The Best Places for Safari in Southern Africa

Elephants in Liwonde National Park

So you decide to go on an safari in Southern Africa? That once in a lifetime trip! But then where on earth should you go?

There are so many AMAZING places to choose from and they each have their own special characteristics and unique eco-system. As well as this, every safari is different, you may see a lion one day and the next they’re nowhere to be found.

There is no better place in the world to spot wildlife than in Africa and there are options for all budgets – from self-drive & camping, to luxury safari lodges and romantic, champagne, hot-air balloon rides.

As I travel more and more in Africa, I will add to the list. But for now here are my choices for the best places for safari in Southern Africa and why I think you’ll love them!

Lion in South Luangwa National Park Zambia

South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

I may be kind of biased, as you will know, I love Zambia, it was the first destination in Africa I visited but South Luangwa is a special kind of place. I’ve been twice now and I’ve loved it both times. The first time was with my overland group. The second time I was travelling alone, but myself and another solo traveller joined a family on their safari (thank you van Der Was family).

In fact, here’s an excerpt I wrote about South Luangwa in an email to my friends and family back home on my first visit:

“I am sat in the early morning light, writing to you from a shady spot on the banks of the Luangwa River. It’s 6.45. The sun is rising slowly above the horizon and I’m feeling very content. Everyone else has gone on a morning game drive today, but I’ve decided to spend the morning at camp, as I went yesterday afternoon. Yesterday, a herd of elephants came crashing through the camp whilst we were sunbathing by the pool and I had to run for cover. But now it’s quiet and the only sounds are the tapping of the keys, birdsong and a few grunting hippos.

You’ll never believe what just happened. A group of ververt monkeys just made a sneak make attack. They ran past and stole my breakfast from the table right in front of me and carried it up a tree. As they tucked in to MY freshly buttered toast, they never took their eyes off me. They seemed to be smirking. But I’m so glad they did because if I hadn’t been distracted from the computer I never would have looked behind me and noticed the herd of elephants in the near distance. I ran to a safe spot behind a tree and watched them walk in almost silence. The matriarch was at the front, proudly leading her family to safety across the open plain. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life.”

This was South Luangwa to me.

Made up of woodland savannah, golden in colour, South Luangwa is a great place to spot big cats (including leopards), giraffes, hippos, elephants, crocs, buffalo, antelope and beautiful birds. Base yourself on one of the camps along the river, grab yourself a Mosi beer and enjoy the view. I guarantee that you will find it difficult to leave.

READ MORE: A Solo Safari in South Luangwa

South Luangwa National Park

Liwonde National Park, Malawi

One of Africa’s lesser known, but pretty amazing, safari destinations is Liwonde National Park in Malawi. The Shire (pronounced Shiray) River meanders through the park, offering ample views from both land and water and there are few pleasures more peaceful and serene than cruising down the river in the hazy morning light.

Liwonde hosts an abundance of hippos, crocodiles, elephants, antelopes and rumour has it that lions and cheetahs will be reintroduced in 2013. Liwonde is also a great place for birdwatchers with over 400 species present.

A view doesn’t come much better than this, does it?

READ MORE: The Hazy Beauty of Liwonde National Park

Liwonde National Park Malawi

Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Okavango Delta is a very different experience to the other safaris you might take in Africa.

Imagine the scene, you’re reclining in a mokoro (traditional dug-out canoe), being punted along through the clear, but reed filled, shallow waters of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The only sounds are the odd call of the wild and the feint drag of the water against the boat.

The sun is setting and you can hear the feint call of hippos in the distance. As you pull up to the open lagoon, your guide motions for you to be quiet. Then you see a twitch of ears and a pair eyes pop up from below the surface. Hippos. Yes, it’s as magical and eerie as it sounds.

Now you are really in the wild.

READ MORE: Into the Wild – The Okavango Delta

he Okavango Delta Botswana

Chobe National Park, Botswana

If you are an elephant lover like me, Chobe is the place to be! It is estimated that around 70,000 elephants live in the park, so if you don’t see some, you’re in the wrong place!

Chobe is accessible by both land and water so you can take safaris by boat or truck, which will give you great opportunity to see the elephants playing in the river.

Elephants in Chobe National Park

Etosha National Park, Namibia

Etosha National Park, situated in north west Namibia, is quite different to the other national parks in East and Southern Africa. It has a more a barren, white, almost post-apocalyptic landscape. In fact Etosha’ actually means  ‘Great White Place’, so called because of the salt pan it surrounds.

In the dry season the viewing is extra good as the animals gather to drink at the many waterholes, which makes for great viewing. I saw a lion, elephants, giraffes and zebras all drinking together. However I have a feeling the other animals kept one eye on the lion.

All of the camps in Etosha also offer night time viewing platforms. A very special experience indeed.

Cheetah in Etosha National

To find your perfect safari destination click here.

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The Best Places for Safari in Southern Africa

Have you ever been on safari in Southern Africa? Where else would you recommend?