African National Parks

Photo © Utrecht

Travel Guide Africa African National Parks

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Introduction

Although every continent has its share of beautiful national parks, the ones in Africa are the ones that come to mind when you want to visit pure wilderness, fantastic landscapes and of course the abundance of wildlife. Africa is famous for its safaris (meaning journey in Swahili) and especially Eastern and Southern Africa are perfect for this type of travel, either on an organized trip or by yourself with a rental vehicle. Much more information on the numerous oportunities can be found in the country and of course national park articles, but below is a description of the best, most popular and most beautiful national parks in Africa. Ranging from well known and busy easy to visit parks like Kruger NP to off the beaten track gems that you can find mainly in West and Central Africa. You might be one of the only travellers in those parks!

The national parks below are listed in alphabetical order of the country they are in. Note that not all of them are national parks in the strict sense of the word, but are worth mentioning anyway because of their importance or beauty.

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Botswana

Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park is located in the northeast of the country, between the Okavango Delta/Moremi Game Reserve and the main gateway to Chobe, Kasane. The park is well over 10,000 square kilometres big and is best known fur huge flocks of elephants which roam the area and come to drink water out of the Chobe river during the afternoon. There are also large herds of buffalos near the edge of the river, as well as hippos, lechwes, kudus, impalas and roan antelopes. Although from Kasane it is possible to reach the park and the first part of the park by normal vehicle, if you want to travel further and cross the Chobe National Park towards Maun, this will mean you have to travel by well equipped 4wd. As a consequence, many people visit the park from lodges in or near Kasane, and some parts get very crowded, mainly during the high season.

Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is the world's biggest inland delta and is located in the northwest of the country. The Okavango river does not have an outlet into the sea and instead it ends in the middle of the Kalahari desert where it floods an area as big as 15,000 square kilometres. The flooding starts in the north at the end of the year (December) and hits the south about 5 or 6 months later in May. The area is best reached from the gateway of Maun and to reach the furthest parts you will have to fly in and spend some nights in a lodge, or in some cases camping is possible.

Okovango from the air

Okovango from the air

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Either way, it requires a plane trip. You will be rewarded though as the area is teeming with wildlife and a trip in a dug out canoe, a mokoro, is one of the highlights to this magnificent area. Crocodiles and hippos roam the waters and elephants, zebras and giraffes are here in huge numbers. Like most other places in Botswana, it is best visited from April or May until October/November when it is usually dry and warm and navigating the waters is still possible because only towards the end things are starting to dry up a bit.

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Cameroon

Waza National Park

Waza National Park is located in northern Cameroon and with a total area of around 1,700 square kilometres it is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1979. Unfortunately, both numbers of wildlife and park rangers have declined in recent years and poachers have become active again, hunting for bush meat for both local use and trade, as is the case with many parks in Central Africa. Still, it probably is one of the better parks to enjoy a safari. Recently several more park rangers were added to guard the park. Wildlife includes elephant and giraffe, species of antelope, several predators and numerous birds.

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Central African Republic

Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park

The Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park is one the Unesco World Heritage List but is also on their list of sites which are in danger. The park has a diverse wealth of flora and fauna and its vast savannahs are home to a wide variety of species, including black rhinos, elephants, cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs, red-fronted gazelles, buffalo and even the rare wild dogs. There are also numerous types of waterfowl in the northern floodplains.

Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve

The Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve is located in the southwest of the Central African Republic on the border area with Cameroon and the Republic of Congo. Unlike most of the country, the parks sees a steady influx of adventurous travellers, although numbers are no where near the parks in the east and south of the continent. You will definitely see some fantastic wildlife here including lowland gorillas, elephants and lions. The Baka still live in this remote corner of Africa. Bayanga is the gateway to visit the park and is best reached by charter flight. There are several guesthouses and one lodge to stay in.

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Chad

Zakouma National Park

Zakouma National Park is located in the south of Chad, between the cities of Sarh and Am Timan. It is about 3,000 square kilometres large and was the first national park in the country, established in 1963. Although it is a park known for its wildlife, numbers have reduced seriously during the last decades, especially regarding the elephant population. Nowadays, things are getting better as more and more poachers are getting caught, but it is still insufficient to prevent it by government totally. The park is known for its elephant and lion population and dozens of other mammals and birds can be observed here. It has been nominated recently to become a UNESCO World Heritage site, but things have to improve much more.

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Cote d'Ivoire

Comoé National Park

Comoé National Park is a Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Zanzan and Savanes Districts in the northeast of the country. It is the largest protected area in West Africa, with an area of 11,500 km2, and ranges from the humid Guinea savanna to the dry Sudanian zone. This steep climatic north-south gradient allows the park to harbour a multitude of habitats with a remarkable diversity of life. Some animal and plant species even find their last sanctuary in some of the different savanna types, gallery forests, riparian grasslands, rock outcrops or forest islands. The park was initially added as a World Heritage Site due to the diversity of plant life present around the Comoé River, including pristine patches of tropical rain forest that are usually only found further south. As a well-eroded plain between two large rivers, the land in the area is home to relatively infertile soils and a moisture regime suitable to a richer biodiversity than surrounding areas. In 2003 it was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger due to poaching, absence of management, overgrazing of the park by cattle, problems that intensified after the outbreak of the First Ivorian Civil War.

Taï National Park

Taï National Park is a national park containing one of the last areas of primary rainforest in West Africa. It was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1982 due to the breadth of its flora and fauna. Five mammal species of the Taï National Park are on the red list of threatened species: pygmy hippopotamus, olive colobus monkeys, leopards, chimpanzees and Jentink's duiker. Taï National Park is approximately 100 kilometres from the Ivoirian coast on the border with Liberia between the Cavally and Sassandra Rivers. It covers an area of 3,300 km² with a 200 km² buffer zone The Tai Forest reserve was created in 1926 and promoted to National Park status in 1972. It was recognised as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and added to the list of Natural World Heritage Sites in 1982.

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Democratic Republic of Congo

Okapi Wildlife Reserve

The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is located in the Ituri Forest in the northeast of the country near Sudan and Uganda and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is mainly a protected forest because of its special inhabitant: the Okapi. This animal is widely known because of its mix of zebra and giraffe characteristics and although it bears striped markings reminiscent of the zebra, it is most closely related to the giraffe. Unfortunately, because of the political and economical situation in this part of the country, the reserve sees just a few visitors and several of its staff have been gone since poachers and others entered the reserve. Apart from the Okapi, many monkey species and the forest elephant live here as well as several local tribes who actually live in peace with the natural environment.

Virunga National Park

Gorillas in the mist

Gorillas in the mist

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The Virunga National Park is what Bwindi Impenetrable is to Uganda or the Volcanoes National Park to Rwanda: a large protected mountainous wilderness, mainly to preserve the last several hundreds or so of the Mountain Gorilla and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the late seventies of the twentieth century. Chimpanzees, forest elephants, giraffe and even okapi can be found here, although there numbers have diminished in recent years because of the unstable political and economical situation. Still, travellers who can't get a permit in Rwanda or Uganda to visit the mountain gorillas, might be lucky to get one here as chances are better and it is cheaper, 'only' 350 USD compared to 500 USD in the other two countries. The main access point is from Rwanda to Goma but entries from Uganda might be possible as well, just check in advance regarding the visa and safety regulations during the time you will visit.

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Equatorial Guinea

Monte Alén National Park

Monte Alén National Park is definitely nature's highlight in Equatorial Guinea and actually one of the most beautiful and quiet parks anywhere in the region. If it is only one place you can visit, make sure it is this treasure. The protected area covers around 1,400 square kilometres of virgin lush rainforests and there is a lot of wildlife to discover here, including the West African lowland gorilla, as well as mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants, crocodiles and many other species of African wildlife. Well-maintained and accessible trails guide you through the rainforests and if you want to go deeper into the park, it is best to go with a guide and camping equipment as any other option, like lodges, are totally absent here, which only adds to the quiet atmosphere. Also bring enough water and food, and dry clothes to be self-sufficient for a day or so. The park can be reached by shared taxi from Bata.

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Ethiopia

Simien Mountains National Park

Simien Mountains National Park is a spectacular mountain range in the north of the country including one of the highest peaks in Africa, Ras Dashan. The park is also home to some rare animals like the Gelada baboon, the Simien fox and the Walia ibex, a goat found nowhere else in the world, and the Ethiopian wolf. It was one of the first UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978, but unfortunately has been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage danger list in 1996, mainly because population of some species was declining rapidly.

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Gabon

Loango National Park

One of the last tropical wilderness areas in the world, the Loango National Park deserves a place in Africa's top 10 regarding safari opportunities. Where else in the world can you see chimpanzees, elephants and hippos living so close together in one habitat. The elephants and hippos, among other people can even be seen on the Atlantic beaches, which form the western border of this magnificent park. The Land of the surfing hippos it is called sometimes and the park is also famous because this is where Dr. Michael Fay ended his MegaTransect across Congo to Gabon, right there on the beach. In the waters just offshore there are good opportunities to see dolphins and whales as well, making the combination of animals you can see even weirder.

Lopé National Park

The Lopé-Okanda National Park was the first protected area in the country and contains mainly rain forests and some grass savanna areas. It was recently designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site and the area is one of the best places in Central Africa to experience the African rainforest, teeming with mostly smaller animals. There are many bird, monkey and butterfly species. The Zoological Society of London is involved with the Lopé National Park and has some further information on their website.

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Ghana

Mole National Park

Mole National Park is the largest and most frequently visited national park in Ghana. It is reasonably well set up to cater for tourists and although it is more expensive than many other parts of Ghana it is well worth a visit. Mole has the widest range of wildlife in Ghana. You'll see elephants, antelope, bushbucks, monkeys, warthogs, baboons and other smaller wildlife. It is rumored that lions exist in the park but even the wardens haven't seen any traces for a few years. The last lion sighting in August 2004 was immediately followed by a serious poaching incident resulting in the capture and killing of a male lion the following day.

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Kenya

Amboseli National Park

Shower Time

Shower Time

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If you have seen photos of elephants or giraffes in front of a snowcapped cone of the Kilimanjaro, chances are almost 100% they were taken in the Amboseli National Park, on the southern border of Kenya with Tanzania. You will see elephants for sure and very close as well, just roaming freely along the roads in this park, which mainly protects swampy areas and savanna grasslands. The park is relatively small though and a few days here is probably enough before moving on to other impressive safari places in Kenya.

Lake Nakuru National Park

Lake Nakuru National Park is located in the central southern parts of Kenya, close to the city of Nakuru. The park is famous for its tens of thousands of flamingos nesting along the shores and the lake sometimes looks like one big pink mass. The park has been enlarged mainly to protect other animals as well, like the Rothschild giraffes and black rhinos who roam here since several years. Other animals include predators like lion and leopard as well as several of antelope species and numerous birds.

Masai Mara Game Reserve

Although it does not enjoy the privilege to be called a national park, that doesn't change anything to the experience of this most famous park in Kenya, the Masai Mara. The park is actually a continuation of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the yearly migration of hundreds of thousands of animals, manly gazelles, zebras and wildebeests, is something you can enjoy in this game reserve as well. The Masai Mara is also known for its relative easy to see large quantities of predators, like lion, cheetah, leopard and several smaller ones like the caracal, serval and jackal. Other animals include the giraffe and all other large animals of the big five, like elephant, buffalo and rhino. Hippos and crocs are mostly seen in or near the Mara river and prey of the latter one include many sorts of antelopes. Birds are equally impressive though, albeit way smaller, but more colourful.

Tsavo National Park

Tsavo National Park is the largest of all national parks in Kenya, and actually consists of two national parks, aptly named Tsavo West and Tsavo East with the main Mombasa-Nairobi road dividing the two. While Tsavo East is the biggest, Tsavo West is the one which enjoys the most scenic landscapes, higher animal densities and a beautiful black rhino sanctuary. As a consequence Tsavo West is more visited, but Tsavo East is equally good and you won't see many travellers here, which only adds to the experience. The park is also known for its lions which killed many people working on the railway across the park in the early twentieth century.

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Liberia

Sapo National Park

Sapo National Park, located in Sinoe County, is Liberia's only national park. It is also the country's largest protected area and in this protected area is the second largest tropical rain forest in West Africa. The biodiversity is amazing in the park and according to some sources the park has the highest mammal species diversity of any region in the world. This includes mammals like the Pygmy Hippopotamus, African Forest Elephants and Chimpanzees.

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Madagascar

Isalo National Park

Isalo National Park is a national park in the Ihorombe Region. The park is known for its wide variety of terrain, including sandstone formations, deep canyons, palm-lined oases, and grassland. The closest town is Ranohira, and the closest cities are Toliara and Ihosy.
Isalo National Park was created in 1962 and has been administered by Madagascar National Parks authority since 1997. The Bara people have traditionally inhabited this area, a nomadic people subsisting on cattle (zebu) farming. This area has a tropical dry climate with seasonal rainfall.
A local guide is required for visitors entering the park, and guides and porters can be hired in Ranohira. Treks in the park can last from several hours to a week or longer. The park includes several natural swimming pools which are popular among tourists, and are excellent sites to see the Benson's Rock Thrush. The main threat to this park comes from illegal wildfires set in the park. The wildfires limit the extent of forest and maximize grasslands used by cattle.

Ranomafana National Park

Flying Lemur

Flying Lemur

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Ranomafana National Park is located in the southeastern part of Madagascar and was established in 1991 with the purpose of conserving the unique biodiversity of the local ecosystem and reducing the human pressures on the protected area. It consists of large densely forested hills. The main attraction here is to spot animals and plants you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Wildlife includes many species of Lemurs (semi-monkeys). Plants, flowers and trees species are numerous and there are hardwoods, tree ferns, palms, mosses and colourful orchids. Over 100 bird species have been recorded as well, 60 of which exist only in Madagascar. The crystal clear streams plunge into the rushing Namorona River which forms the heart of the park.

Tsingy de Bemaraha

Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve is one of the highlights of the country and is on the Unesco World Heritage List. It consists of karstic landscapes and limestone uplands cut into impressive 'tsingy' peaks and a 'forest' of limestone needles. Also there are spectacular canyons, rolling hills and rugged peaks and the forests, lakes and mangrove swamps are the habitat for rare and endangered lemurs and birds. The reserve can be visited as part of a popular trip starting in Antsirabe, heading down the Tsiribihina River, visiting the tsingy, and finishing in Morondava.

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Malawi

Liwonde National Park

Mirror like lake in Liwonde NP 2

Mirror like lake in Liwonde NP 2

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Although Liwonde National Park is not quite as full of wildlife as the other parks, it has a wonderfully peaceful quality to it. Set in a lush marshland, the Shire River is full of hippos, and there are plenty of waterbucks and other smaller antelopes grazing. A canoe trip on the river is a relaxing experience, and the views over the river beautiful. To get there, take a bus to the town of Liwonde, and get off at the bus station (last stop) from there, you can walk or take a bicycle taxi to the park entrance, about 5 kilometres away. At the gate, you pay for the park entry, and ring ahead to your chosen guest house for a pick-up- walking alone is not permitted.

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Mozambique

Limpopo National Park

The Limpopo National Park is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which also contains the Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe. Since many of the animals here were killed during the civilian war in Mozambique, there has been a huge translocation of animals from the adjacent Kruger National Park and a border between the two countries has been opened up recently as well. This way, it is possible to visit some more remote parts of the Transfrontier Park, but you will need the proper visa and vehicle (4wd) to get to the Mozambique parts, as infrastructure as well as accommodation is still basic. That said, there is no doubt about it that this national park is a good opportunity to see the wildlife (including the big five) in its natural setting, still without too much visitors and vehicles.

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Namibia

Fish River Canyon

After the Grand Canyon in the USA, the Fish River Canyon is said to be the second biggest canyon in the world, being over 150 kilometres long and about 500 metres deep. It is one of the best places for hiking in Namibia, but you can also relax in the hot springs of Ai Ais. For those looking to hike, day hikes into the Canyon are now closed, but the 5 day hike is still available between the 1st of May and the 30th September.

Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park is the place for a safari in Namibia. Apart from buffalo, the big five (leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo and lion) can be seen here, among other smaller animals like cheetah, antelopes and zebra. Also, many birds have their breeding spots in the park. One of the best places to base yourself during the evening is the rest camp of Okaukuejo, where you are likely to see elephants and black rhino at the waterhole.

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Niger

Parc National Du W Du Niger

The Parc National Du W Du Niger is a huge park of more than 9,000 square kilometres and is place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is a cross border national park with Benin and Burkina Faso being the other two countries with large parts of the park within their boundaries. Niger has about 2200 square kilometres. Although animal numbers are not huge, especially compared to its more famous brothers in the east and south of the continent, there is a wide variety of species indeed. You will definitely see antelopes, buffaloes, elephants, hippos, lions, leopards, cheetahs, baboons, Nile crocodiles, hyenas, jackals, warthogs and more than 300 species of bird live here as well. It mainly consists of dry savanna woodland which functions as a transition zone between the Sahel and the more humid savannas further south. The 'W' actually comes from the double bend in the Niger River at the norther border of this massive park. The entrance in Niger is at La Tapoa, about 145 kilometres from the capital Niamey and you will need a guide to get around.

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Republic of Congo

Odzala National Park

Odzala National Park in the central north of the Republic of Congo is a real ecotourism paradise. Travellers are likely to see many lowland gorillas, monkeys and elephants. There are five camps with several facilities and trips from here can be arranged for a maximum of four people. If you want to explore some larger areas of the park, expect to spend several long days with some strenuous hiking. The best way to get here is actually from Gabon, because of security and logistics.

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Rwanda

Parc National des Volcans

Silverback of Susa group

Silverback of Susa group

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The Parc National des Volcans (Volcanoes National Park) is one of a few parks in the world where you can have a close encounter with mountain gorillas. The other parks are just across the border with Uganda (Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga National Park). The Rwandan park is located in the northwest of the country and is easily accessible by (mini)buses from the capital Kigali. Several of the Virungas volcanoes are located in Rwanda and some, like the Bisoke, can be climbed. The most popular activity though is to go on a trek to see the mountain gorillas. Although the permit alone costs US$750, it is extremely popular and advanced bookings are advisable. It is a very rewarding trip on the other hand and most people consider this to be one of the highlights of a visit to Rwanda or even Africa! Dian Fossey made this place her home for a long time, before she was killed (presumably by poachers) and buried in the same park.

Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe National Park is located in the southwest of the country just south of Lake Kivu and protects not only tropical rainforests but also swamps and grassland. The park is famous for its primates and about a quarter of all primates in the whole of Africa can be found here in this relatively small area, including the number one favorite, the chimpanzee. You can reach the park easiest from Cyangugu which is less than an hour away. If you want to get a feel for the forest, then a guided walk is the only way and doesn't come cheap - US$50 each (including park fee). Depending on your budget, there are currently two places to stay. They are currently building an impressive looking visitor centre at the old campsite in the centre of the park. There are just a few options of staying inside the park.

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Senegal

Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary

Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary lies on the southeast bank of the Senegal River, in northern Biffeche, northeast of St-Louis. It provides a range of wetland habitats which prove very popular with migrating birds, many of which have just crossed the Sahara. Of almost 400 species of birds, the most visible are pelicans and flamingos. Less conspicuous are the aquatic warblers migrating here from Europe; for these, the park is the single most important wintering site yet discovered. A wide range of wildlife also inhabits the park, which is designated a World Heritage Site. The site was added to the list of World Heritage in Danger in 2000 due to the introduction of the invasive giant salvinia plant, which threatens to choke out the park's native vegetation. However it was removed from the list in 2006.

Niokolo-Koba National Park

The Niokolo-Koba National Park is a [UNESCO World Heritage List|World Heritage Site]] and natural protected area in southeastern Senegal near the Guinea-Bissau border. In 2007 it was added to the UNESCO List of Endangered World Heritage sites. The national park is known for its wildlife. The government of Senegal estimates the park contains 20 species of amphibian, 60 species of fish, 38 species of reptile (of which four are tortoises). There are some 80 mammal species. These included an estimated 11,000 buffalo, 6,000 hippopotami, 400 western giant eland, 50 elephants, 120 lions, 150 chimpanzees, 3,000 waterbuck, 2,000 common duiker, an unknown number of red colobus and a few rare leopards and african wild dogs, although this canid is thought to be wiped out throughout the rest of the country.

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Seychelles

Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve

Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve is on the Unesco World Heritage List on the island of Praslin. It is one of only two places in the world where you can see the coco de mer palm growing in their natural state. The other location is Curieuse Island. This valley's forest is just marvellous and the view of sunlight filtering through is just great! The famous coco de mer, from a palm-tree once believed to grow in the depths of the sea, is the largest seed in the plant kingdom. With some luck you might see the Seychelles black parrot here. As this is a fragile forest area, keep to the tracks and don't take anything away or leave behind.

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South Africa

Kruger National Park

Ellie

Ellie

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This park is the largest of all of South Africa's game parks with around 19,000 square kilometres to explore. The park is located in the northeast of the country in both the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, at the borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Recently the park has become part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace-park consisting of Kruger National Park, Gonarezhou National Park (Zimbabwe) and Limpopo National Park (Mozambique). It is the most visited of all national parks in South Africa and can become very busy during the South African holiday periods. Also, some of the roads are tarred, which makes this park one of the best to visit when you just have a small 2wd vehicle. More about Kruger National Park or visit the official Kruger Park website.

Madikwe Game Reserve

African Wild Dogs meet White Rhino

African Wild Dogs meet White Rhino

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The Madikwe Game Reserve is an off the beaten track park in the central north of the country. In the north the border of the park forms the border with Botswana. Despite the fact that it might not be known to the general public, it is the 5th largest park in South Africa and is regarded as one of the better conservation areas in Africa. It offers all the major species, including lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, both white and black rhino (Big Five) along with almost all the regular antelope species on these plains. The park can be reached by a short drive from Pilanesberg National Park (see above) via a good gravel road. You can also take a longer route along tarmac roads, approaching the park from the south instead of the east. From Johannesburg and Pretoria it is roughly a 4-hour drive. It is quite a luxurious place to stay and you need to arrange accommodation before you arrive (you can not drive in the park yourself!). These usually include full board and a couple of game drives and sometimes a minimum stay of 2 nights is required (which is actually the minimum to enjoy a stay anyway). There is only one relatively affordable accommodation but prices are already around $200 a night!

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve

Impala

Impala

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Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve is located in the east of the country, in KwaZulu Natal, north of Durban. The park is around 96,000 ha big and is the oldest national park in Africa and the only one in KwaZulu where you can see the Big Five. Apart from these (lion, rhino, elephant, leopard and buffalo) you can see crocodile, hippo, cheetah, hyena, wildebeest, jackal, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, nyala, eland, kudu, impala, duiker, suni, reedbuck, warthog, bushpig, mongoose, baboons, monkeys and wide varieties of birds, over 300! All this can be done by your own car, tours and even boat tours and walking safaris are a possibility.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park

Leopard in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Leopard in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

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The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is located in the arid northwest of the country and is actually comprising two adjoining national parks, namely the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. The part in South Africa is more easily accessible than the park in Botswana and although technically you don't really need a 4wd vehicle, still it is better and gives you the opportunity to visit some more remote parts where several off the self catering wilderness camps are located. The park is located in the southern reaches of the Kalahari desert and red sand dunes with some sparse vegetation is the main vegetation here. Much of the wildlife can be found along the dry riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob rivers and the main gravel roads run along these riverbeds. Animals which you are likely to see are predators like black-maned Kalahari lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas, hunting for animals like oryx, springbok and wildebeest. From December to February it can get extremely hot here, with temperatures well over 40 °C. Access is from the towns of Upington and Kuruman towards the main gate at Twee Rivieren (meaning Two Rivers).

Addo Elephant National Park

Elephant mother and her young, Addo

Elephant mother and her young, Addo

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Addo Elephant National Park is located in the south of the country, close to Port Elizabeth. Although the park is famous for its elephants, there are many more animals here and species include buffalo, the endangered black rhino, antelope species and lion and spotted hyena are here in small numbers as well. The park is about to be called Greater Addo Elephant National Park as it has been expanded to include several islands and marine wildlife, including African penguins! And whales and great white sharks are in those waters as well and as a consequence the park is promoted as the only park to see the Big 7, which includes the famous Big 5 (elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo and leopard) and the whale and great white shark as mentioned above. A truly unique park which is a very easy to visit and located in a malaria free area.

Table Mountain National Park

Cape Town

Cape Town

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Table Mountain National Park is located in and near Cape Town, South Africa and was established in 1998, for the purpose of protecting the natural environment of the Table Mountain Chain, and in particular the rare fynbos vegetation. The most famous feature of course is the Table Mountain itself: like the 1,000 or so geysers on the world which are named after the Icelandic Geysir, Cape Town's Table Mountain is the grandfather of all table mountains in the world. It towers above the city, while Devil's Peak and Lion's Head tower above the mountain itself. The flat top is about 3 kilometres wide and offers tremendous views over the city and the ocean. There are only small differences in height on this flat, with the cable car station only 19 metres lower than the highest point. Although in 2 to 3 hours you are able to climb (walk) up to the top, the Table Mountain Cableway takes passengers up and down the mountain, ascending over 700 metres from Table Mountain Road.

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Swaziland

Hlane Royal National Park

The Hlane Royal National Park is one of the highlights in Swaziland if you want to see abundant wildlife and the good thing is, you can explore parts of the park on foot together with a local ranger. It is located around an hours drive from Manzini and you can travel by your own car or charter a vehicle once in the park. Wildlife includes elephant, rhino, hippo, lion, cheetah, leopard, giraffe, zebra and many species of antelope. Birdlife is plentiful as well.

Mkhaya Game Reserve

Mkhaya Game Reserve offers the best opportunity in Africa to see black rhinos in the wild and can be easily reached from Manzini. The reserve also contains white rhino, elephant, leopard, hippo, zebra, giraffe and various antelopes, though not in anywhere near the quantities visible in East Africa. The guides, though, are excellent. The cost of a day safari to the reserve is E475 (Sep 2009) - you have to book in advance either by phone or at the Big Game Parks office in The Gables shopping centre in Ezulwini.

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Tanzania

Serengeti National Park

Tanzania's oldest and most popular national park, the Serengeti National Park is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson's gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing. It is placed on the Unesco World Heritage List. It is possible to see all of the Big Five in the park, though with off-roading being illegal you will probably have to rely on binoculars to see any leopards, as they are generally hiding in the treetops.

Ngorongoro Crater

After a good meal in Ngorongoro

After a good meal in Ngorongoro

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The Ngorongoro Crater with its steep walls of 610 metres has become a natural enclosure for a very wide variety of wildlife, including most of the species found in East Africa, except the giraffe. Aside from herds of zebra, gazelle and wildebeest, the crater is home to the "big five" of rhinoceros, lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo, and is often an excellent chance to see wildlife.

Selous Game Reserve

The Selous Game Reserve is the second biggest game reserve of Africa and you can find wild dogs, elephants, black rhinos, crocodiles, cheetahs, and many more different kinds of wildlife living in the same areas. Relatively undisturbed by human impact, this is a great place to go and usually a better option that the more crowded Serengeti National Park. Covering 50,000 square kilometres of land, this Reserve was made an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. There are a few good lodges that you can stay at in the Reserve, as well as many different guided safaris.

Kilimanjaro National Park

Kilimanjaro National Park is a Tanzanian national park, located 300 kilometres (190 mi) south of the equator and in Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania. The park is located near the city of Moshi. The park includes the whole of Mount Kilimanjaro above the tree line and the surrounding montane forest belt above 1,820 metres. It covers an area of 1,688 square kilometres, 2°50'–3°10'S latitude, 37°10'–37°40'E longitude. The park is administered by the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TNPA).

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Uganda

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Mealtime

Mealtime

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Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the prime spot in Uganda to go on a trekking to see the Mountain Gorillas. The park is located in the southwestern corner of the country and apart from gorillas offers a wide range of monkey, birds, butterflies and other wildlife to view up-close. A gorilla permit is expensive though, around US$600, and as this is the most favorite spot in Africa to go on a trekking, the permits sell out quickly, especially by tour groups who buy them well in advance. As an independent traveller, you might be more lucky in Rwanda to get a permit within several days, although prices over there are even higher at US$1,500. Another option is to opt for a permit in the low season months of April, May and November. Prices are 'just' US$350 during those months. The disadvantage of course is there is a lot more rain, though November is not as bad as April/May.

Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale National Park is located in the west of the country, not far from Fort Portal and is famous for its chimpanzee tracking and bird watching.
The park protects moist evergreen rain forest. It is 766 square kilometres in size and is located between 1,100 metres to 1,600 metres in elevation. Despite encompassing primarily moist evergreen forest, it contains a diverse array of landscapes. Kibale is one of the last remaining expanses to contain both lowland and montane forests. In eastern Africa, it sustains the last significant expanse of pre-montane forest. The park was gazetted in 1932 and formally established in 1993 to protect a large area of forest previously managed as a logged forest reserve.

Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park is known for its waterfalls, where the Nile drops down for over 40 metres, making it one of the most powerful waterfalls in Africa. A boat ride will take you past hippos and crocodiles and other wildlife in the park, including elephant, buffalo, giraffe, lion, leopard and many species of antelope and birds. The park is only accessible by a tour, or by private vehicle, as the actual falls are far from the gates, and walking alone is not permitted. The hike up to the top of the falls is a short walk, but steep uphill, but does afford fantastic views over the falls.

Rwenzori Mountains

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a mountain range in southwest Uganda bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is 120 kilometres long and 48 kilometres wide with its highest peak at Mt Stanley (5,109metres. The range was first described in the 2nd century by ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy as the "Mountains of the moon", and first ascended in 1896 by Italian explorers. By the end of 2006, its ice cap has retreated from 6.4 square kilometres a century ago, to less than 1.28km². In the Rwenzori Mountains near Fort Portal you find Mitandi. The place represents a unique opportunity to explore the mountains and get to know the culture of the local Bakonzo mountain people.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park, crater

Queen Elizabeth National Park, crater

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Queen Elizabeth National Park offers another option to go on a safari, with great wildlife viewing between Lake Edward and Lake George and on top of that the Kasinga Channel has the largest concentration of hippos in the world! Also, the endemic Ugandan Kob, a species of antelope, lives here.

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Zambia

South Luangwa National Park

The South Luangwa National Park is 9,050 square kilometres big and is located in the east of the country, towards the border with Malawi and is one of the finest parks in Africa with high densities regarding animals, especially around the central river. The park is one of the pioneers regarding walking safaris and nothing beats standing eye to eye with an elephants or lion, of course at a safe distance.

Zebra

Zebra

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There are around 60 different species of mammal, and over 400 species of birds, making it one of the most diversified parks in Africa as well. Access to the park is limited during the rainy season from the end of November until April, sometimes even impossible. Mfuwe is the gateway to the park and flights to and from Lusaka are possible on almost every day and buses from Lusaka take at least around 16 hours and you will need to change buses as well.

Kafue National Park

Kafue National Park is the largest national park in Zambia, and the second largest in Africa, with an area of 22,400 square kilometers and is located in the central west of the country. There are over 50 different species of mammal to be seen here and hundreds of species of birds. The Kafue River is the central hart of the park, and is of importance especially during the dry season when water is more scarce.

kafue_leeuw

kafue_leeuw

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The park is easily reached by private car along the road from Lusaka to Mongu, but getting there by public transport requires some more planning. The Zambezian flooded grasslands in the north of the park is one of the highlights of the park, with many species like antelopes and along with them many predators, like lion and leopard. In general, the north has better facilities, like lodges and roads compared to the south, mainly because animal density is just higher up north.

Lower Zambezi National Park

The Lower Zambezi National Park is located in the southeast of the country, along the Zambezi River and close to the border with Zimbabwe. The parks mainly consists of woodlands and savannah with the area right on the banks of the Zambezi River being flooded habitat for most of the year. This is where most mammals and birds are to be found, like lions, hippos, crocodiles and elephants. Large herds of buffalos can be seen as well. The park is reached from Lusaka by car or plane, but facilities in the park are rather limited, with only one lodge and several camping possibilities. It is best to arrange things before you go here.

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Zimbabwe

Hwange National Park

Hwange NP 1

Hwange NP 1

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Hwange National Park is located in the northwest of the country, between Victoria Falls and the border with Botswana, just west of the road between Victoria Falls and Bulawayo. It is the largest national park in Zimbabwe with an area of almost 15,000 square kilometers. It is a semi arid region with large plains of grass and savannah land where many species of mammal roam freely. Almost all of Zimbabwe's wildlife can be seen here and some species like the African wild dog are quite special, as it is one of the larger herds anywhere in Africa, along with the herds in Selous and Ruaha National Parks in Tanzania. Access to the park is easy and the Main Camp is close to the Main gate and can be reached partly by tarred road. There are two other camps as well, one of which is very remote and requires you to be fully equipped with fuel and water in case something happens along the way.

Mana Pools National Park

DSC_0161 2 Long Pool

DSC_0161 2 Long Pool

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The Mana Pools National Park is the counterpart of the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia and is best reached from Zambia as roads from Harare and Victoria Falls are not always in good shape and fuel shortages are common in Zimbabwe as well. The flood plains along the Zambezi River form series of lakes where wildlife finds water and food, mainly in the dry season when water else is scarce. It is one of the best parks in Africa to enjoy a walking safari and the only one where you can actually walk just by yourself, because of the almost flat landscape where you have very good views of spotting wildlife and thus are able to prevent and eye to eye contact with a lion within a too short distance. Although it is not as well developed as many other national parks it has large herds of hippos, elephants and buffalos and trips can be arranged both in Zambia as in Zimbabwe.

Victoria Falls

Vic Falls

Vic Falls

© All Rights Reserved Luis M

At a height of over 100 metres and a width of about 1,700 metres, the Victoria Falls are the largest sheet of water falling in the world. Located within the boundaries of Mosi-oa-Tunya NP in Zambia and Victoria Falls NP in Zimbabwe, the falls are one of the most impressive landmarks of Africa and travellers from around the world are highly attracted by the opportunities near the falls. Hiking, wildlife viewing, bungee jumping, cruising, whit water rafting the Zambezi river and a helicopter ride to have a bird's eye view of the falls, all are very popular. As the falls are mainly located in Zambia, the best panoramic view is from Zimbabwe, viewing the falls head on. Even better would be the view from the air. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

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This is version 4. Last edited at 9:54 on Sep 6, 17 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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