Lion snuggling in Sabi Sand

7 Top Safari Destinations in Africa: Pros & Cons

Last updated Oct 6, 2022 | South Africa

Your first trip on an African safari will seep into your soul. It is unlike any other experience in the world. Picking which country for this quintessential experience can be overwhelming. There are many fantastic choices that will suit all types of travelers and interests. To help you navigate what top safari destinations in Africa are right for you, I’ve included all the pros and cons for each location. 

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Map of Top Safari Destinations in Africa

Map of Top African Safari Destinations

Map of Top Safari Destinations in Africa

Number 1 Icon

Botswana

Elephants seen on a safari drive at Chobe National Park in Botswana

Elephants seen on a safari drive at Chobe National Park in Botswana

  • Low-density tourism 
  • High-quality sightings
  • Chobe National Park is home to the highest concentration of elephants in the world
  • Boating/canoeing, walking, and night safaris offered 
  • Most camps are “upscale luxury” 
  • Banned commercial hunting in 2014 
  • One of Africa’s safest and wealthiest African countries
  • Most expensive safari destination 

* I would love to explore Botswana more. We had the opportunity to do a day trip to Chobe National Park while staying in Zimbabwe, which was amazing!

Number 2 Icon

Kenya

Wildebeests running into the Mara River during the Great Migration at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya

Wildebeests running into the Mara River during the Great Migration at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya

  • Home to the Great Migration where millions of wildebeest, zebras, and antelope make the circuit across Tanzania and Kenya
  • Known for its big cat sightings
  • Cultural experiences offered (Maasai tribe village visit)
  • Huge densities of game
  • Good infrastructure
  • Terrorist attacks have occurred in Kenya but never in any of the safari areas
Number 3 Icon

Tanzania

Lionesses relaxing in the Serengeti in Tanzania

Lionesses relaxing in the Serengeti in Tanzania

  • Considered to be the ultimate safari country
  • Also home to the Great Migration 
  • Highlights include the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater (world’s largest volcanic caldera), Zanzibar Island, and Mount Kilimanjaro 
  • 3 circuits: northern circuit has the highest concentration of cats including tree-climbing lions (Tanzania is known for having the most lions in the world)
  • Endless plains and huge game densities
  • Limited walking and boating safaris
Number 4 Icon

South Africa

Gorgeous leopard in Sabi Sand South Africa

Gorgeous leopard at Lion Sands River Lodge in South Africa

  • Option of combining a wide variety of experiences (mountains, city, wine country) with a safari
  • Almost guaranteed to see the Big Five
  • Chance to see even wild dogs and cheetahs 
  • Premier area to see leopards 
  • Good infrastructure and highly developed
  • More upscale lodging with internet, gyms, and spas
  • Over-tourism/some say it lacks the “wilderness element”  
Number 5 Icon

Zambia/Zimbabwe

Baby baboon at Stanley and Livingstone Boutique Hotel

Baby baboon at Stanley and Livingstone Boutique Hotel in Zimbabwe

  • Exceptional guides
  • Considered “the adventurous choice” and for “safari connoisseurs”
  • Many bushcamps are small, intimate, and full of rustic charm
  • Birthplace of the walking safari
  • Home to Victoria Falls and many adventure adventures like canoeing, rafting, bungee jumping, and swimming in Devil’s Pool on top of the world’s largest waterfall (which we did! and lived to tell about it)
  • Affordable price points
  • Zimbabwe has experienced political instability over the years
Number 6 Icon

Namibia

Namibia desert landscape

Namibia desert landscape

  • Most dramatic scenery (think red dunes, shimmering saltpans, acacia and quiver trees, and dry desert)
  • Remote wilderness
  • Known for its desert-adapted elephants, black rhino, and a big colony of flamingos  
  • Largest population of wild cheetahs in the world
  • Large distances between the highlights, so expect long times in the car if you want to see a lot of different places
Number 7 Icon

Rwanda

Baby gorilla hanging out in the forest

Baby gorilla hanging out in the forest

  • One word … gorillas! This is why you go to Rwanda
  • Also home to chimpanzees and colobus monkeys
  • Diverse landscape (jungles, lakes, volcanos, forests, etc.)
  • Known for amazing coffee full of dark and fruity flavors
  • Not considered a “classic” safari destination but you can see the Big 5 at Akagera National Park
  • Expensive! The gorilla trekking permit alone costs $1500 USD per person (their goal is to target high-end tourism)

Final Thoughts

There are so many top safari destinations in Africa. You just have to decide what kind of animals you want to see, your budget, and what kind of “experience” you are looking for. All seven locations are great for different reasons. Hope this guide helped in determining which is right for you.