I’ve been to Africa a few times but for some reason I have never been on a real African safari. Recently I have been hearing and reading a lot about safaris though and that really makes me want to go on one myself!
So, I’ve done some research into when to go and what not to miss and I have spoken to many other travelers and travel bloggers about their experiences. From that I have learnt the following:
Top 3 things to see/experience on a Safari in Africa:
1. The Great Migration
There’s nothing quite like the Great Migration. Every year, millions of zebra, wildebeest and other antelope gather up their young to migrate across the plains of East Africa. They move from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park to Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, in search of better grazing.
Some of the best safari opportunities in the world are found here, across a landscape made up of volcanic grasslands and vast plains interrupted by rocky outcrops, rivers, and forests.
Generally speaking, this migration is a year-round process that never stops; they move from south to north and back again, in a never ending loop. However, it’s more so what they are doing at a specific point that is where the interest is drawn from.
River crossings are especially dangerous and spectacular to witness. Herds gather in their thousands to forge the waters of the Grumeti River in Tanzania and the Mara River in Kenya – both with strong currents and lurking crocodiles. Crocodile kills and hordes of panicked animals mean that the crossings are not for the faint-hearted; however, they undoubtedly offer some of Africa’s most dramatic wildlife encounters.
These migrating herds also attract some of the continent’s most renowned predators, ensuring that if travelers are following the Great Migration, big cats, crocodiles, and hyenas will never be too far behind.
The Great Migration is by far the greatest mass movement of land mammals on the entire globe and has been listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
A once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure!
Where & when to go to watch the Great Migration?
The Great Migration generally moves in a clockwise motion through the Serengeti Plains in Tanzania and the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, and then back again forming one big circle.
The exact timing and route of the migration changes from year to year and is entirely dependent on the rains.
The heards head towards Kenya’s Maasai Mara Reserve in June or July. This is where most people witness the sight of thousands of animals galloping across the plains and crossing the notoriously, crocodile-infested Mara River.
In Tanzania, there are two different areas and times of year to best witness a specific part of the migration. In the Southern Serengeti it is February and March. The animals are grazing and can be seen in their immense numbers. And, this is also when the animals are dropping their young. In contrast, river crossings are best seen between July and September in the northern Serengeti.
2. The Big Five
The Big 5 are a group of mammals which are endemic to Africa, and are said to be the hardest to hunt on foot. Whilst you won’t be doing this, it’s still fun to try and spot them. They are the lion, cheetah, cape buffalo, elephant and rhino. The latter unfortunately may be the hardest to find due to its decline in numbers.
Spotting the big five is the ultimate goal for many travelers. I would personally recommend not to expect to spot all five, since many travelers haven’t seen them all, and then at least you will be surprised if and when you do see them all.
Plus, there are so many other animals worth spotting! I personally can’t wait to see some giraffe or a hippo!
3. The Green Season
Green season is low season, but it has its perks!
Green season is so called because of the amount of foliage that rises out of the dust and mud due to the increased rainfall. It turns the dry Savannah into lush rolling grasslands.
This sudden abundance of food means that it’s the perfect time for animals such as antelope to breed – meaning that, further up the food chain, lions and cheetahs have got the perfect meal waiting for them.
It is worth venturing around Botswana on safari during the Green Season to see just how much impact a bit of green can have on both the landscape and life of the animals living there. Not only is it good for the animals that are on the ground, but the amount of wildlife that appears up in the air increases as well. Particularly you need to look out for butterflies and birds that start to appear – the birds naturally start to come out of their habitat to hunt for insects that starts to fly about due to the fauna that’s appearing. It’s one big circle!
For photographers, the Green Season boasts the best light of the year. The rain-washed air is crisp and clear, making colors pop, and the cloud-stacked sunsets look incredible. There is plenty of wildlife action to capture; from the babies taking their first steps to the dramatic life-and-death scenes of predator and prey interactions.
Best of all, it’s the time of year when you might actually have the wilderness all to yourself! Because it’s low season, there are few visitors, even in premium destinations.
If you haven’t been on an Safari yet I hope this has inspired you to add it to your bucket list! And if you need even more travel inspiration, including unique African destinations, check out my article The ULTIMATE Bucket List: 14 Once in a Lifetime Destinations.
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