania
Just four hours of charter flight from Arusha city or 5 hours by speedboat from kigama town, is this quite wilderness. Mahale National park located in western Tanzania along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, is a 1613 sq km sanctuary of an estimated 1,700 population of chimpanzees.
Sure to please even the most experienced travelers who love nature and outdoor adventures. For a complete safari, you need to stay in this park for at least 3 days.
Tracking the chimpanzee is the main visitor experience. Chimpanzees have been a focal point of research over the last 4 decades. Mimikere or group “M” of about 60 chimps is well habituated for visitors to track. You start well prepared for challenging steep hiking and dense tropical vegetation.
The best time for up close encounters with chimpanzee is during the dry season June to October when they feed on ground and come around some of the lodges. During the wet season, November to May, the weather may not be favorable and chimpanzees spend much of their time feeding in trees.
Chimpanzee tracking isn’t the only adventure in this park. Visitors will find mountain hiking, snorkeling on calm waters of Lake Tanganyika, sport fishing, safe kayaking expeditions to spot hippo and crocodile attacks. In fact, birds are everywhere even around the lodges, though you’ll need to walk through diverse habitats for fantastic bird watching. Escape from the hustle of Tanzanian cities when you step in Mahale national park, where you’ll find scenic mountainous views, sand beaches and crystal clear waters. Visitors up for backpacking adventure, head to Mount Nkungwe rising 2,462 meters above sea level.
Camping is available for everyone and must be done with armed ranger. Once you set up an overnight camp for two day mount Nkungwe climbing, take a hike along the eastern slopes where African elephants, lions, giraffes, buffalos, warthogs, roan and sable antelopes, porcupines roam free. You also get to see amazing sunsets and the dark night skies.
Visitors who want luxury, there are three lodges built along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. They include Kungwe beach lodge, the two storey bandas of Greystoke Mahala lodge and flycatcher camp. Guided tours are offered several times a day. The park also has Mango tree camp, the only one for budget travelers.
More determined visitors can arrange to reach the park by a leisure cruise. The MV Liemba takes about 10 hours on water from port of Kigoma the nearest town on the shores to the park. Travelers in Zambia will catch the same cruise but it takes 30 hours to reach the park.
Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda
Kidepo valley national park forms an extended ecosystem of semi-arid desert, dry savannah and mountain forests covering about 1,442sqkm and provides home to East Africa’s largest herds of buffalos. In addition to a single herd of buffalos which are estimated to number over 4,000, Uganda’s most remote park hosts large giraffes, African elephants, lions, cheetahs, Aard wolf, spotted hyena, zebras, reedbucks, Thompson’s gazelle, bulbul, Uganda kobs which have been trans-located, ostrich and more than 500 species of birds.
Kidepo is notable for striking landscape scenery and big game viewing, especially around the great Narus valley where wildlife congregates during the dry seasons. Much of the landscape is undulating with rock kopjes, hilltops and patches of borassus palm trees. The Murongole dry mountains in the northwest border with South Sudan reach over 2,749 meters above sea level and can be climbed with an armed ranger guide. Traversing through the park are several sand rivers including River Kidepo. It does not completely dry up during the dry season with its 50 meter wide beds of white sand lined with borassus palm trees are used as corridors by wildlife especially birds.
Check the list of activities you want to do and plan accordingly. You can do game drive for viewing wildlife, bird watching, mountain hiking, nature walks, landscape photography as well as community and cultural tours.
There are few accommodations in the park, most of which need make reservations in advance. You need to a whole day to travel to Kidepo by road, taking up to 10-12 hours drive journey from Kampala via Mbale. If you have less time, air travel is available. Scheduled charter flights take two hours from Entebbe airport or kajjansi in Kampala landing at Lamej airstrip near Uganda wildlife park headquarters.
Ruaha National Park, Tanzania
For any traveler looking to traverse classic African savannah, Ruaha national park is a natural choice. In fact it is the largest national park in Tanzania covering 20,226 sq km offers big game wildlife viewing adventure. Wildlife is thriving, with 10 percent of the lion populations in Africa as well as many elephants, cheetah, leopard, African hunting dogs, giraffes that rival Serengeti.
With no other tourists in sight, you can experience wildlife and scenic views by a game drive safari along the great Ruaha River in the south from which the park was named.
Bird watchers find plentiful opportunities to test their skills. Over 500 species of birds are recorded and best spotted on nature walks.
Several lodges and camps offer comfortable stay for a night. Ruaha River lodge is the largest and set along the river it offers more relaxed close views of wildlife for budget visitors.
Luxury visitors can find accommodation at Kihala and kigelia camps as well as Jongomero camp. For those visiting the park with less than budget, Mdonya old river camp is a good option.
Need a real Tanzania local cuisine after a game drive, Mwagusi lodge as the oldest in the park offers excellent services.
Semuliki Valley National park, Uganda
This 220 sq km park is located in western Uganda in the Albertine rift valley floor and includes Toro-Semuliki wildlife reserve. Semuliki national park is about 387 km from Kampala and the journey takes about 5-6 hours drive.
Because Semuliki is in the valley connecting to the Congo basin forests, it protects diverse habitats such as tropical forests, riverine, avian and grasslands.
Travelers will find hot springs famous as traditional healing sites and cultural encounters of the Bamaga people. There are both male and female hot springs, with boiling hot water which is believed to cure many diseases as well as relive stress and boil eggs and banana.
Semuliki is most famous for bird watching. Over 440 species of birds include 50 central African forest biome species which you can’t find in any other part of East Africa. Specialist birder watchers while taking in views of the Mountains of the Moon can explore hiking trails to look for Congo serpent eagle, African piculet, piping hornbill, Nkurengu rail, swamp palm bulbul, orange weaver, and blue-billed malimbe among other species.
There also several species of mammals and nine species of primates including De-Brazza’s monkey. Visitors get an opportunity for primate viewing though animals like forest elephants, warthogs, leopards, buffalos, antelopes. You walk with no other tourist around which increases chances of spotting animals even though there’s thick vegetation. There are accommodations ideal for visitor stay. Some of the lodges are found in and outside the park in Sempaya, Bundibugyo and Fort Portal town.
Bawabwata National Park, Namibia
Though deserts and dunes lure many visitors to Namibia, Bwabwata national park combines varied landscapes including sand dunes, woodland forests, savannah, rivers and swamps.
The park is situated between Okavango and Kwando Rivers. This abundant water supports large mammals such as elephants, buffalos, zebras, blue wildebeest, antelopes and big cats including lions, leopards, cheetah, and spotted hyena.
Ecotourism is being established with serious conservation and tourism development. The park is so quite with few tourists on game drive safaris, nature walks or boat cruises which reward with sightings of hippos, crocodiles, sitatunga, water birds and sunsets.
Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique
Mozambique may not be the list of your safari destinations in Africa, but has changed. Conservation and eco-tourism initiatives are working to restore ecosystems with tree planting, protect diverse wildlife and support local development.
Visitors on a safari to Gorongosa not only will be amazed by beautiful terrain and wildlife but will also be part of the eco-tourism and conservation milestone.
The park has diverse landscapes such as flood plains, rift valley, Lakes and rivers, savannah grasslands and palm and tropical forests. Several activities including game drive safari, bird watching, nature walks provide an opportunity for visitors to get up close and personal with wildlife. There are lions, large herds of African elephants, buffalo, hippos, crocodiles and many species of birds such as red bishops.
For traditional African cultural experience, join the local guides on a two km walk to Vinho village. It is accessible by a boat cruise or traditional canoe crossing Pungue River. As you walk passed maize, cassava fields, learn about how revenues from tourist visits are important to the lives of local people by supporting agriculture.
Meet the local children, women and participate in local dances and singing. Interact with locals as their share their history and experience their daily lifestyles. These earn from craft and sell of agriculture produce. You can support them by purchasing their handmade crafts and fruits. There a range of accommodations from budget to luxury. Most of them are located in the bush and ideal for relaxation and fine dining.