A wildlife safari is an immersive experience and a life-changing encounter. It is not just about exceptional wildlife sightings but also the stealth of the operation as you venture into wildlife territory. Sometimes greatly rewarding with close encounters, and occasionally disappointing, a wildlife safari adventure comes with its own share of responsible tourism. Here are the top wildlife safaris that follow the ethical route.
1. Kenya (Masai Mara), East Africa
Interest levels – walking /jeep/air / hot-air balloon safari, camping, Savannah landscape, birding, Big Five, endangered black and white rhinoceros, wildebeest, Serengeti migration
Kenya is the seat of the African wildlife safari. Home to a wide variety of wildlife, it is as much known for its “Big Five” as the beautiful Savannah landscape. Masai Mara takes the prize hands down. If you are a big-cat junkie, this is the place to go for sure sightings. Masai Mara Game Reserve is also where you can witness the migration of millions of zebra and wildebeest, from July through October
What’s more, while camping may be the best way to enjoy an immersive Masai Mara safari, you have the options of a jeep safari, air safari, day-long balloon safari or even a night safari!
2. Kruger National Park, South Africa
Interest levels – walking/jeep safari, luxurious lodge stays, dense Savannah, birding, reptile, Big Five, African elephant, Cape buffalo
Its close proximity to Johannesburg has made the Kruger National Park, one of the most popular safaris in the world. The park is the natural habitat for the Big Five, hundreds of species of reptiles, the African elephant and the Cape buffalo. The Savannah vegetation here is dense, with best deep-bush experiences in the northern fringe. Luxury lodges overlooking rivers, haute cuisine and close glimpses of wildlife, in an endless wildlife territory, this is a great place for first-timer safari enthusiasts who want it all.
3. Peru (Amazon Rainforest), South America
Interest levels – immersive rainforest experience, night safaris, boat safaris, primitive habitat, tribal villages, treetop canopy walkway,
For a journey to nature’s edge, book a safari to the Amazon Rainforests of Peru. The virgin rainforests showcase a unique ecosystem, with a staggering range of wildlife viewing and exotic plants and flowers endemic to this region. Take this life- changing primitive adventure, and enjoy an incredible itinerary. Night excursions on foot or canoe, paddling a dugout canoe or taking a boat ride on narrow waterways along dense vegetation, the Amazon experience is enthralling. Walk through the treetops on the longest canopy. Discover the deep Colca Canyon and visit the Uros Island made of Tortura reeds. While the Tambopata Reserve and Manu National Park are richer in biodiversity, the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is where you will find pink river dolphins.
Nature trails, boat excursions, village visits and stay in different nature reserves! What more could you ask?
4. Tanzania (Ngorongoro Conservation Area), East Africa
Interest levels – canoe /boat/walking tours, marine safari, Big Five, flying foxes, colobus monkeys, golden jackals, tropical birds, coastal rainforest
Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area is one of Africa’s most game-rich areas, with great chances to see an incredible range of African wildlife. With the world-famous Ngorongoro Crater forming a natural habitat for wildlife, and the spectacular soda lake where flamingos congregate, this is amazing safari region. The crater creates a spectacular backdrop for nature and wildlife photography. Wrap it up with a fossil-hunting trip to Olduvai Gorge, and a memorable visit to the museum.
5. Bush Safari, S-W Australia
Interest levels – bush safari, camel safari, raft safari, species endemic to Australia like the kangaroo, wallaby, echidna, koala
Experience a typical bush safari, in S-W Australia. Go bush walking in the Southern Flinders Ranges and into the Buckaringa Gorge to see the yellow-footed Rock Wallaby. Check out the Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary for sightings of threatened mammals like the Bilbies, Numbats, Bridled Nailtail Wallabies and Brush-tailed Bettongs. The Danggali Conservation Park is great for bird watching, amazing reptile species like the skinks, red and western grey kangaroos and shy echidnas. Take a short camel trek through the fascinating bush land and check out the wildlife on-the-go. Opt for raft adventures along the River Murray, for kangaroo sightings.
6. Bostwana, Southern Africa
Interest levels – horseback safari, boat safari, delta retreat, wildlife spotting, luxury camps
The Okavango Delta is an incredible wilderness sanctuary set in the wetlands of Africa. Its stretches of water channels, lagoons and islands are home to large wildlife and birdlife not seen elsewhere. Explore this floodplain region on horseback beside big game, for close-ups. Take the water safari aboard the traditional dugout canoe. Glide in the swamps and watch wildlife at eye level, wading through the shallows or perched on floating logs. The adventurous can go for night safaris for a glimpse into the nocturnal wildlife.
The Moremi Wildlife reserve has a network of safari reserves and private safari camps for diverse wildlife experiences in the midst of deltaic swamps.
7. Assam (Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary), India
Interest level – elephant safari, jeep safari, riverine swamps, one-horned rhino, tigers, elephants, wild water buffalo, adventure through tall grass and marshlands,
Home to more than two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhinos in the world, the highest density of tigers in the world (one per five km2), 57 % of the world count of wild water buffalo, 9 primate species and a wide variety of birds, Kaziranga National Park is a biodiversity hotspot by the River Brahmaputra. Exploring Kaziranga’s forests, inundated grasslands, and marshlands, is a rewarding experience. Expect unexpected sightings around the corner – one-horned rhinos, tigers, elephants, jackals, deer, golden jackals, and primates like the hoolock gibbon. This river also has the endangered Ganges dolphin!
Besides, the ubiquitous jeep safari, you can take the unique elephant safari. The tall elephant grass and swamps make the latter the most preferred form of wildlife adventure.
8. Costa Rica, Central America
Interest levels – rich flora and fauna, endemic species of monkeys, red-eyed tree frog, scarlet macaw, birdlife, canopy walks, floating safari
Costa Rica is home to more than 500,000 species, 6 percent of world’s biodiversity. Its wide variety of habitat include tropical rainforests, cloud forests and mangrove forests, home to hundreds of mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and insects. Enjoy bird watching and spot some of the most colourful wildlife. Zipline through high canopies. Take raft safaris. Drift down gentle rapids and get up-close with monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, iguanas, and hundreds of tropical birds. Listen to the loudest monkey in the world, the howler. Enjoy Costa Rica at its wildest best!
9. Namibia, Southern Africa
Interest levels – desert ecosystem, stunning landscape, towering sand dunes, fly-in safari
A country of intriguing geology, sun-drenched stark landscapes and desert-adapted wildlife, Namibia is a safari destination with a difference. Wildlife sightings are concentrated in the north-west around the Kunene River where you can also expect to see the Nile crocodiles, the Etosha National Park and Damaraland. The isolated dry regions are home to 240 reptile species and 80 large mammal species. You can expect to spot wildlife near water holes, and come across the unique sight of desert-adapted black rhinos on the roam. Namibia has 26 parks and reserves, with community conservancy projects. Guided, self-drive or fly-in airborne safaris, there is plenty of option to experience Namibia’s magnificent landscapes and teeming wildlife.
10. Tropical Safari, Madagascar, Southeast Africa
Interest levels – tropical rainforest, unique verdant natural history, exotic flora, lemurs, black sifakas, reptiles, birdlife, baobabs
Madagascar’s geological history and isolation has contributed a natural history region unlike any other. The flora and fauna are unique, the perfect setting for amazing birdlife. This is the native habitat of primates and vertebrates – the golden-crowned and ring-tailed lemurs, geckos and chameleons, and all-black sifakas. Unlike the mainstream safaris, the Madagascar offers you a tropical safari experience sans the danger of predators or wild animals. The luxury experience begins with a helicopter arrival and bird’s eye of the tropical paradise. Besides land safaris that take you across the land of endemic baobabs, you can also take the “blue safari,” and go whale-watching.
Travelling to remote wilderness areas, staying in luxurious jungle retreats or campsites, and enjoying the expert services of a native guide are travel indulgences. Most safaris are based in remote settings of less developed nations, where running water and electricity are a luxury. Poaching is also the biggest menace. So the next time you take a wildlife safari, make sure to contribute to the conservation efforts and leave the environment in its native form. Happy safariing!