When you contemplate booking an African safari, it’s the obvious icons that spring to mind – Serengeti, Masai Mara, Kruger, South Luangwa, Okavango and the like. But the continent offers also unique safaris that get you away from the crowds, as it is studded with a host of lesser-known safari destinations that offer an equally rewarding experience – perhaps more so – to those who prefer to explore off-the-beaten-track without compromising on comfort. Here at SafariBookings we cherry-pick a few of the finest.
Katavi National Park, Tanzania. Photo by AfricaImageLibrary.com
Katavi National Park
The best-kept game viewing secret on the Tanzania safari circuit, Katavi is the country’s third-largest national park. It’s probably the last place in East Africa where a visitor might encounter more lions than other tourists. Its centerpiece is the Chada floodplain, which offers awesome dry-season game-viewing, including thousand-strong buffalo herds, large numbers of lumbering elephants, and a wide variety of antelope. Most impressive are Katavi’s peerless concentrations of hippopotami: as the floodwaters retreat towards the dry season’s end, any pool of sufficient depth might contain up to 200 grey-pink hippos flopping over each other.
Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania. Photo by Steven Allan
Mahale Mountains National Park
Ideally visited on a joint fly-in safari package with Katavi, Mahale Mountains protects a densely forested stretch of Rift Valley Escarpment rising high above the sandy beaches that line the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. The lake is the world’s longest and second-deepest freshwater body with water so transparent that you can watch your toes wriggle on the floor. Splendid lakeshore scenery aside, the park is a contender for Africa’s finest chimpanzee-tracking destination. It offers the opportunity to visit a community of these delightful and fascinating apes. Habituated by a Japanese research project in the 1960s , it has since been visited by primatologists on an almost daily basis.
Game drive in Liuwa Plain National Park, Zambia. Photo by Dale Morris. (courtesy of African Parks)
Liuwa Plains National Park
Zambia’s off-the-beaten-track answer to a Serengeti safari, Liuwa Plains is the setting for one of Africa’s largest wildebeest migrations, comprising more than 40,000 individuals. It also supports large predators such as lion, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena and the endangered African wild dog. Resident herds of red lechwe and tsessebe are supplemented by recently reintroduced buffalo and eland. The floodplains also support globally-important breeding populations of the localized wattled crane, grey crowned crane and slaty egret. One of southern Africa’s most inaccessible reserves, Liuwa finally opened up to seasonal, fly-in tourism with the inauguration of the exclusive King Lewanika Lodge in 2017.
Meru National Park, Kenya. Photo by AfricaImageLibrary.com
Meru National Park
The most neglected of Kenya’s major savanna reserves, Meru protects a gorgeous tract of moist savannah set in the rain shadow of snow-capped Mount Kenya. Numerous clear, palm-lined streams empty into the mighty Tana River. Wildlife is plentiful but sometimes shy and difficult to spot in the lush vegetation, and the low volume of tourist traffic ensures that animal sightings retain a genuine aura of exclusivity. All the Big Five are present, with both species of rhino likely to be seen in a densely-bushed, drive-through rhinoceros sanctuary that was fenced off in 2005. An interesting feature of the park is the presence of localized northern Kenya specials such as the handsome reticulated giraffe, hulking Grevy’s zebra, rapier-horned Beisa oryx, stretchy-necked gerenuk and iridescent, cobalt-chested vulturine guineafowl. In Elsa’s Kopje, Meru also boasts one of the most exclusive and beautifully sited lodges on the Kenya safari circuit.
Kruger National Park at sundown, picture credits Vincent van Zalinge via Unsplash
Northern Kruger National Park
South Africa’s most famous national park might seem misplaced in this list, but the reality is that practically all Kruger safari tours from Johannesburg focus on the congested southern half of this vast reserve. By contrast, the more remote northern Kruger retains a genuine wilderness atmosphere which self-drivers can experience at a scattering of low-key rest camps such as Punda Maria and Shingwedzi. For a more exclusive safari experience in the extreme north, Pafuri Camp is a privately managed, luxury tented camp set on the forested banks of the Luvuvhu River within the community owned Makuleke Concession.
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