Choosing a country to travel to for safari can be daunting and the variance in game and experience offered in each area can be overwhelming. But we’re here to help. Africa Expert, Anna gives us the scoop on what to expect from a safari in South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. Depending on what you’re looking for in terms of game viewing, accommodations and experiences this will help you determine which safari experience is ideal for you.
South Africa, specifically the Kruger region is great for first time safari goers looking to combine their travels with a visit to Cape Town, the Winelands, and explorations of the southern coast. In terms of game, Kruger is highly likely to deliver the Big Five, although sightings can never be guaranteed. The camps here are focused on bigger game and may not be ideal for those seeking to focus on birds or learn more about smaller mammals, reptiles, vegetation, and surrounding ecosystems. It is important to note that Madikwe and private reserves on the Eastern Cape offer malaria-free safaris, ideal for families and honeymooners looking to avoid taking anti-malarial medication.
The Camps and lodges in South Africa will deliver on luxury, providing all the facilities, amenities and comforts of 5-star resorts – often equipped with gyms, swimming pools, spas, Wi-Fi, private plunge pools and lounge areas, private dinners, etc. They focus on providing intimate experiences for each party, emphasizing privacy during meal times over communal dining.
For those seeking an intimate getaway where you will be pampered in full luxury and likely see the Big Five, South Africa is a great safari choice! Adding a relaxing beach stay in Seychelles, Mauritius, and Mozambique are the perfect option for post-South African safaris.
Botswana offers a more remote, unspoiled experience than its Southern Africa counterparts by limiting the number of tourists allowed in the parks. This definitely adds to the country’s exclusivity. The emphasis is less on the Big Five and premiere luxury and more about general game, animal interactions, and uncommon sightings (although the region is home to Big Five with rhino sightings rather scarce). In Botswana you will see fewer lodge vehicles at each sighting and spend more time learning about the migratory and breading patterns of animals. For those looking to see elephants, Botswana will deliver with over 150,000 elephants, the largest concentration in the continent!
However, each region presents a differing experience: The Makgadikgadi Pans offer true unspoiled landscapes with awe-inspiring sunsets, incredible night skies, walks with local bushmen, migratory zebras and wildebeest, meerkat interactions, lions, and more.
Meanwhile, the Okavango Delta offers both game drives and water activities, for certain months of the year, allowing guests to explore the landscape via vehicle, on foot, in a mokoro (traditional African canoe) or on a boat cruise. These water activities can offer even closer encounters with animals, including parades of elephants passing beside you through the channel.
The Linyanti region provides guests a similar experience in that both water and land activities are offered but here animals flock to limited water sources, often making for exciting mammal encounters.
Some camps in Botswana offer Wi-Fi, swimming pools and spas, although this will not be the norm for the region. Dining will be more focused on communal dinners with the option for private, but you may be surprised by how much you enjoy dining at the hosted table! Here you will find staff, guides, and management with immense passion for their country and conservation of the area. Botswana is great for those seeking a more immersive safari experience emphasizing unspoiled landscapes and wildlife conservation.
Zambia, specifically Livingstone (home to Victoria Falls), the Lower Zambezi, and the Luangwa Valley, are all great for experienced safari goers who are looking to build on their previous safari experience or for first-timers looking for a raw and truly wild experience!
Zambia is home to the walking safari and offers a more rustic, explorative safari experience, especially in camps along the Luangwa River. Due to the diversity of activities in the region, Zambia is a great destination for families with teenagers.
Livingstone is a fantastic location to start or end your safari offering numerous activities related to Victoria Falls, in addition to standard game drives, such as helicopter rides, microlight flights, bungee jumping, rhino tracking, rafting, boat cruises, and so much more. Lodges in this area often equipped with swimming pools, gyms, Wi-Fi, private dining, and embrace the full luxuries of a 5-star resort.
The Lower Zambezi offers a great combination of land and water activities, encouraging guests to try canoeing, tiger fishing, and sunset cruises along the river in addition to the usual game drives and walks.
Finally, South Luangwa focuses on the rustic, ‘back to the bush’ experience of walking safaris and hide viewing with guests feeling fully immersed in their surroundings. It is important to note that South Luangwa is incredibly well known for its thriving lion and leopard populations, so for those who love big cats there is arguably no better place!
While some camps in Lower Zambezi and Luangwa will have swimming pools and Wi-Fi (although it is often intermittent), the majority embrace a ‘back to the bush’ style of rustic luxury and minimal environmental impact. Dining and experiences will emphasize “en famille,” allowing guests to share the excitements of the day and get to know their fellow travelers.
Zambia is a great experience for those looking to disconnect while on safari, those who are not afraid of a more immersive experience of wildlife wondering into camp, and adventurous travelers looking to explore walking safaris, hide viewing, canoeing, fishing, river cruises, and so much more!
This is a guide to help match your experience desires to the appropriate area, but you cannot go wrong with a safari to any one of the above destinations and our specialists would be more than happy to help you choose the perfect safari!