The best safaris in Africa

The best safaris in Africa

Whether it's in Kenya, Botswana or Namibia, Africa has a vast array of safaris. We've whittled it down to our favourite six


A very sandy safari / Image: Natural Selection flying safari

Florence Derrick

Florence is a travel writer and author of London Like a Local, a DK Travel guidebook. She contributes to Culture Trip, Conde Nast Traveller, and more.

Gone are the days when going on safari meant just a two-hour drive in a noisy jeep, searching for far-off elephants through binoculars. Nowadays, safaris across the African continent can mean everything from cantering alongside wildebeest on horseback, to tracking lions on foot guided by a Maasai tribesperson. Here are some of the best safaris in Africa for travellers looking for a next-level, unforgettable experience.

A flying safari over the beautifully arid Namib Desert

For a bird's eye view

The Namib Desert is believed to be the world’s oldest, having endured arid conditions for up to 80 million years. The unforgiving environment is also one of Africa’s most bleakly beautiful, with golden-red dunes reaching right up to the lapping South Atlantic Ocean and scorched skeletons of trees grasping towards the cloudless sky. See it all from a small plane on a Natural Selection flying safari, which also takes you stargazing, wildlife watching and duneboarding.

We're ele-fans of cycle safaris / Image: Tanya Baber@cyclemashatu

On an MTB cycle safari, you get wheely close to the animals / Image: Tanya Baber@cyclemashatu

For a slower pace

There’s a problem with traditional game drives – the growling engine of a 4×4 can chase away wildlife before it comes into view. On a mountain bike, you’re almost silent, opening up undisturbed opportunities to see the elephants, lions, leopards and wildebeest of Botswana’s Mashatu Game Reserve. Cycling safaris with MTB Safaris follow ancient elephant migration paths through herds of wildlife, sleeping under the stars for up to seven nights.

See the big five on a walking tour of the Maasai Mara

For an authentic experience

The Maasai Mara game reserve in Kenya is home to Africa’s most iconic wildlife: leopards, lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras. What better way to explore the region than with its indigenous people, the Maasai? On a walking tour guided by expert Maasai safari guides, you’ll benefit from their centuries of bush knowledge as together you track animals and camp nomadically to the sounds of surrounding wildlife.

Experience the majesty of the African skies at night at Kenya's Bushtop Camps

Lanterns light your way through the Bush night

For a different perspective

Has it ever crossed your mind what happens in the bush after sunset? Predators spring into action at dusk, and equipped with heat-seeking cameras you can watch a pride of lions chasing a gazelle – when without them, you’d be completely unaware of their presence. A nighttime safari at Bushtop Camps in Kenya is completely unlike the daytime game drives you might be used to. Keep your eyes peeled for elusive aardvarks and porcupines, and don’t forget to look up at the dazzling night sky.

Riding through the Limpopo Valley on a horseback safari / Image: @aardvarksafaris

For communing with animals

The best way to keep pace with a herd of zebras, wildebeest or giraffes might be from horseback. On a horse riding safari with Aardvark, you’ll traverse 120 miles of Botswana’s Tuli Game Reserve over the course of a week, spotting huge numbers of elephants and hyenas, and even elusive leopards, along the way. Every night you’ll camp in comfortable beds, under duvets and a star-studded sky, with hot showers and a silent night’s sleep.

Cheetahs in South Africa’s Samara Karoo Private Reserve / image : Samara Private Game Reserve

For getting close to predators

South Africa’s Samara Karoo Private Reserve is home to a unique safari experience – one that brings you face to face with the world’s fastest land animal. Cheetahs were introduced as predators here in 2004, following a landscape rejuvenation project. Many of them have radio collars fitted for conservation purposes, making them easy to track – and though wild, they’re so used to humans that you can walk right up to them.