Three of the top African safari destinations offering first time travelers the most rewarding opportunities to get close to the African wildlife include:
1) Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger is one of the most popular safari destinations in Africa where large populations of wildlife can be spotted. The national park, which covers 18,989 sq km (almost the size of Israel) is home to 500 bird species, 147 mammals, 114 reptiles, 49 fish, 34 amphibians and 336 trees.
Kruger hosts about 25,000 buffaloes, 9,100 elephants, 2,300 black and white rhino and over 1,700 lions.
When to go: Year round. Game viewing safaris are best during the dry winter season (April to September) when the foliage is sparse and water is restricted to rivers and man-made waterholes. During this period, animals can be easily seen as they flock to the waterholes in the early mornings and late evenings. Read more on Kruger National Park.
2) Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya
Situated in south-west Kenya, some 300 km from Nairobi, the Masai Mara is easily the greatest game reserve in Africa. The reserve is home to a large population of lions, buffaloes, elephants, African hunting dogs, crocodiles, wildebeests and many others.
The main highlight of this reserve is the great wildebeest migration – an annual event that sees over 1.5 million wildebeests and zebras migrating from the neighbouring Serengeti National Park in search of water and pasture with the reverse movement taking place as seasons change.
When to go: Throughout the year. However, most people like to time their visit with the migration (mid-August to early November). Read more on Masai Mara Game Reserve.
3) Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Located in north western Tanzania, the 12, 950 sq km Serengeti National Park is recognized as one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in Africa. The national park, whose name means unending plains in the local Maa language, is home to a large population of wildlife including the dangerous tree-climbing lions, leopards, buffalo, hippo and many others.
Just like the Masai Mara, one of the major highlights of the Serengeti – which was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1981 – is the annual wildebeest migration.
When to go: Year round, although the best time to catch the spectacular migration is between June and August when the wildebeest assemble in readiness to cross over the Grumeti River in Serengeti.
4) Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Located in South Western Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of the must visit destinations in Eastern Africa. This ancient tropical rain forest is home to almost half of the remaining population of the mountain gorillas. Bwindi is a UNESCO world heritage site with amazing attractions that include mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, the Batwa People etc.