Wandering through the savannas in Africa with your partner or best buddy may seem like a great scenario, but you are likely just going to get hot, tired and frustrated. Why? Because animals just don’t magically appear where you are. You may have wanted to see elephants and lions in their natural habitat for as long as you can remember, but they aren’t going to just be standing around when you decide to drive through a park or natural reserve in Africa.
That’s why a safari is your best bet to see some or all of what is referred to as the Big Five — lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants and rhinos. Kenya, Zimbabwe and Tanzania have some great safari options and GetAway Travel invites you to go on a safari with us in 2024. Check back for additional details.
Taking advantage of best animal viewing
Animals are smart.
During the hottest part of the day they will be taking advantage of the shade, so the best times to see them moving around is early morning, late afternoon and, even at night.
As an aside, one of the coolest ways to view different species of animals is with a balloon safari. If your safari group goes to Masai Mara, a balloon safari is an option. It means an early start to the day, but it is oh, so worth it! The Masai Mara, named for the Maasai people, is famous for the massive migrations of zebras and wildebeests.
On a balloon safari, the balloon rises with the sun and, at treetop level, you float over the savanna. The unique perspective offers some great photo options. It gives you some idea of the enormity of the savanna. The balloon landing after an hour or so, brings participants to a shaded area where they enjoy a champagne brunch. Safari vehicles take you back to the lodging area.
The Masai Mara is a great safari location for game drives. Don’t confuse a game drive with a cattle drive, it isn’t like horses or vehicles drive animals in front of them so you can look at them. Drivers take safari participants out in safari vehicles which are four-wheel drive, open-sided cars with seats that are at staggered heights so there are no obstructed views. The guides and drivers are familiar with areas where the animals congregate at certain times of the day and can get fairly close without disturbing them.
You are likely to not only see the Big Five, but some of the more exotic species like serval cats and elands (spiral-horned antelope).
Parks, great museum and the Falls
The neat thing about parks in Kenya is that they are either not fenced or only partially fenced so the wildlife can wander through.
Kenya’s first national park, Nairobi National Park is just about four miles from the skyscrapers in downtown Nairobi. It is home to critically endangered species as well as rhinos, lions, gazelles, cheetahs, buffalo, warthogs, zebras, giraffes and ostriches. About 400 species of birds have been catalogued in the park.
Watch animals roam oddly juxtapostioned with the cityscape behind them. The park is also home to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which operates the most successful elephant rescue and rehab program in the world.
Hell’s Gate National Park lives up to its name. It has spectacular towering cliffs, unusual tower rock formations, gorges carved by rushing waters, volcanoes and plumes of geothermal mist coming up through the rocks. You can bike through the park, but stay on the paths and there’s great raptor viewing options from the park’s platform.
Amboseli National Park has the best views of Mount Kilimanjaro. Even though the mountain is in Tanzania, the park offers awesome panoramic views of the mountain. Amboseli Park is known for its huge elephant population and visitors can see five different habitats — from wetlands with sulphur springs to woodlands — in the park.
The Nairobi National Museum showcases Kenya’s rich heritage. Four themes are represented including culture, nature, history and contemporary art. The museum has a wealth of cultural and natural history artifacts including more than 900 preserved birds and mammal fossils. Learn about the life cycle of volcanoes in the Geology Gallery.
Victoria Falls is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. There are plenty of opportunities for adventure activities including white-water rafting, bungee jumping and zip lining. You can take a helicopter ride over the falls. There are national parks on either side of the falls.
You can take a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River or take a leisurely walk on the upper stretches on the river banks.
Taking the historic Victoria Falls Bridge tour is also an option. Much of the colonial architecture is preserved in the historic town of Livingston. Enjoy the colorful markets, have a coffee at a cafe and visit the Livingston Museum to learn more about Scottish explorer David Livingston.