Top 10 African safari experiences

The array of wildlife-watching opportunities in Africa is dizzying. So how do you pick your perfect safari? BBC Wildlife asked the experts.
 
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Cheetahs on the plain
 
4. Best for walking: South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
 
South Luangwa is a superb reserve on so many levels. There is the Luangwa River, its waters passing through dry-season pools dense with hippos, and its banks pockmarked with the breeding holes of dazzling carmine bee-eaters.
 
Then there are the night drives, renowned for their leopard sightings but also good for other ‘nocturnals’ such as genets, elephant-shrews and porcupines.
 
But South Luangwa is also the home of the walking safari – whether it is a half-day hike or multi-day trek between fly-camps. Either way, you get to experience a richer Africa than the one you see from a vehicle: the zebras look bigger, the giraffes tower higher and, faced with the stare of a buffalo or trumpeting of an elephant, your sense of being an intruder is thrillingly manifest. PB
 
Now you do it
 
Also recommended
 
 
5. Best for wild dogs: The Selous, Tanzania
 
The Selous in southern Tanzania is Africa’s biggest game reserve, a wilderness the size of Ireland and the best place to see wild dogs. In the whole of Africa there are perhaps as few as 4,000 of these Critically Endangered canids left, of which about 800 can be found in the Selous.
 
It’s here that you are most likely to spot their four-toed tracks, hear their mournful contact calls and – because they are daylight hunters – watch them streaming in full cry through the bush. BJ
 
Now you do it
  • Base yourself at Beho Beho Safari Lodge in the northern Selous. Represented in the UK by Africa Reps. Call 01932 260618. 
 
Also recommended
 
 
6. Best for elephants: Amboseli National Park, Kenya
 
This small park on the Tanzanian border supports one of the world’s densest daytime elephant populations. This, too, is thanks to the great mountain, whose springs and molten snow feed a network of wetlands where up to 1,000 individuals converge to drink and play, having spread far beyond the park’s confines to graze by night.
 
These elephants are incredibly well habituated thanks to the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, founded in 1975 and the source of much of what is known today about elephant social behaviour and communication. The protection it offers means that Amboseli’s elephants sport tusks of sizes that are elsewhere consigned to memory. There’s no finer place to observe their behaviour and social interaction at close quarters. PB
 
Now you do it
  • A full safari including accommodation can be booked through companies including Rainbow Tours. Call 020 7226 1004.
  • Elephant sightings are plentiful throughout the year.
 
Also recommended
 
 
7. Best for big herds: Serengeti National Park
 
February in the Serengeti, and the short grass plains are black with a million wildebeest, drawn here by the imperative of the calving season. 
 
Over the next three weeks, a flood of babies will be born. Not only wildebeest, but also zebra foals and young Thomson’s gazelles. Many will fall prey to the carnivores: lions, cheetahs and spotted hyenas. But, by calving almost simultaneously, the herbivores ensure that most of their progeny survive the onslaught.
 
At this time of year, when the plains are green, there is nowhere so vibrantly alive. But when the dry season comes, the herds must move on, moving away in long columns under a banner of dust, like a retreating army. BJ
 
Now you do it
  • Follow the migration on a mobile safari. Try Audley Travel. Call 01993 838500.
  • Wildebeest calving takes place in February each year.
 
Also recommended
  • For zebra and gemsbok migration between January and April, try Jack’s Camp, Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana.
  • For huge numbers of blue wildebeest, zebra and tsessebe between November and June, try Liuwa Plains, Zambia. Try Robin Pope Safaris.
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