There are safari destinations that everyone has heard about – Kruger National Park, the Masai Mara, and the Serengeti to name a few – and there is no doubt that these fantastic destinations have earned their reputations. Travellers are practically guaranteed stunning landscapes and bountiful wildlife sightings which is great for first time safari-goers. However the popularity of these areas has resulted in an abundance of safari camps and tourists so they are not necessarily the best choice for travellers looking for that authentic and wild safari experience. The experts at Bench have put together our Top 4 “off the beaten track” safari destinations for those clients who may have already visited the more popular areas and are craving a more private and untouched safari.
1. Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania
The Selous is the largest game reserve in Africa and one of the earth's last great wild places: 55,000 square km of untamed bush, crocodile-filled lakes and emerald green floodplains. From the moment you arrive, the Selous’ wealth of wildlife and its stunning riverine scenery rarely fail to impress. The only accessible bit is the northern section above the great muddy sweep of the Rufiji River, where you'll see hippos, elephants, zebras, a maneless variety of lion, the rare African wild dog, and some of Tanzania’s last remaining black rhinos. Tourist numbers remains very low in comparison with Tanzania’s northern parks ensuring private wildlife viewing. Most safari camps offer boat safaris down the Rufiji or on the reserve’s lakes, as well as walking safaris and the option of spending a night fly camping for the more adventurous. Both the boat and foot safaris, as well as the chance to explore off-road in open safari vehicles, can come as a welcome change of pace.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
2. Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
Covering 1978 square km, Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the most popular parks in Uganda. Though the number of animals remains lower than the top Tanzanian and Kenyan parks, few reserves in the world can boast such a high biodiversity rating. With landscape varying from savannah, bushland, wetlands to lush forests, the park is inhabited by 96 species of mammals, including healthy numbers of hippos, elephants, lions and leopard as well as chimps and hyena. The remote Ishasha sector, in the far south of the park, is famous for its tree-climbing lions. There’s also an amazing 611 bird species here. Besides the usual wildlife drives, the park is well worth a visit for a boat trip on the Kazinga Channel and a walk through beautiful Kyambura (Chambura) Gorge, a little Eden brimming with chimpanzees and other primates.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve
3. Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
One of the biggest conservation areas in the world, this huge area has its own unique beauty that's only enhanced by its vastness, emptiness, grandeur, and desolation. You won't see the prolific game of Chobe or Moremi, but there's unusual wildlife, such as the elusive brown hyena, the stately gemsbok, elegant kudus, African wild cats, leopards, and porcupines. And if you're very lucky, you may spot the huge, black-maned Kalahari lions, which dwarf their bush counterparts. Deception Valley—so-called because from a distance a dry riverbed appears to run deep and full—lies on the northern border of the reserve. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is epic in scale and, at all times, awe inspiring. If remoteness, desert silences and the sound of lions roaring in the night are your thing, this could become one of your favourite places in Africa.
Hwange National Park
4. Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
One of the 10 largest national parks in Africa, and the largest in Zimbabwe, Hwange has a ridiculous amount of wildlife. Some 400 species of bird and 107 types of animal can be found in the park, including lions, giraffes, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas and wild (painted) dogs. But the elephant is what really defines Hwange, being home to one of the world's largest populations of around 40,000. One of the most remarkable facts of Hwange is that if it were not for pumped water holes this area would be an unpopulated sandy mopane forest. From the early 1930s boreholes were drilled deep into the Kalahari sand, bringing life-giving water to an area previously characterised by its absence. The different habitats of the park, from wide open grasslands to thick forest, provide opportunities to see a great range of game on drives.
For more information or to book a holiday to one of these safari destinations, please contact our Africa Experts or call us on 1-300-AFRICA!