Reasons why you should visit Africa

For many people, the thought of visiting Africa is still rather daunting which I think is SO very sad. Yes, many African countries have struggled with war and conflict over the years but that shouldn’t put you off visiting this magical continent. It is a huge continent with something for everyone.

The northern part of the continent boasts bustling night markets and delicious food, unending historical sights and fantastic scuba diving and snorkelling.

Sub-Sahara Africa though is where the real magic happens in my opinion. The continent turns from dry, arid, sandy landscapes to a lush, green, tropical climate. It still offers plenty of delicious food, history and plenty of culture. There are also some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and plenty of diving opportunities. But the stand out attraction of Africa is the wildlife, and rightly so. From lions to penguins, there really is something for any animal lover!

There are a few countries that really stand out for those interested in wildlife photography. Here are my top 5 countries you SHOULD visit and soon!

Number 5) South Africa – Unfortunately, people have formed many opinions about this beautiful country but the truth is South Africa is one of the most affordable and best value safari destinations. If you do your research you can stay at a lodge that is involved in real conservation efforts. The benefit of staying in a conservancy means that you will not see loads of other people and you will get a much more exclusive feeling to your safari. It’s still worth visiting Kruger National Park particularly the southern part so you can see lion, elephant and hopefully even rhino! Whilst up there spend a day doing the panorama route, it’s well worth it!

If you have time, head down to the Capes in the South of the country so you can see penguins. Also if you are into wine, take a few days to enjoy the wine region in the South West.

Number 4) Tanzania – Famous for the Serengeti, Tanzania is the place to visit if you like travelling. Split into two safari circuits, the southern circuit can be much quieter if you want to get away from the crowds. But the northern circuit is home to the spectacular Wildebeest Migration. As well as the Serengeti consider visiting Lake Manyara and Tarangire for the change in topography. After your action-packed safari, why not hop over to the paradise island of Zanzibar where you can chill out and/or go swimming with wild dolphins.

Number 3) Zimbabwe – If you want to see wild dogs, get yourself to Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve. Home to over 40,000 elephants, Hwange is also a sanctuary for lion, giraffe, zebra and much more! Mana Pools is also high on my list of must-visit places as the natural beauty of the place is unprecedented. It is also one of the only places on the planet you can regularly see elephants standing up on their back legs! And don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit the thundering Victoria Falls whilst in Zimbabwe!

Number 2) Uganda – Home to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where you can see Gorillas and Kibale Forest where you can see Chimps, Uganda is a truly special place. However, that is not all it has to offer! You can visit Murchison Falls or Queen Elizabeth Park to see Lions, Elephants, Leopards and other “safari” animals. You can also take a swamp ride in Mabamba to see the elusive Shoebill. Uganda has it all!

Number 1) Kenya – If you want the real African Safari experience you just can not beat the origin of safari, Kenya. This country is truly beautiful and so are the people! You can experience such different landscapes all within the same country. Amboseli – the land of giants is very dry and dusty and is home to some of the biggest elephants in the world. Samburu is also very dusty and HOT but also has lush green areas. Nairobi National Park is unique in the fact that it is surrounded by the bustling and growing urban city. Lake Nakuru is a true gem, green and beautiful! And of course, we must not forget the Masai Mara with its vast open savannahs that seem to never end!

Kenya also has MANY other wildlife hotspots you can visit like Tsavo East and Tsavo West, Mount Kenya and Aberdare.

And you can round up your African experience by chilling out on one of Mombasa’s stunning beaches like Diani.

 

Guides to Safari Accommodation in Africa

Tourism is thriving in Africa, so there is no shortage of accommodation options to cater to the ever-growing number of people who travel the continent every year. More so in countries with renowned tourist infrastructure like Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Mozambique, Egypt, and Botswana among others. Is Africa on your travel bucket list this year? Check out this guide to accommodation options in Africa to help you navigate the nuances of finding a suitable place to stay during your visit.

Camping

This is the closest definition to a “living in the wild” experience. It’s just you, your tent, a sleeping bag, and the starry African skies overhead. Some camps in the national parks offer camping equipment to make your stay more comfortable, but if you’re looking for a truly authentic experience in the African bush, this is it. This type of camping falls exclusively under the budget tier of accommodation. Keep in mind that not all national parks and game reserves allow for this type of camping since the average traveler wouldn’t exactly know what to do if they come across a wild animal sniffing around their tents. Even where allowed, you will only be able to set up camp in designated areas. Still, camping in the wild makes for a pretty good story to tell the grandkids down the line.

Tented lodging and luxury camps

If you’d like to take your accommodation experience up a notch but still retain that feeling of being in the wild, you can go for the tented lodging option, which is basically a tent but with more modern amenities like private bathrooms, king-sized beds, WiFi access, gourmet food, electricity, hot water, and even entertainment systems. Most luxury safari camps in Africa are designed to rival hotels and sometimes even up the ante by offering exclusive activities like mobile tented camps that allow you to be as close to the wildlife action as possible during your safari. This feature is especially useful during the Great Migration in Kenya and Tanzania, an annual event that sees millions of lumbering wildebeests, gazelles and zebras traverse the endless plains in search of greener pastures.

Safari Lodges

These consist of either a permanent camp or an actual building made of natural materials, designed to blend with the environment. Lodges are generally luxurious and can cater to anything from a solo traveler to large travel groups. In some cases, tour operators may recommend a lodge if the weather is too cold during that time of the year since the rooms are typically warmer and may even have heating, hot tubs and other necessary facilities. Lodges exude a certain charm and more amenities that often make them more appealing to families since the safety of being behind actual walls while you sleep is ultimately more reassuring.

Private Game Reserve Accommodation 

These can be in the form of luxury lodges, apartments or even luxury camps. The idea of a private game reserve safari is to enjoy the wild on your own terms. There are several private game reserves across Africa offering a unique safari experience and all the amenities needed to make your stay as comfy as possible. Plus they offer some activities that you would not normally get when doing your safari in a typical national park. For instance, you can go on night game drives to spot some of Africa’s nocturnal animals, as well as get access to equipment like ponchos for the rain, hot water bottles for the cold, or even a spare pair of binoculars so you need not bother with bringing yours.

Bed and Breakfasts, Guest Houses, and Hotels 

While it is not likely that you’ll come across these inside the safari parks, many of them are strategically positioned just outside for easier access. Like in every other country, hotel accommodations in Africa range from 1-star establishments that offer little more than basic meals and a room with an en-suite bathroom to 5-star establishments that provide just about every convenience in a luxurious setting, including gourmet meals, room service, high-quality linens, expansive views of your surroundings, concierge service, recreation facilities and more. A good example of such is The Z Hotel which is said to be the best boutique hotel in Zanzibar thanks to its array of amenities, personalized services, and knowledgeable staff.

Private villas 

If you’re looking to own your African holiday and just let the accommodation experience be tailored to your preferences, then a private villa may be the best choice. It shares some similarities with a boutique hotel, but with a private villa, you get to enjoy all its amenities by yourself. Many families, especially those with young kids, actually prefer this option over hotels since it means they don’t have to worry about disturbing other guests if the children start to get rambunctious.

At the end of the day, your choice of accommodation in Africa will depend on your budget and travel preference. But one thing is certain – you’ll definitely find something that suits your taste.

The Best Time of Year to Visit Africa for Weather & Viewing Animals

An African safari is a costly vacation, so planning where and when to go are crucial to getting the most for your money. Top destinations include Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park for zebra and wildebeest migration; Kenya’s Masai Mara National Park for lion, leopard and cheetah; South Africa’s Kruger National Park for birds and a variety of species; Botswana’s Selinda Reserve for a high concentration of wildlife; and Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park for leopards.

Temperature

Seasons in Africa are opposite of North American seasons, so its autumn runs from March through May; spring runs from September through November. According to the Weather Channel, the best general months for an African safari are September, October, March or April, when temperatures aren’t so scorching-hot. The average summer temperatures reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit in Kruger National Park and 80 degrees F in Cape Town, along with unbearable humidity. By contrast, average winter temperatures drop down to 69 degrees Fahrenheit in Cape Town and 77 degrees F in Durban.

Dry Season

Wherever you intend to safari in Africa, you’ll want to go during the dry season; this ensures that you avoid floods, mudslides and downpours. It is also the best time of year for the best animal viewing. The animals migrate and congregate around predictable water sources during the dry season. Also, the dry grass is more sparse and easy to see through. Lonely Planet recommends East Africa’s Uganda and Tanzania from May through December or December through April. Visit South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe from May through October. Central Africa destinations like the Congo are driest from June to September.

Animal Migrations

In Tanzania and Kenya, you’ll see the wildebeest, zebra and antelope migrations from July through November, with August through October as the most productive months, according to Frommer’s. The Serengeti sees vast numbers of animals moving through toward the end of May, with dangerous river crossings in July. The herds stay at the Mara River up north from August through October, crossing in and out of Kenya depending on the local rains. In November, the animals move back through the eastern Serengeti to the south in December. Tanzania bird migrations from Europe to East Africa are best viewed from October to April when you can see yellow-bellied wattle-eyes, blue-headed bee-eaters, pygmy falcons and flamingos on the move.

Animal Births

Watch thousands of new babies being born each day during Tanzania’s calving season from January to April. Big game like lions, hyenas, leopards and cheetah are most active during this month, as they stalk their prey. February is an ideal time to see babies in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. November through March is the season for babies at Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Considerations

When you’re planning your trip to Africa, plan on doing no more than two countries during a two-week trip, African Safari Company president Mike Nesbitt tells National Geographic Traveler. “Otherwise you’ll spend too much time at airports and be forced to stay overnight in big cities,” he explains. “Flight schedules between countries are usually only once a day, if that, and frequently don’t connect conveniently.” If you don’t have a lot of vacation time, choose a smaller park like Kenya’s Maasai Mara, which can be done in three days, as opposed to the Serengeti, where you could easily spend two weeks.