National Parks are considered some of the most diverse and beautiful areas within Africa. Protected for the ecological status and diversity, these parks contribute hugely to the local and national economies and perception of the countries that they reside in.
In an ever-increasingly busy modern world, at times it is hard to find the solitude and peacefulness that can be found within these National Parks and below we have a look at five of the best.
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Sitting alongside Africa’s oldest National Park, Virunga, Volcanoes National Park is one of the best destinations to view the mountain gorilla.
An experience like no other, trekking to find the gorillas of Volcanoes is undoubtedly one of the most humbling experiences one can have. Although permits are not cheap, Rwanda prides itself on lavish accommodation and exceptional service, none more so then Singita’s Kwitonda Lodge. Couple this is an almost guaranteed gorilla experience and it is no wonder why people hold it in such high esteem.
Trekking can take anything between an hour to six hours, but once the gorilla family has been found, you are allowed one magical hour to photograph and immerse yourself with these great apes. Whether it is the huge silverback or a mum and infant, the experience will leave you spellbound.
South Luangwa, Zambia
Although the South Luangwa is not your typical first-time safari-goer destination, it is somewhere that holds a beauty and serenity encapsulated by it being famed for its leopard sightings. With beautiful miombo woodland, Thornicroft giraffe and exceptional big game, a trip to the South Luangwa should be on everybody’s bucket list.
Famed for its bushcamps and brilliant walking safaris, Zambia combines authenticity with exceptional service, hospitality and guiding. With a wide range of activities from kayaking to walking or your regular vehicle safari, there is something here for everyone.
For those who particularly enjoy photography, there are numerous exclusive photographic hides at camps like Kaingo that give you the best opportunity to get at eye-level with your subjects. Whether it is the nesting carmine bee-eaters or raging hippo bulls, the possibilities are endless.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The Serengeti is home to arguably the planet’s greatest wildlife spectacle. The Great Wildebeest migration sees millions of wildebeest and thousands of zebras follow the rain throughout the Serengeti National Park.
In January the herds congregate in their largest numbers on the Ndutu Plains and February sees the start of the calving season where a baby boom occurs. Over three weeks, hundreds of thousands of calves are born which brings some beautiful spectacles. Both predator and prey live in a land of abundance.
As the year progresses the herds makes their way steadily towards the North of the park. Through the Seronera and Grumeti regions until they arrive in Kogatende towards the middle of July. It is in these Northern reaches where the great sightings of river crossings occur. With the Mara river meandering through both the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, this river is renowned throughout the world for its enormous crocodiles and its unbelievable crossings.
Contrary to popular belief, the Mara River is not the boundary between Kenya and Tanzania and only about a quarter of the wildebeest enter Kenya’s Masai Mara. The Serengeti is a quieter, less crowded option of the two, and the wildlife sightings are all the better for this. Even if you are not following the migration, the resident game in every part of the Serengeti is brilliant, from an abundance of big cats, herds of elephants and the elusive serval and caracal, the Serengeti is a National Park that will please everyone!
If you are following the migration, the traditional mobile camps cannot be beaten! With extreme sophistication and lavish interiors, the Meru-style tents take glamping to a whole new level.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
South Africa’s most cherished National Park lies on the North Eastern border of the country. Unfenced to neighbouring Mozambique and Zimbabwe, this transfrontier park is larger than many small countries. It is arguably one of the most famous National Parks on the continent and it is loved both by locals and international visitors.
When visiting Kruger, the biggest decision is a where to stay. You can stay in the National Park itself in small pockets of Private Concessions like Lion Sands, who have beautiful lodges like Tinga or Narina, or Singita who have Lebombo or Sweni. Alternatively, you can venture to the Greater Kruger that is comprised of many unfenced private reserves like the Sabi Sands, Manyeleti and the Timbavati which exude luxury and sophistication.
No matter where you choose, South African lodges pride themselves on their big game experience, with many also being ideal for families. There is an abundance of the usual big five, but there is so much more to be seen! Whether it is wild dogs, the migratory woodland’s kingfisher or the smaller critters, a Kruger safari will enable the whole family to enjoy an exceptional safari experience.
Chobe National Park, Botswana
Although Botswana’s reputation as an excellent wildlife destination is generally focussed on the Okavango Delta, there is no escaping the fact that going on safari to the Delta is for those with deep pockets. Chobe on the other hand is a great alternative for those not wishing to travel as far and looking for a more family friendly destination.
Situated only a couple of hours from Victoria Falls, getting here is easy and relatively low cost which makes it the perfect safari add-on if visiting the Falls.
The park itself is renowned for its huge elephant herds, especially towards the end of the dry season and it offers a beautiful blend of sunset boat cruises and captivating safari. The peak season of July through to October can become quite crowded with visitors, so if possible, heading to the further reaches of the Park pays dividends and if you can venture into the Savuti area, even better!
Marc Harris is Managing Director of Africa Odyssey. Africa Oydssey is run by a team of award-winning experts offering tailor-made African safari holidays.