Driving through an African jungle with dangerous wildlife within an arm’s reach is a bucket list adventure for almost any avid traveler. The idea of being so close to nature with unobstructed views of exotic animals in their natural habitat draws thousands of tourists to Africa on a yearly basis, all on a quest for a unique and unforgettable experience that lasts a lifetime. Some people flock to Africa to catch a glimpse of the growing list of endangered animals, including the Black Rhino, or the African Wild Dog, hoping to come across a rare species. Others embark on a tour of serene wildlife that is far away from the typical tourist destinations of beach, sand, and chaos.
Whatever the reason is, one thing that is guaranteed is the fact that an African safari will provide you with sights and scenes that are unmatched on any other destination. If you are looking for a truly unique experience, with the opportunity for stunning imagery that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, don’t hesitate to book a safari adventure. Check out some of the sights you may have the privilege of experiencing if you are lucky on your next African safari.
20 The Great Migration
Every year, over two million zebras, wildebeests, and antelope begin their migration from Tanzania to Kenya on their literal hunt for greener pastures. The massive migration is a remarkable sight – thousands of animals running across open fields in a dangerous journey with their young. To top it off, lions, leopards and other predators follow suit, in their own hunt for food, leaving safari goers an opportunity to see another sought after sight - a live chase. Tracking the migration, however, can be tricky, and requires coordination with skilled guides and experts in the migration practice. The extra planning is well worth the effort for the views alone!
19 Incredible Sunsets and Sunrises
There is something truly unique about experiencing a sunset on an African safari. The sun sets on beautiful plains, painting the sky red and orange, while wild animals graze in the background at the end of an exhausting, yet exhilarating day. Once the sun has set, you will get a glimpse of a sky full of stars as a backdrop to an exciting night safari, providing a completely different experience than the animals by day. If you can manage to get up early while on vacation, the sunrise over the plains and fields across Africa is not to be missed.
18 A Lion in Action
For some tourists, the opportunity to see the majestic lion in its natural habitat is a major draw on any safari. Most tourists are on the lookout for the opportunity to see a lion or other large predator hunting for their food and putting on an unintentional show for the crowd. While viewing an actual attack may be rare, tourists are sure to see the sought after animal grazing and lounging in its natural environment because they spend over 20 hours a day at rest- which given the increasingly depreciating population, is a rare sight to see on its own.
17 A Herd of Elephants
Like the lion, there is something about the oversized, largest animal on earth that incites awe and intrigue among visitors. Elephants can be found in many areas across Africa, and many safaris will make the extra effort to stop by a watering hole to observe a herd of elephants with their young, making their way for lounging and bathing. While intimidating, elephants are peaceful animals that can be quietly observed for hours. Seeing one of these animals on its own is an amazing sight – a herd of elephants together is a surreal experience and treat for any tourist.
16 Up Close and Personal Gorillas
Mountain gorillas are a critically endangered species and can only be found in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Several safari tours in the area will arrange for multiple day safari tours with the sole activity of trekking through luscious rainforests for up close and personal experiences with mountain gorillas. The gorillas are known to interact with tourists at times, and can be very curious. Tour options include day trips, or up to 5 days of hiking and trekking through the forest for a truly unique experience with one of the world’s most fascinating and lovable creatures. These treks are not for the faint of heart though- a decent level of fitness is expected to participate.
15 See a (very) Endangered Species
If you have an opportunity to visit Damarland desert in Namibia, it may be the only time you will have a chance to see the extremely rare Black Rhino. The desert area is known to be one of the most beautiful in Africa, and is a unique home to desert adapted elephants and rhinos that are difficult to spot on other tours. If you chose to stay at the Damarland Camp, guests will have the option of exploring the desert by foot, or by the traditional jeep. There are less than 2000 Black Rhinos left in the world- making any sighting of the beautiful animal a special experience.
14 Zebras Embracing Each Other
Africa is home to three species of Zebra: the plains zebra, the endangered Grevy’s Zebra and the mountain zebra. As described above, Zebras partake in the great migration, and if you are lucky enough, you may be able to catch a glimpse of them en masse, at the Massai Mara during migration season. The plains zebra can be found throughout eastern and southern Africa, and can often been seen ‘embracing’ each other in the wild. It is a great sight to see, and as much as we would like to believe it is an act of passion or affection, the zebras are actually ‘hugging’ each other for protection.
13 The Coveted 'Big 5'
It is almost impossible to go on an African safari without the constant reference to the ‘big 5’: the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, the elephant, and the buffalo. The name originates from hunters who coined the Big 5 as the most difficult animals to hunt on foot. On a safari the Big 5 are now the most popular animals to observe, and marketers try to target tourists with promises of sights of all 5 animals. Depending on which area you travel to, you can strategically plan your trip so that you increase the likelihood of seeing these animals- but to see all five on one trip would require a real stroke of luck!
12 Baboons on your Car
Baboon sightings are quite common across Africa. You can find them in Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, and Kenya- making them an almost sure bet on any safari. The animals generally travel in groups and are known to be very friendly and curious with tourists, sometimes resulting in extremely close encounters with safari tourists. The Baboons can jump on safari jeeps, and in some cases, have been known to take food right out of tourists’ hands. They are generally harmless, and extremely entertaining to watch- but be sure to catch them early in the morning. Similar to humans, they tend to retire early, and relax once the sun sets.
11 Breakfast with a Girraffe
While not technically a safari experience, the Giraffe Manor in the Langata suburb of Nairobi is owned by the Safari Collection, and provides a unique experience for tourists who may not want to head out into the wilderness in a jeep looking for wildlife. At the Giraffe Manor the wildlife comes to you- a herd of resident giraffes tend to visit the manor morning and night, and are known to poke their long necks into the windows of the resort while guests are enjoying breakfast. This is a truly unique African experience- albeit not on an actual safari!
10 Red Sand Dunes in Namibia
Namibia is home to some of the largest dunes in the world, and the area of Sossusvlei, a salt and clay pan located in the largest conservation area in Africa, is home to some of the most photographed dunes in the world- the ‘’red” dunes. Some of the tallest sand dunes in the world are located here, and their unique color attracts tourists flocking to Namibia for an instragram worthy shot of oddly colored sand and towering dunes. Be sure to bring your sturdy shoes – trekking these dunes is a strenuous workout and not for the faint of heart!
9 Breathtaking Waterfalls in Zambia
Victoria falls is the largest uninterrupted sheet of falling water in the world and is located in the picturesque Zambezi River in Zambia. The falls sit on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, offering an opportunity to visit two ideal spots with different vantage points in each country. In Zambia a bridge takes you close to the falls and a path leads you to the base of the falls to experience a whirlpool. In Zimbabwe, tourists have an option to travel through a rainforest to get to the falls. Tourists often choose Zambia as a favorite location for a safari as tour operators can combine trips to the stunning falls, along with wilderness safaris to truly experience the best of both worlds.
8 Salt Pans in Kalahari Desert
Although technically a desert, Kalahari is a vast sand sheet, with large salt pans in the middle of the northern area. The area has much history, with archaeologists discovering the presence of prehistoric men through the discovery of ancient tools. Due to its extremely dry and arid climate, the area is not generally known to be home to many animals; however wildebeest and zebra are known to frequent the area during their migration, after a rain fall. As noted above, the migration brings predators along with it, making this unique landscape a frequent stop on various safaris.
7 Zebras from Horseback
When you think of an African safari you typically picture the traditional jeep trotting down paved roads and foraging into the plains or forest with a seasoned guide. While the open air jeep may provide a bit of comfort and sense of security against the wildlife, for a truly memorable sight there is no better option than to jump on a horse and encounter giraffes and other wildlife, face to face. Several tour guides, such as African Horseback Safari offer guided tours on horseback alongside giraffes, zebras and elephants. Riding horseback provides tourists the unique opportunity to explore areas that vehicles cannot get to due to flooding or remoteness, creating a truly memorable experience unlike any other.
6 A Sea of Pink Flamingos
Along with the traditional jeeps, when one thinks about an African safari, images of lions, elephants and zebras typically come to mind. Brightly colored pink flamingos are not the first thought when planning an exotic safari to see predatory animals. However, Africa is filled with beautiful and diverse birds and is a highly sought after vacation for avid bird-watchers. At Lake Nakuru in Kenya, the flamingo colonies are a frequent stop for safari guides, as depending on the time of the year the entire lake can be covered in pink birds, creating a spectacular sight against the African backdrop. If birds are not your forte, the Lake is also known to be home to rhinos, and if you are lucky, leopards as well.
5 Hippos, Elephants and Marine Life by Canoe
For the ultimate connection to wildlife and nature, and similar to the horseback riding safari, a canoe safari offers the more adventurous tourist a chance for up close encounters with various animals. Imagine canoeing in a two-boat canoe with your guide while an elephant takes their young to the very river you are in to bathe. Canoe safaris offer such experiences that cannot be matched by sitting in a jeep, observing the same elephants from a distance. Along with these encounters, tourists can expect to see hippos, and crocodiles- the later of which are very rare sights on a traditional safari.
4 Wildlife within a Volcanic Crater
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a World Heritage Site named after a large volcanic caldera. Over two million years ago, a large volcano exploded and collapsed onto itself, creating a large crater and forming the largest caldera in the world. The area is home to over 25,000 large animals including the African buffalo, the blue wildebeest, and gazelles, making it a customary stop on safaris, with almost guaranteed viewings of at least one of the ‘big 5’ animals, as the area is home to the highest number of predators in Africa. With so much history and stunning landscape, the Ngorongoro wildlife safari is a must do on any safari plan.
3 Wildlife from a Hot Air Balloon
We have covered the amazing views from a traditional safari in a jeep, on horseback, and by canoe, but imagine the view from the top. Several tour guides offer tourists an opportunity to engage in a ‘safari’ from the sky in a hot air balloon, offering a special view from high above the animals. The tours typically start off early, and take off as the sun rises, and last for only an hour or so. At this vantage point however, visitors get to enjoy the vast landscape and explore areas that cannot be seen in vehicles due to terrain limitations. As the balloon ride is short, tourists have the chance to continue their adventure with a more traditional route if they prefer to get a closer look at the animals.
2 The Marine 'Big 5'
While the lion, elephant and giraffe have their rightful place in any list of stunning sights on an African safari, a new trend of the marine ‘Big 5’ is emerging. The marine counterparts include whales, humpback dolphins, Cape fur Seal, African penguins, and of course, the Great White Shark. This marine life is typically found in South Africa, in the Western Cape Province, and tour guides are catering to visitors who are interested in a different kind of African safari with a different kind of wildlife. A truly unique experience at Boulders Beach allows tourists to swim with the penguins that are lined up at the beach in a colony of approximately 3000 birds.
1 Animals Hunting at Night
The idea of a nighttime safari may seem illogical to some, but ask any safari expert for their best advice and a tip for a night safari will surely be on their list. First of all, the night sky is filled with stars, creating an almost magical backdrop to be on the lookout for nocturnal animals who go hunting at night. Most vehicles are equipped with strong spotlights that ensure the best views – which is important as many of the sought after ‘kills’ occur at night after the predators spend their days grazing and lounging, they begin their hunt at night. It is not uncommon to see lions on the prowl on a night safari- a truly thrilling adventure that fails to be replicated.