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12 safari destinations for a trip you’ll never forget

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Waiting patiently for animals to appear at a dusky waterhole, spotting the elusive Big 5 from behind binoculars, learning how to track rhinos, bombing around in a jeep… the experiences that make up a safari are iconic, and ones that you’ll remember forever.

Safaris aren’t trips that we take often, so when we do they need to be extra special. So, because we know how much you love an adventure, we’ve spent some time sorting through the best places to canoe, elephant spot, rhino track, night drive, hide out, and sleep across the world’s top safari hotspots – and no, they’re not all in Africa…

From South Africa to Thailand (yes, you can safari in Southeast Asia!) here are the destinations to add to your travel planner…

1. All time classic: The Serengeti

Wildebeest migration in the Serengeti // Image credit: AfricaImageLibrary.com // SafariBookings.com

The Serengeti is one of the most famous parks in Africa, and is synonymous with wildlife and wanderlust-inducing scenery.

Tanzania’s oldest park is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and is home to the spectacular wildebeest migration – a sight that will stay with you long after your flight home. Visit the Serengeti for top-class wildlife viewing throughout the year, as well as serious travel bragging rights.

A Lionness and cub in the Serengeti // Image credit: AfricaImageLibrary.com // SafariBookings.com

2. The luxury lodge: Sabi Sands

A leopard at Sabi Sands // Image credit: AfricaImageLibrary.com // SafariBookings.com

Sabi Sands shares a 50km unfenced border with Kruger National Park, and offers the best wildlife viewing in South Africa. The area is divided into individual private game reserves, all offering the ultimate Big Five experience.

Located near Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands has lodges that range from 4.5 to 5-star, each offering a unique stay. The reserves present an exclusive experience, with luxury accommodation, great service and excellent food.

Most notable is the Leopard Hills Lodge, which offers incredible views over the bush and is built on a hill overlooking a natural waterhole. Each of the eight glass-fronted suites boasts its own plunge pool, as well as superb views of the African bushveld below. “Glamping” doesn’t do this spot justice…

3. Best for boat trips: Selous

The Rufiji River

Selous Game Reserve, in Tanzania, is one of Africa’s largest parks, but most of it has been set aside for hunting. The animal viewing area that is open to the public is relatively small but incredibly rewarding, with lots of opportunity for predator sightings and excellent boat safaris on the Rufiji River (pictured above) – proof that you don’t need to span a continent to provide a great safari experience.

Hipps bathing at Selous Game Reserve

4. Best for the Big 5: Mala Mala

Lions at Mala Mala 

Although geographically part of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Mala Mala is a fenceless, independent private game reserve bordering South Africa’s famous Kruger National Park. It offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Africa with easy, quality sightings of the Big Five and leopards, in particular.

5. South Luangwa

Giraffes at South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa National Park is Zambia's flagship park. Four of the Big Five are present and easy to spot; only rhino is absent.

Aside from game drives, there are excellent walking safaris and night drives conducted by some of the best guides on the continent. This park appeals to both the novice safari-goer and the repeat visitor and there is plenty of larger wildlife around to satisfy everybody, as well as birds and smaller creatures of the bush to look out for.

6. Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

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Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in South Africa has three luxurious lodges available that all offer a 5-star experience. This wild resort offers guests a variety of accommodation options, including Tilney Manor, with breath-taking views of mountains and plains, and a relaxation retreat with two therapy rooms, a steam room and a sauna.

There’s even an outdoor shower in your suite if you stay in this lodge, so you really can get up close and personal with nature. What better way to relax after a day out spotting some of Africa’s greats?

7. For the adventurous: Mana Pools

Canoeing on the Zambezi River

Mana Pools National Park, a World Heritage Site, is pristine wilderness on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe. The park is usually explored by canoe or on foot, uniquely offered as guided or unguided activities, and is particularly appealing to adventure seekers. Four of the Big Five are found here.

8. Okavango Delta

mokoro trip on the Okavango Delta // Image credit: AfricaImageLibrary.com // SafariBookings.com

The Okavango Delta, in Botswana, is one of Africa’s most famous destinations. There are several private reserves in the delta, as well as Moremi Game Reserve, and the area offers a true wilderness experience, fab wildlife viewing and stunning scenery.

Walking safaris and mokoro (dugout canoe) trips are a great addition to the usual game drives. Most of the lodges in the delta are reached by charter plane and offer a very exclusive, high-end service, so this might be one to save up for!

9. Moremi Game Reserve

At elephant at the Moremi Game Reserve, in Botswana's Okavango Delta // Image credit: AfricaImageLibrary.com // SafariBookings.com

Staying in Botswana, Moremi Game Reserve is located in the Okavango Delta and is possibly the best area for wildlife viewing within the area.

Aside from the wetlands, it consists of a dry peninsula, which is excellent for classic game-drive safaris and offers more wildlife sightings than the mokoro (dugout canoe) trips. All the Big Five are present here and the quality of the guiding is superb - there tends to be as much emphasis on the birds and little creatures as on the more famous species.

10. Masai Mara

A lion at the Masi Mara // Image credit: AfricaImageLibrary.com // SafariBookings.com

The Masai Mara, in Kenya, is one of Africa’s most famous parks, with epic wildlife viewing throughout the year.

The park’s abundant vegetation and regular rainfall supports a huge population of herbivores, in turn attracting many predators. All three big cats are relatively easy to see, and the yearly wildebeest migration coming through the park is one of the world’s most amazing wildlife spectacles.

Just outside the Masai Mara NR are a number of conservancies and private reserves that are run in partnership with local Masai communities, so this is a great choice if you want an authentic safari experience.

11. Ngorongoro Crater

Zebra and wildebeest next to lake in the Ngorongoro Crater

A visit to the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is an experience of a lifetime - there are few places on the planet that have such a variety and density of wildlife. It is not unusual to see all of the Big Five in one day – and all this in the most amazing setting, with a backdrop of the 600m/1,968ft-high crater wall.

12. Elephant Hills

And finally, something completely different…

A safari often conjures up images of the open plains of Africa - but that isn’t the only place to enjoy the experience. Another notable destination is Thailandand the highly regarded Elephant Hills Jungle Lake & Safari.

Combining the content of Africa safari camps with the lush jungles of Thailand, Elephant Hills is Thailand’s first luxury tented camp. Located in Khao Sok National Park, it is easily accessible from many of the popular beach destinations in Thailand - including favourites Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui.

There’s something for everyone here. Whilst the Elephant Camp has been tailor made with luxury in mind, for something even more unique you can also stay at the Rainforest Camp, one of the only floating tented camps in the world. Yes, really…


South Africa is one of The National Student's Top Destinations 2018. Find out more here. 

Choose your safari style from Flight Centre’s range of tailor-made luxury holidays.

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