It is true that we all travel for different reasons, and our tastes and likes vary. However, when coming for a holiday in Africa, I think there are some places you just have to visit, and some activities you must undertake to enjoy a complete African safari experience. I have compiled a list of what I consider the 10 unique African safari experiences. You may not be able to do all of them during one visit, unless of course you have a lot of time. But with proper planning, you can cover aspects of all of them in at least two trips to Africa.
1. Wildlife safaris
If you have time for only one safari activity, then wildlife safaris are the obvious choice, especially if the closest you have ever come to an African wild animal is in a zoo. Among all African animals, the big five (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino, and leopard) are the most popular, and perhaps most fascinating to observe. The experience of seeing them and other animals in their natural habitat is indeed very amazing. No wonder the word “African safari” is almost synonymous with wildlife safaris.
There are so many places in Africa that give you a rewarding wildlife experience, top on the list being Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya, South Africa’s Kruger national park, and Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. You can also have an equally (or even more) satisfying safari experience in other less known wildlife destinations like Etosha national park in Namibia, South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, and Chobe National Park in Botswana. For a first-time visit to Africa, I would recommend starting with any of the parks mentioned above.
2. Primate Safaris
There are wildlife destinations that meet your unique tastes. One of the growing popular niche are primate safaris in East and Central Africa. If for example you are interested in the gorillas, chimpanzees and other apes, you should visit the game reserves in Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC. You can enjoy a primate safari in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania or the Democratic Republic of Congo.
3. Gorilla Trekking
Looking to doing something different from the usual tours? Why not plan a gorilla safari expedition into Uganda or Rwanda. Meeting the mountain gorillas in their natural home is a dream come true to many travelers who travel to East and Central Africa.
Though mountain gorilla tours are the most popular, you can also see the Eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi Biega National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as Western Lowland gorillas in Odzala National Park of the Republic of Congo.
4. Cultural safaris
It is indisputable that the African culture is rich and very diverse. Among the thousands of African ethnic groups however, there are a few that stand out because of their unique way of life and traditions, the Masai tribe being the top-most. There is arguably no better way to appreciate the Masai culture than visiting a Masai village and possibly spending some nights there. This is not for the faint-hearted though. An easier alternative would be to visit a Masai village during your safari in Kenya.
Other African ethnic groups with interesting cultures and that you may want to visit include the Samburu and Turkana of Kenya, and the Swahili found along the coast of East Africa.
5. Mountaineering Expeditions
For quite obvious reasons, Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania ranks high among Africa’s adventure destinations. Though it is the highest mountain in Africa, it is also the most accessible. You do not need any special mountaineering equipment to get to Uhuru peak, the highest peak. Any reasonably healthy person can make it to the top especially if they climb slowly. This is unlike the more rugged Mt Kenya, where the highest you can get without mountain climbing gear is Point Lenana, at 4985 meters above sea level. Only accomplished mountaineers attempt to get to the higher peaks of Batian and Nelion.
Mt Meru in Tanzania, the Rwenzori mountain range and the Virunga mountains in Uganda and neighboring countries are some of the other African mountains suitable for climbing or trekking expeditions.
6. Bird Watching Safaris
Would you like to see Africa’s unique birds? There is an amazing record number of birds on the continent. Africa is one of the best bird watching destinations in the world. From rare birds to endemics that cannot easily be found elsewhere on the continent, there is a lot to see for an avid birder.
There are lots of other activities for an adventure safari in Africa. You can fly over the Victoria falls on a microlight helicopter, go for gorilla tracking expeditions in the great Lakes region, canoeing, white water rafting, and kayaking (e.g in Sagana and Nanyuki in Kenya), skydiving (e.g in the annual Diani boogie in Kenya), snorkeling and white shark diving in South Africa, overlanding from Cairo Egypt to Cape Town in South Africa, etc.