Southern or East Africa safari – which one is for you?
No two safari destinations are the same; this is just as true when comparing two regions. The Southern Africa and East Africa safari each offer different highlights that do not necessarily have to compete. Depending on how you wish to travel, what wildlife you wish to see and where you would like to bed-down at night, will all help to narrow down your options.
Both regions offer spectacular albeit different safari experiences. Carry on reading to discover which one sounds more like your dream safari destination:
Southern Africa Safari
Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa fall within Southern Africa, giving this region a variety of beautiful landscapes, wildlife drawcards like all of the Big 5 in the major parks and indulgent lodges and camps to choose from.
Elephants across the verdant watery plains of the Okavango Delta © Under One Botswana Sky
Botswana is one of the top safari destinations in Southern Africa if not the continent, and the Okavango Delta is one of the country’s major hotspots. This is the land of vast grassy plains that flood seasonally, injecting life into the abundant and diverse animal, bird and plant life that thrive on the lush vegetation.
An oryx stands amid the red sand dunes and rocky outcrops of the Namib Desert © Wolwedans
An extreme contrast to this watery oasis is the Namib Desert in Namibia, which at first sight seems barren and lifeless, resembling something of a Martian landscape. Upon closer inspection, the red dunes and rocky outcrops are home to wildlife and plant species that have adapted to the harsh environment in their own interesting ways.
Mokoros are poled by local guides along the waterways of the Okavango Delta © Under One Botswana Sky
The Okavango Delta is renowned for fantastic water-based safaris and activities that offer a different perspective of the landscape and allow you to get up close to elephants, hippos, buffalo and a spectacular variety of water birds. This is the only place you will experience a ride on a mokoro, a traditional dugout canoe unique to the people of Botswana.
Horse-riding safaris are a unique way to experience the Namib Desert © Wolwedans
The Namib Desert is made for extraordinary activities, like horse-back riding and hot-air ballooning at dawn as the sun appears over the horizon. Traditional game drive safaris allow you to cover more ground and, similarly to mokoro rides in the Okavango Delta, walking safaris offer a new perspective of the desert landscape and the chance to identify the signs of life with the help of a local guide.
Main lounge area and pool at Rra Dinare Camp in the Okavango Delta © Under One Botswana Sky
Mma Dinare (Mother Buffalo) and Rra Dinare (Father Buffalo) are just two of the Under One Botswana Sky camps perfectly located in the Okavango Delta. These are the newest camps of this well-established luxury safari brand and offer stunning views across the South-Eastern corner of the Okavango Delta from all main areas and private suites.
Communal area and plunge pool at Boulders Safari Camp in the Namib Desert © Wolwedans
With its neutral colour scheme and natural furnishings, the well-appointed Boulders Safari Camp by Wolwedans blends seamlessly into this remote landscape. It is a haven of elegance and luxury with special indulgences like a small plunge pool, well-stocked library and comfortable open fireplace. This is a Southern Africa safari experience quite unlike any other.
East Africa Safari
Encompassing Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, East Africa safaris are all about witnessing the annual wildebeest migration and gorilla-trekking through misty mountains whilst staying in elegant tented camps and lodges.
Guides look across the Maasai Mara plains in Kenya at gathering herds of wildebeest and zebra © Cottar’s 1920s Safari Services
East Africa was where the concept of safari was born and it was for many years considered the classic safari destination by non-African visitors. The iconic grassy plains and hills of the Maasai Mara in Kenya along with the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania continue to beckon safari aficionados from around the world today.
The misty mountains of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda © Sanctuary Retreats
There is also a particularly unique East Africa safari waiting in Uganda and Rwanda. These two destinations are the best places to see families of gorilla in their natural habitat among the mysterious mountains or low-lying forests. There are also opportunities to encounter other fascinating primate species such as chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkey, and the golden monkey.
Preparing the hot-air balloon for flight over the Maasai Mara at dawn © Cottar’s 1920s Safari Services
The expansive savannah wilderness of the Maasai Mara National Reserve plays host to the largest wildlife spectacle in the world – the great migration of wildebeest and zebra. There are many ways to witness this amazing feat of animal endurance, such as by game drive or hot-air balloon, and if you are lucky, there may be some predatory-prey interaction.
Every encounter with a gorilla is a special moment © Sanctuary Retreats
A certain level of fitness and resilience is needed to trek into the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in search of the endangered gorillas. When you come across these magnificent primates, it will be completely worth of the effort. Whether for the first of third time, every encounter is a breath-taking one, which will never be forgotten.
Private Bush Villa overlooking the Olderkesi Conservancy in the Maasai Mara © Cottar’s 1920s Safari Services
Preserving the romance of the original tented experience, the 1920s Safari Camp by Cottar’s 1920s Safari Services within the Olderkesi Conservancy in the Maasai Mara captures all the magic of a bygone era. The Bush Villa offers a more modern structure for your East Africa safari with luxurious safari elements, such as a large outdoor deck and pool with unmatched views of the Maasai Mara.
The Gorilla Forest Camp is a luxurious and secluded gem in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest © Sanctuary Retreats
In the heart of Bwindi, lies Sanctuary Retreats’ Gorilla Forest Camp, an exclusive setup that is frequently visited by neighbouring gorilla families and offering outstanding views across the misty mountains. While not out on a trek, you can be pampered at the onsite spa, go on a birding walk or visit the Queen Elizabeth National Park to possibly glimpse tree-climbing lions.
A Southern Africa and East Africa safari both present opportunities to experience the unique natural beauty and wilderness of Africa, equally matched as safari destinations. Your choice should be made on what you want to see and do in the time, budget and travel restrictions you have. Contact us for help planning and booking your dream Africa safari.
Feature image courtesy of Cottar’s 1920s Safari Services