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The Best Places for Safari in Southern Africa

The Best Places for Safari in Southern Africa

When looking for the best safaris in Southern Africa, you will be spoilt for choice as there are so many amazing national parks and reserves to choose from.

Each has its own special characteristics and unique eco-system. As well as this, every safari is different, from the landscapes to the animals you see each day – you may see a lion one day and the next they’re nowhere to be found. It’s always a surprise.

There is no better place for a safari than in Southern (and East) Africa and there are options for all budgets from self-drive & camping, to luxury safari lodges and romantic, champagne, hot-air balloon rides. You do not have to spend thousands of dollars to go on safari.

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

Other Africa posts you might enjoy…

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The Best Safaris in Southern Africa


South Luangwa - One of the Best Places for Safari in Southern Africa
Helen in Wonderlust in South Luangwa National Park in 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’d go as far as to say that it’s my favourite safari destination in all of Africa, tied with the Masai Mara in Kenya and Chobe National Park in Botswana.

I’ve been four times now and I’ve loved it every time. The first time was with my overland group. The second time I was travelling solo when myself and another solo traveller joined a Dutch family on their safari. The third time I was travelling with friends and the last time I went was on my Rock My Malawi, Zambia & Botswana Adventure.

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. 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 vervet monkeys just made a sneak 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 into 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 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.”

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.

Wild Dogs in Mana Pools National Park
Mana Pools National Park - Zimbabwe

Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Mana Pools National Park is legendary for its abundance of elephants as well as African wild dogs and big cats.

One of the best ways to experience this incredible destination is by staying at a mobile camp or taking a canoe safari.

Your time here will include safaris and nature walks, bush dinners, and nights under the stars – it’s a very magical place.

I’m also running a yoga safari retreat here in 2022 if you are interested (also includes Lower Zambezi National Park, Lake Kariba, Livingstone and Victoria Falls).

READ MORE: Rock My Zambia & Zimbabwe Yoga Safari Adventure

Boat safari in Liwonde National Park, Malawi
Elephant in Liwonde National Park, Malawi

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.

If you want to join me here in 2022, I’m running a Malawi group tour with my friend Sabina.

READ MORE: A Guide to Liwonde National Park in Malawi

Rock My Adventure Tour to the Okavango Delta
Okavango Delta - Botswana

Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Okavango Delta is a very different experience from 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 faint 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 of eyes pop up from below the surface. Hippos. Yes, it’s as magical as it sounds.

You can join my Rock My Botswana & Victoria Falls Adventure if you’d like to come and see this incredible place for yourself! 

READ MORE: Going on a Budget Okavango Delta Safari – Everything You Need to Know

Leopard in Chobe National Park - Botswana
Elephants in Chobe National Park - 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. It’s also a very accessible park, making it a great place for a day trip, therefore keeping costs low.

READ MORE: How to Visit Botswana on a Budget (plus 3 Incredible Safari Itineraries)

Kudu in Etosha National Park in Namibia
Elephants at the Waterhole in Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park, Namibia

Etosha National Park, situated in northwest Namibia, is quite different to the other national parks in East and Southern Africa. It has 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.

Most of the camps have a waterhole where you can watch the animals. This is one of my favourite experiences on the Rock My Namibia Adventure – a very special experience indeed.

READ MORE: 35 Amazing Things to Do in Namibia

Kruger National Park - South Africa
Kruger National Park - South Africa

Kruger National Park, South Africa

When you think of safaris in Southern Africa, Kruger is probably one of the first places that spring to mind, as it’s probably the most famous safari destination in Africa (along with the Masai Mara).

Kruger has all of the ‘Big Five’ making it a popular destination for safari-goers. It’s also very accessible and they allow self-drives, making it a relatively cheap place to visit too, compared with the parks in East Africa.

Elephant in Addo
Lion in Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa

Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa

Addo lies just north of Port Elizabeth at the end of South Africa’s Garden Route

The elephant park is home to around 700 elephants which is pretty awesome in itself, but it’s also home to the ‘Big Seven’. So as well as the ‘Big Five’ (lions, elephants, buffalo, rhinos, and leopards), they also have Southern right whales and great white sharks, which live in the marine section of the park, off the coast of Port Elizabeth.

READ MORE: How to Go on Safari in Addo Elephant Park, South Africa

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

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About Author

I'm a travel blogger and tour operator with a passion for Africa travel. I love the great outdoors, going on epic trips around the world and helping others travel!

23 Comments

  • Arianwen
    November 10, 2013 at 2:57 am

    Blimey! You’ve been to a lot of national parks!! I absolutely loved the Serengeti and Ngorongoro. I couldn’t imagine anywhere being better!

    Reply
    • Helen
      November 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm

      I’ve been to a few more as well! 🙂 But the post was getting waaaaay to long! Ha ha!

      Reply
  • Megan
    November 26, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Here’s a question….if you have limited time (one week?), where would you go?  I know a lot of people that hop from one park to another, but that takes up time and the plane costs can really add up.

    Reply
    • Helen
      November 26, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      One week for just safari… I would say Tanzania/Kenya. Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Masai Mara are all near each other. Easy to go via a tour company in a jeep/car/bus or via public transport. I think the East Africa visa should cover you for both now so no extra fees. You can fly direct to Nairobi and go from there. Zambia and Malawi usually require you to go via Jo’Burg so adds on a good few hours to your flight time, plus waiting in Jo’Burg airport (but as airports go, it’s pretty nice). Namibia and Botswana are amazing, but the landscapes are very different from East Africa.

      If I had two weeks… I’d probably head further south and explore Zambia/Botswana/Namibia/South Africa. Or add in more of the Kenyan parks… Amboseli, Nakuru, Hell’s Gate and maybe a cheeky trip to Kilimanjaro. Or you could bolt on Uganda/Rwanda instead. Or you could do Malawi/Zambia as one. All these would mean quite a bit of overland. But then, I love that part!

      I can help you plan if you like. Are you looking for budget/medium/high end? How much driving are you prepared to do??

      H x

      Reply
      • Mary
        December 4, 2013 at 1:29 pm

        I offer homestay accommodation as well so if anybody is visiting Nakuru and would prefer to stay at a homestay kind of accommodation, email at [email protected].
        Thanks.

        Reply
        • Helen
          December 4, 2013 at 1:54 pm

          Thanks Mary! I’ll look you up when I am next in Nakuru! 🙂

          Reply
          • Mary
            December 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm

            Thanks Hellen,
            Will be waiting Hellen.

          • Helen
            December 4, 2013 at 8:07 pm

            🙂

  • Nuz
    December 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I never really thought I was a wildlife person until I went to Borneo earlier this year and fell in love with the Orangutans! My original plan for next summer was to go to Japan but I’m pretty sure I’ve changed my mind, the idea of safaris gets me more excited. I’ve heard a lot about Masai Mara, so fingers crossed for next year 🙂

    Reply
    • Helen
      December 19, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      Ooh, I’d love to go to Borneo. Orangutans are so beautiful. Masai Mara is wondeful. I have a friend who owns a camp there and runs safari trips if you are interested?

      Helen

      Reply
      • Nuz
        December 21, 2013 at 6:41 pm

        That would be lovely! Still very much undecided about the summer and the fact I’m living on student loan isn’t helping 😛

        Definitely recommend Borneo if you love wildlife! I wish I had spent more time there, didn’t expect to have so much fun especially the river safari 🙂

        Reply
  • Helen
    December 21, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    Safari can be expensive… but so worth it!!! I hope you get to go somewhere amazing!!!

    Ii will definitely get to Borneo at some point! There are so many places I want to go!!! 🙂

    Reply
  • Sorin
    December 28, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Ngoronongoro Crater was for me the most amazing Safari experience; so many animals on such a tight space. Gorillas was the second most valuable experience..

    Reply
    • Helen
      December 28, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      I love them all! 🙂 Can’t get enough of safari! Even the same national park on different days is so different!

      Reply
  • tabby
    January 8, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Woah this web site is wonderful i enjoy looking through your posts. Be inside the very good pictures! You now know, many individuals will be hunting around just for this facts, you could possibly assistance these people significantly.

    Reply
    • Helen
      January 9, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      Thanks so much Tabby! Glad you enjoyed my posts! Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  • James L. Costantino
    February 24, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Such you are right South Luangwa National Park, Zambia best untamed life havens on the planet, and not without reason. The centralization of creatures around the Luangwa River, and its tidal ponds, is around the most serious in Africa. Pods of hippos number in the hundreds, there are lions, panther, elephant, African wild mutts, interesting types of zebra and giraffe, and also over 400 types of winged animals.

    Reply
    • Helen
      February 24, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      Yes, I agree – South Luangwa is AMAZING!!! 🙂

      Reply
  • Mzuri @ Amani Afrika
    March 12, 2014 at 6:58 am

    Wow, love your photos, Helen! Glad to see that you’ve done safaris in many different countries. I agree with you. Each place has different landscapes, flora and fauna. And each safari is special – even the same place, it’s different when viewed in a different season.

    Reply
  • Alpen Shah
    March 16, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    I was born in Mombasa on the Kenyan coast and I have been to the national parks all over my country. The Mara is by far the best one, the foothills of the Kilimanjaro and the Mount Kenya National Park are some really good ones. I have a special place in my heart for the Tsavo National Park, great place to see elephants.
    My family and I used to go there for an odd weekend and I remember one time my dad was driving up in our minivan to a camp site where we would have lunch. In the distance we saw what looked like an unrolled tyre across the road. He was driving at about 50kph on this road. It wasn’t until we were within 30 feet of the tyre, that we realised that it was a massive python moving across road. Insinctively he slammed the breaks on, and sent me flying towards the windscreen. I did react quickly and avoided smashing through the glass. I learnt 2 things that day. The importance of seatbelts, and that you never know what you’ll find on safari, just keep your eyes open.

    Another great place to visit is the Meru Betiri National Park in Eastern Java, Indonesia. Very remote, absolutely breathtaking landscape, and some beautiful isolated beaches. Sukamade beach also has a turtle sancutary and I had the pleasure of watching a mother turtle lay eggs and got to release some hatchlings back into the ocean

    Alpen

    Cardiff, Wales

    Reply
  • JB Sibanda
    April 4, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    I am traveler lover and like to visit different kind of places in my holidays. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya is one of my favorite.

    Reply
    • Helen
      April 4, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      Hey! It’s one of my favourites too!!! Especially during the migration!

      Reply
  • Jesper, The Biveros Effect
    October 21, 2016 at 8:14 am

    We just came back from a trip to Namibia and South Africa. We visited Etosha for a day during our time in Namibia and it was like coming to a different planet. The combination with the salt pans and animals was amazing to see. 🙂

    Reply

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