If you love animals, then you simply have to get planning a safari holiday. While alternative options appeal, such as exploring Rome or relaxing on a beach in Thailand, a safari experience is hard to better for millions of adventurous holidaymakers. After all, visiting a zoo isn’t really an authentic alternative to exploring safari destinations.
When going on a safari vacation, you’re in with a strong chance of seeing some of the planet’s most famous and most beautiful creatures in their natural environment. From Asia to Africa, immersing yourself in their world is one of the most magical experiences this glorious planet of ours has to offer. For bird lovers, the sheer amount of species in some specific locations is remarkable.
Alternatively, if your preference is to witness the Big Five in their natural habitat, then there are some fantastic locations on this earth. There are some safari destinations that certainly have a better reputation than others, though. Let’s take a look at some of them below.
1. Kruger National Park in South Africa
Kicking things off with one of the most in-demand safari adventures right now, visiting Kruger National Park in South Africa is a dream for many people. One of Africa’s largest game reserves, this massive location is home to an array of animals, from leopards and elephants to exotic birds and lions. It is home to the Big Five – lion, buffalo, leopard, rhino, and elephant – and includes 95% of the continent’s population of black and white rhinos.
Although it is a large park to cover, with an area of almost 20,000 square km, it’s one of Africa’s most stunning game reserves. Escorted safaris at Kruger date back to 1927, and it quickly became one of the foremost safari destinations for tourists keen to experience exotic wildlife.
More recently, the focus has gone on sustainable and ethical wildlife tourism. So, if you’re keen to go, perhaps look for one of the partner operators of Fair Trade Tourism, an organization that will ensure escorted safaris are carried out with respect to the local people, wildlife, and environment.
2. Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya
If you’re keen to witness the famous wildebeest migration, then Kenya’s Masai Mara Reserve is probably the place for you. Offering a gorgeous landscape filled with grasslands, river woodlands, and lovely acacia trees, you’ll see it all in this superb safari location. The main animals you’re likely to be able to capture on camera are zebras, lions, cheetahs, elephants, hippos, and wildebeest. With regards to witnessing more than 1.5 million wildebeests migrating in an enormous loop, you’ll need to make sure that you go at the right time of the year, although May or June is probably your best bet.
Of course, the Masai Mara is about more than wildebeest. The reserve is one of the best for spotting big cats, including lions, leopards, and cheetahs. Indeed, one of the BBC’s most iconic nature shows, Big Cat Diary, which ran from 1996 to 2018 and followed families of big cats, was filmed there.
3. Ranthambore National Park in India
While most people perhaps associate countries like South Africa with a safari holiday, India is a hidden gem for many safari-goers. The same species featured in the African safari-themed Mega Moolah slot are on show in this Indian location, with Ranthambore National Park being home to a wide variety of animals. Perhaps the most popular of the lot, though, is its big population of tigers and its crocodile-filled lakes. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a tiger in the wild, too.
Located in southeast Rajasthan, Ranthambore is one of Northern India’s most important nature preserves, and it’s not only about animals. The park is home to 539 different species of flowering plants, and it is home to many exotic trees, including, famously, one of the largest populations of Banyan trees in India.
4. Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe
The main safari option in Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park is filled with a diverse range of creatures, although its huge population of birds separates it from many other safari spots in the world. Alongside over 400 breeds of birds, the park is home to an array of animals that are well worth seeing up close, such as elephants, lions, and African wild dogs. With a selection of different landscapes on offer throughout the park also, exploring Hwange National Park is a great adventure to go on.
While Zimbabwe’s tourism has been hurt by political turmoil over the last few decades, it remains an important wildlife center for southern Africa. Located not far from the edge of the Kalahari Desert, Hwange has gone from an important hunting ground for tribespeople to the jewel in the crown of Zimbabwe safaris. As with other African safari destinations, you should spend some time researching your operator’s ethics and codes of practice before going so as to ensure that the ecosystem is supported by sustainable tourism.
5. Yala Park in Sri Lanka
Located right next to the Indian Ocean, Yala Park is a favored choice for many safari lovers. A dream safari park, it has everything you’ll possibly want to see, from monkeys and crocodiles to leopards and elephants. Alongside the wildlife exploration on offer, you can witness the ancient Buddhist ruins of Magul Maha Viharaya, alongside a range of other remarkable pilgrimage sites.
Sri Lanka is not the first place you might think of for a safari adventure, but it does offer a different type of experience. Indeed, many people combine their wildlife-spotting trips with Sri Lanka beach holidays.
Again, though, I should point out that there is some political turmoil in Sri Lanka at the time of writing, with president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fleeing the country after an economic crisis. Before booking anything in Sri Lankan safari destinations, speak with your tour operator and consult with official government travel advice. Still, Sri Lanka is a welcoming country, and you’ll find one of the best safari experiences in the world in Yala Park.
If you like African safari destinations, check out
Tanzania safari tours – a trip back to the Garden of Eden
Namibian safaris: Why you need a private guide
Top natural places to visit in Cape Town