Declared one of the best safari destinations in the world, an authentic African safari should be at the top of every traveler, avid adventurer, and nature and wildlife enthusiast’s travel bucket list. Some of the top safari destinations in Africa include Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
One of the most frequently asked questions by both local and international wildlife and nature enthusiasts is – What is the difference between the Kruger National Park and the Greater Kruger Park? Despite the fact that the Kruger National Park and Greater Kruger are used interchangeably, with many assuming there is no distinction between the two, there are several obvious and distinct differences between the Kruger National Park and Greater Kruger Park.
Tanzania is one of the most diverse and captivating African travel safari destinations. Boasting a vast and unique array of national parks and game reserves, ranging from the world-renowned Serengeti National Park to the wild and secluded hidden wilderness gem of Katavi National Park, Tanzania has a safari and wildlife destination to suite every type of traveler and wilderness enthusiast.
Offering an endless variety of places to explore, wildlife and birdlife to see, and safari adventures to experience, here are the top 10 tourist attractions in Tanzania, all of which should be on your African travel and safari bucket-list.
#1 The Serengeti National Park
Tanzania’s flagship conservation area, the Serengeti National Park is one of the finest national parks and top tourist attractions in Tanzania. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Serengeti is regarded as one of the most celebrated wilderness areas in the world.
Stretching along a vast plateau between the eastern arm of the rugged Rift Valley and the huge expanse of Lake Victoria, the Serengeti National Park covers an immense 14 800 km² (5 700 square miles) on Tanzania’s northern border with Kenya. Making up 50% of the wider Serengeti–Mara ecosystem, the Serengeti is the most famous protected wilderness area in all of Africa. As Tanzania’s oldest game reserve, the Serengeti National Park boasts one of the oldest and most diverse ecosystems on earth with a thriving vegetation that has remained largely untouched for millions of years.
Beyond its diverse landscapes, vast grasslands, golden savannah, thriving ecosystems, and wild and unspoiled natural beauty, it boasts one of the world’s greatest concentrations of wildlife, and certainly one of the most diverse. In fact, one of the best things about the Serengeti is its superb year-round game viewing.
Just about every large animal in East Africa can be regularly seen in the Serengeti National Park or its wider ecosystem. Known for its remarkable African Big 5 and predator sightings (especially lions, leopards, hyenas, and cheetahs), as well as plenty of elephants favoring the western woodlands of Grumeti, the Serengeti dazzles even the most hardened safari critics. The Serengeti ecosystem is also a renowned bird-watching destination, with over 500 species recorded to date.
The world-renowned Serengeti National Park Great Migration is a wildlife phenomenon and spectacle that will exceed all expectations. The Serengeti Great Migration sees millions of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle traversing the open plains of the park in search of fresh grass from seasonal rains, moving northwards into the neighboring Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, and then returning south to the Serengeti again. It is estimated that 1.5 million wildebeest, 300,000 zebra and 400,000 gazelles take part on the annual Serengeti Great Migration.
The dramatic scenes of huge herds on the move, crossing rivers and vast plains, pursued by predators looking for their next kill, are the stuff nature documentaries are made of. Experiencing the annual Serengeti National Park Great Migration is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime event that most safari travelers and wildlife enthusiasts have at the top of their bucket list.
#2 Ngorongoro Crater
The iconic Ngorongoro Crater is regarded by many as Africa’s lost world filled with dramatic and jaw-dropping scenery and blessed with tons of prolific and extremely well-habituated wildlife. The iconic Ngorongoro Crater located in Northern Tanzania, which was once a gigantic volcano, is the largest intact caldera in the world, surrounded by towering volcanic walls on every side. Some would go as far as to say that before it erupted, it would have been higher than the famous Mt Kilimanjaro – the highest peak in Africa. This undoubtedly makes the Ngorongoro Crater one of the most sought-after destinations to visit and top tourist attraction in Tanzania, if not Africa.
Today, long since having collapsed and eroded, it is an extensive highland area with the famous 600m deep Ngorongoro Crater as its focal point. However, despite being nearly three million years old, the ancient caldera shelters are still regarded as one of the most beautiful wildlife havens on earth.
The steep sides of the crater have become a natural enclosure for a wide variety of wildlife. In fact, it is presently one of the most likely areas in Africa to see the endangered Black Rhino.
Adjoining the southeast of the renowned Serengeti National Park, you’ll find the extensive Ngorongoro Conservation Area. While most visitors just visit the area to see the crater in all its gory, the more curious and adventurous leave the safari hordes behind to explore the wider conservation area that is a mixed-use area for wildlife and Maasai pastoralists. Within this protected area, the vast Oldupai Gorge (originally misnamed Olduvai) is an archaeological site made famous by the Leakey family for being home to some of the continent’s most important hominid fossils.
Provided you visit outside of the peak safari season months (June–September), you will fall in love with Ngorongoro Crater packed full of a wild, vast, and diverse array of wildlife and mesmerizing scenery.
#3 Selous Game Reserve
Intersected by the crocodile-infested Rufiji River and home to the world-renowned Stiegler’s Gorge, the 50,000km2/19,305mi2 Selous Game Reserve is an iconic East African safari destination and one of the top tourist attractions in Tanzania. Thanks to the efforts and stringent regulations implemented by the Wildlife Division of the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, the Selous Game Reserve boasts the greatest concentration of savanna animals than any other African game reserve.
Despite its ongoing poaching and the fact that illegal hunting ravaged the enormous elephant herds of years gone by, the Selous Game Reserve continues to support approximately 16,000 magnificent elephants by means of several incredible wildlife, conservation, and anti-poaching initiatives. Selous is also home to a thriving population of endangered African wild dogs – A rare and remarkable sighting when visiting any African game reserve or national park.
The infamous Rufiji River is an important feature of the reserve as it supports and gives life to a broad range of both water-based and non-water-based wildlife. A vast diversity of wildlife can be spotted in and around the Rufiji River, including hippos, rhino, buffalo, antelope, giraffe, elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, wildebeest, warthog and so much more. Selous Game Reserve also boasts a glorious array of birdlife with over 350 recorded species, making it any avid birder’s paradise.
#4 Mount Kilimanjaro
Dubbed the highest peak on the African continent at 5895 metres (19,340 feet) above sea level, visiting and climbing the tallest freestanding mountain on earth, Mount Kilimanjaro, is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Tanzania. An inactive volcano, this majestic mountain can be found inside the Kilimanjaro National Park in north-eastern Tanzania, positioned virtually on the equator. Unlike other national parks in northern Tanzania, wildlife is not the main attraction for those visiting Mount Kilimanjaro National Park, but rather to witness and stand in awe of this tall-standing natural wonder and, for many, to climb to the summit.
Famous for its snow-capped peak looming over the stunning plains of the savannah, Mount Kilimanjaro has established itself as one of Africa’s top tourist attractions among keen travelers, nature enthusiasts, avid mountaineers, and trekkers from around the world – and with good reason too!
Standing vigil over Tanzania’s untamed landscapes, Mount Kilimanjaro, which is also a World Heritage Site, boasts an array of beautiful and diverse habitats and ecosystems. On the lowland slopes, much of the mountain has been converted to farmland. Once inside the park, thick, lush lowland forest and rainforests covers the lower slopes giving way to alpine meadows once the air begins to thin. Near the peak, the landscape becomes harsh and barren with lunar landscapes, rocks, and sparkling vistas of ice and snow which are the predominant features as you approach the snowy summit of Africa atop Uhuru Peak on Kibo – The highest point of Mount Kilimanjaro (as well as the highest point on the African continent), which is also regarded as one of the Seven Summits of the world.
The slopes of rainforest are home to several buffaloes, leopards, monkeys, elephants, and eland. The alpine meadow region on the other hand is where avid bird watchers will find an incredible array of birds of prey.
If that isn’t enough, few mountains can claim the grandeur and the scintillating views over the Great Rift Valley and Amboseli National Park in neighbouring Kenya that belongs to Mount Kilimanjaro.
For many eager travellers, thrill seekers, and mountaineers, hiking to the ‘roof of Africa’ – the highest point on the African continent – is the adventure of a lifetime and the highlight of their Tanzanian experience, especially because the routes to the summit are not as technical as many may think and are thus accessible to almost any reasonably fit and healthy. Everyone from seasoned trekkers to first-time hiking enthusiasts can successfully tackle and scale the snowy summit provided they climb slowly, acclimatize properly, are adequately equipped for the wind and biting cold, and have a certain level of fitness, as the main challenge is posed by the altitude.
#5 Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara National Park is located in the Arusha Region and Manyara Region of Tanzania. Offering a thrilling wilderness experience and diverse habitats, from its Rift Valley soda lake, forests, and vast grasslands to swamps, dense woodlands and steep mountainsides, Lake Manyara National Park is both a sought-after safari destination and top tourist attraction in Tanzania.
Apart from its spectacular and diverse setting and surroundings, Lake Manyara National Park is famous for its unusual tree-climbing lions, huge elephant herds, and large population of hippos, all of which can be admired at a much closer range than in other parks.
As two-thirds of the park is covered by water, it is renowned for attracting a vibrant and abundant bird life, as well as a copious number of flamingos. During Tanzania’s wet season, Lake Manyara is home to more than 400 species of birds, many of them waterfowl or migrants, as well as thousands of flamingos – Providing visitors and birding enthusiasts with truly sensational sightings.
During the dry season, alkaline mud-flats take the place of the glorious lake waters. The dry season is the best time to see large mammals such as huge herds of buffalo, hippos, cheetah, Masai giraffe, wildebeest, and impala, to mention merely a few, roam the lake shores and the forested valley slopes – Resulting in remarkable wildlife sightings!
If you’re eager to go on a Lake Manyara safari, you can look forward to a unique and fascinating experience as the park also features a ground-water forest, acacia tortilis woodland and hot springs called Maji Moto.
As Lake Manyara National Park is said to host the largest concentration of baboons in the world, you can expect to see troops of several hundred olive baboons alongside Sykes monkey and short-eared galago. Cape clawless otters, Egyptian mongoose, hippos, and the iconic African klipspringer are other prominent park residents you’ll have the opportunity to spot on your Lake Manyara safari adventure.
#6 Katavi National Park
Wild and remote Katavi National Park is an unspoiled and untouched wildlife and wilderness paradise situated in the western area of Tanzania. The 4,471km2/1,726mi2 national park boasts a rich diversity of wildlife along with a wonderful array of habitats, ranging from flood plains of thick reeds and dense waterways that teem with hippo and crocodile to woodlands, open grasslands, forests, and pristine seasonal lakes. This makes exploring the untamed and majestic Katavi National Park a bucket-list worthy and thrilling wilderness experience.
Katavi’s enormous flood plain, split by the Katuma River and several seasonal lakes, is one of its most prevalent features. The park’s array of seasonal lakes is home to a glorious abundance of crocodiles, hippos, and over 400 bird species. One of Katavi National Park’s greatest wildlife spectacles is witnessing over 200 hippos squeeze into a single pool of water at the end of the region’s dry season. Wildlife enthusiasts visiting Katavi during this time will have the amazing opportunity to see a whole lot of action as the rivalry between the male hippos heats up, causing intense territorial fights.
Katavi National Park’s dry season brings the whole park to life as its renowned for its remarkable and abundant wildlife sightings and encounters. Visitors can look forward to seeing large herds of impala, reedbuck, lions, zebras, giraffes, and so much more at the remaining pools and streams. As Katavi is said to be home to the largest herds of buffalo on the planet as well as a huge population of elephants, thousands of buffaloes and elephants can be spotted converging when the flood waters in the park retreat.
Due to Katavi National Park’s remote location, it is regarded as one of Tanzania’s most magnificent hidden wilderness gems. It is also more difficult to access compared to some of Tanzania’s other popular game reserves and national parks. Where the famous Serengeti National Park might see approximately 125,000 (or likely more) visitors in a year, the wild and secluded Katavi sees no more than a few hundred brave adventurers, avid wildlife and birdlife enthusiasts, and thrill-seeking wilderness travelers by comparison.
Katavi National Park truly is the epitome of wild Africa at its finest – and if you have the opportunity to visit and explore this pristine Tanzanian National Park, it will undoubtedly exceed all your expectations.
#7 Ruaha National Park
Located in the heart of Tanzania, Ruaha National Park is one of the largest national parks in East Africa and one of Tanzania’s most notorious wilderness areas. The Great Ruaha River is one of the main features of Ruaha National Park. Attracting an abundance of wildlife, it provides visitors with ample magnificent up-close wildlife viewing opportunities on the riverbanks. In addition to the Great Ruaha River, the park boasts vast wild landscapes filled with rocky escarpments, baobab studded hills, and spectacular gorges.
Boasting a vast diversity of remarkable wildlife, it isn’t hard to understand why Ruaha National Park is at the top of almost every wildlife enthusiast’s list when visiting Tanzania. Besides hosting one of the largest concentrations of elephants in Tanzania, Ruaha National Park is home to large herds of buffalo, gazelle, wild dogs, lions, leopards, cheetah, giraffes, zebras, impala, bat eared foxes, and jackals, to mention merely a few. Ruaha is also where you will find an estimated 10% of the surviving wild lion population in Africa (which is undoubtedly one of Ruaha National Park’s top wildlife highlights), it also one of the only places you will see greater kudu in Tanzania.
Avid birdwatchers can look forward to sensational bird sightings as Ruaha National Park is home to over 400 species of bird that are not found in northern Tanzania.
Due to the park’s relatively remote location, visitors can look forward to incredible and exciting wildlife and birdlife sightings without the large crowds of people and tons of cars and game vehicles around.
#8 Mahale Mountains National Park
Nestled on the Lake Tanganyikan shoreline (in western Tanzania) and set among the spectacular, forested slopes of the Mahale Mountains, the Mahale Mountains National Park is one of the most sought-after national parks and tourist attractions in Tanzania. It is also regarded as one of Tanzania’s most beautiful national parks, boasting lush green forested mountains cascading down to the lakeshore, crystal-clear waters lapping against white sand coves, and the magnificent mist-covered peak of Mount Nkungwe which can be seen in the background.
The iconic Mahale Mountains National Park was originally created to protect the thousands of chimpanzees that inhabit the region. This has made it one of the best national parks and places in the world to witness and enjoy up-close sightings and encounters with chimpanzees.
Beyond its stunning landscapes, surrounding scenery, and vast chimpanzee population, Mahale Mountains National Park boasts a breathtaking array of habitats, which include rainforest, grasslands, alpine bamboo, and woodlands. These diverse Mahale Mountain habitats are where some 50 species of animals and other primates have been recorded, predominant among these being representatives from various monkey and ape families, including yellow baboons and the Red Colobus Monkey.
Besides its incredible array of monkey and ape families, over 90 unique species of fish can be found swimming in the clear waters of the lake.
With minimal road access and a somewhat secluded location, Mahale Mountains National Park is not only regarded as one of Tanzania’s most remote and unspoiled national parks, but one of its most enthralling and exhilarating wilderness areas and safari destinations. This makes Mahale a not-to-be-missed bucket-list wilderness destination for all avid explorers, adventurous wildlife and birdlife enthusiasts, and daring off-the-beaten-path travelers visiting Tanzania.
By far one of the top things to do in Tanzania, and certainly the most thrilling too, is exploring the wild and wonderful Mahale Mountains National Park on foot with an experienced guide. Beyond all the remarkable up-close chimpanzee sightings, and other wildlife, ape, and monkey species you will encounter, be prepared for some sweaty, steep climbs through dense vegetation – One thing is for sure though, it promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and the final reward is well worth the trials and tribulations of getting there!
#9 Tarangire National Park
Located in Northern Tanzania, Tarangire National Park is renowned for its baobab trees spread across its vast grassy landscapes, thrilling African wilderness safaris, exceptional game viewing, remarkable bird watching, and infamous elephant migration, boasting one of the largest populations of elephants in the country.
The best time to visit Tarangire is during its dry season from July to September when it’s incredible and diverse wildlife can be spotted gathering along the river – This allows for excellent game viewing opportunities and up-close wildlife sightings and encounters.
During Tarangire National Park’s dry season, visitors and wildlife lovers can expect to see large herds of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, leopards, cheetahs, waterbucks, giraffes, impala, elephants, gazelle, hartebeest, badgers, monkeys, mongoose, baboons, African wild dogs, and eland in and around the park’s lagoons and grassy landscapes. In addition to its amazing variety of wildlife, Tarangire’s famous tree-climbing lions are undoubtedly one of its top wildlife highlights and sought-after sightings.
Tarangire National Park is also known as a true bird lover’s paradise, as more than 550 different species of birds frequent the park.
#10 Arusha National Park
Another top tourist attraction in Tanzania is Arusha National Park. While it may be considerably smaller than many of Tanzania’s other popular national parks and game reserves, Arusha National Park boasts a unique diversity of landscapes and habitats. Some of its distinctive habitats include lush grasslands and vast greenery, the extraordinary forests of Mount Meru, the infamous Ngurdoto Crater and its verdant hillsides (situated in the southeast section of the park), and the notorious Momella Lakes, which essentially consists of seven crater lakes. The vast and varied habitats and environments found within Arusha gives rise to its remarkable and rich biodiversity between its borders.
Each of Arusha National Park’s exclusive habitats have something different to offer visitors and wildlife enthusiasts. The forested area of Mount Meru is famous for its black and white Colobus monkeys, which can easily be spotted jumping around and hanging about. The marshy floor of the Ngurdoto Crater on the other hand is dotted with herds of buffalo, zebra, rhino, warthogs, elephants, bushbucks, lions, leopards, and giraffes, allowing for some truly spectacular wildlife sightings.
The notorious Arusha Momella Lakes is home to a large selection of resident, exotic, and migrant birds, some of which include crowned eagles, woodpeckers, hornbills, egrets, guinea fowl, pelicans, geese, storks, and glorious flocks of flamingos.
While most of Tanzania’s national parks are exclusively centred around wildlife encounters and safaris, Arusha National Park offers visitors the very best of both worlds. Arusha is not only known for its incredible wildlife and birdlife sightings, but its exciting variety of outdoor recreation activities and thrilling wilderness adventures too. From exhilarating hiking and climbing expeditions, to invigorating canoe trips and action-packed walking safaris – Arusha National Park has a riveting and extraordinary experience and adventure for everyone to enjoy.
**Bonus: Another one of the top things to do in Tanzania is climb the legendary Mount Meru.
Mount Meru is the second highest mountain in Tanzania as well as one of the most iconic and beautiful volcanoes in Africa. The summit of Mount Meru is reached via a narrow ridge, which features magnificent views of the volcanic cone located several thousand feet below in the crater. While the ascent to reach the Mount Meru summit is steep and rather challenging, the route to the top passes through beautiful forests, parklands, as well as a giant heather zone and moorland.
A landlocked country in southern Africa, Zambia is emerging as a premier safari travel location due to its unspoiled landscapes and diversity of wildlife and birdlife. But it’s the sheer remoteness of Zambia’s many wonderful wilderness regions and national parks that makes it one of the top safari destinations for locals, tourists, and adventure travelers alike.
Offering an endless variety of things to see and experience, here are the best things to do and top 10 tourist attractions in Zambia, all of which should be on your Zambian travel and safari bucket-list.
#1 VICTORIA FALLS
Regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and one of Africa’s most astonishing sights, Victoria Falls reigns supreme as one of the top tourist attractions in Zambia. Locally known as Mosi-oa-Tunya or ‘The Smoke That Thunders’, this jaw-dropping waterfall on the Zambezi River is located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Stretching 1.7km wide and reaching a height of 355 feet, Victoria Falls is considered to be the world’s biggest sheet of falling water.
When the Zambezi River is in full flood, it is estimated that 500-million litres of water per minute thunders over the drop, crashing into a deep rocky gorge at the bottom, throwing a cloud of mist and rainbow-lit spray high into the air. While the Main Falls lie within the borders of Zimbabwe, the Zambian side is equally as impressive during peak flood season (February to May). By far one of the best Zambian viewpoints is the Knife-Edge Bridge, which takes you right up close to this thundering waterfall – be prepared to get soaked!
Victoria Falls is a fantastic start or end point to a Zambian safari. If you have the time, it is highly recommended that you spend a few days exploring and sampling the many thrilling activities on offer. From relaxed sightseeing on foot and scenic helicopter flights to heart-pounding, adrenaline-inducing experiences like white water rafting on high-grade rapids, microlight flights and bungee jumping – there is something for everyone to enjoy!
#2 LOWER ZAMBEZI NATIONAL PARK
Situated along the lower section of the Zambezi River, the Lower Zambezi National Park is one of Zambia’s premier wildlife and safari destinations. The main draw of the national park is its remote off-the-beaten-path location and pristine wilderness. Encompassing vast and varied terrain, including forest, grassland, and floodplain, the Lower Zambezi National Park supports a fantastic diversity of wildlife. Home to plenty of big game, including elephants, lions, buffaloes, hippos, and Nile crocodiles, as well as an array of birdlife and other wildlife species, wildlife enthusiasts will definitely not be disappointed.
Wildlife viewing is best along the rivers, which border the park on three sides. The Zambezi River is the region’s main source of water as well as its top attraction, both for game and visitors.
When visiting the Lower Zambezi National Park you can go on a safari or game drive and explore all the wonders the park has to offer or enjoy an adventure-filled nature walk. By far one of the major highlights is going on a canoe safari along the Zambezi River! It is both peaceful and undeniably thrilling paddling and drifting past the twitching ears and snorts of submerged hippos and knobbly Nile crocodiles basking on the riverbanks. The guides are utterly attuned to the animals’ habits and behaviour and are completely at ease predicting their next moves – So you can rest assured you are in safe hands!
#3 SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK
South Luangwa National Park is arguably the greatest wildlife-viewing destination and top tourist attraction in Zambia. Boasting among the highest concentration of wildlife in all of Africa, the park is regarded as one of the very best places to see large herds of buffalo, elephants, and giraffes.
South Luangwa is home a number of rare and endemic species including Thornicroft’s giraffe, Cookson’s wildebeest and Crawshay’s zebra, along with plenty of leopard, lion, and hippo. In late October, just before the start of the rain, thousands of hippos gather in the Luangwa River’s deeper pools – It is a remarkable spectacle to witness as they jostle and fight for space.
The best time to visit South Luangwa National Park for pristine wildlife sightings is during the dry season when the area’s wildlife flock to the banks of the river. This also gives you the opportunity to see predators such as leopards and lions in action!
South Luangwa is famous for their walking safaris, which are led by expert guides through some of Africa’s best game viewing territory. Another major attraction is boat safaris, especially during the park’s rainy season. As the Luangwa River breaks its banks, shallow-draft vessels can navigate into the flooded riverine groves – this is undoubtedly one of Zambia’s most unique and exciting safari highlights!
#4 KAFUE NATIONAL PARK
Kafue National Park is the largest national park and wildlife reserve in Zambia and the second-biggest park in all of Africa. It covers more than 22000km² (2500km2 more than South Africa’s Kruger National Park), with the terrain varying significantly from north to south. Despite being one of Africa’s largest parks, Kafue is the least visited of Zambia’s three major national parks. Located well off-the-beaten-track, Kafue National Park is still very, very wild and regarded as somewhat of a Zambian hidden gem.
Rivers, seasonal floodplains, and far-reaching, wildlife-rich wetlands dominate northern Kafue. The extreme north of Kafue National Park is also where you’ll find the Busanga Plains, one of Zambia’s most significant wetland resources and the best region of the park for game viewing. Huge herds of red lechwe, puku, stately roan antelope, blue wildebeests, and zebras graze these grassy floodplains. Their large numbers attract plenty of predators, including lion prides, lone cheetahs, packs of wild dogs, and leopards. The Kafue River – the namesake of the park – is home to plenty of hippos as well as some of the largest crocodiles in southern Africa.
Birders will delight in the extreme northwest of the Kafue National Park where the Busanga Swamps, an official Ramsar site, attracts close to 500 birdlife species, including large flocks of herons, egrets, and endangered wattle cranes.
Southern Kafue boasts large sections of Kalahari wood- and grassland, making it the ideal location for ever-growing populations of plains game as well as the park’s largest population of elephant and buffalo.
Along with game drives, you can spend your days in Kafue National Park on walking safaris and boat rides/safaris on either the Kafue River or Lunga River. Walking safaris are best during winter, while boat safaris are available along the Kafue River during the wet summer months.
#5 LAKE KASHIBA
Lake Kashiba is undoubtedly one of Zambia’s best hidden gems. As the surface level of the water is 30 feet below the floor of the surrounding forest, Lake Kashiba is often referred to as a ‘sunken lake’. While the surface area of the lake is small, it is incredibly deep with a depth of 330 feet around its sides. The depth of the centre of Lake Kashiba is however unknown, which has given rise to several mystical tales and legends of monsters below the surface.
Despite the air of mystery that surrounds it, the bluish-green water of the lake is extremely welcoming, and it has become a popular destination for activities like fishing and swimming.
Lake Kashiba is located in the north of Zambia, about a 40-minute drive from the town of Mpongwe in Copperbelt Province.
#6 KASANKA NATIONAL PARK
Lying just south of the Bangweulu Wetlands, near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kasanka National Park is one of the top national parks and tourist attractions in Zambia. It is Zambia’s only privately managed park.
Regarded as one of the most beautiful reserves in Zambia, it boasts wonderful papyrus marshes, swamp forests and the miombo woodlands together with several criss-crossing rivers and seasonal, swampy pools which support almost 500 species of birds.
By far one of the top attractions of Kasanka is its annual bat migration. Every year from late-November to December, the skies around Kasanka National Park come alive with around 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats. The annual Kasanka National Park bat migration is regarded as the largest mammal migration in the world! While the sheer volume of bats is nothing short of draw-dropping, it’s the atmosphere surrounding this phenomenon that’s the most thrilling part as huge birds of prey swoop through the skies and take down as many bats as possible. Small predators and scavengers can also be found waiting below, ready to pounce on any that fall.
Kasanka is home to various wildlife and several antelope species including the rare, swamp-dwelling Sitatunga antelope which is fairly common in this area and can most often be spotted grazing in the misty dambos (wetlands). Hippo and crocodile are also plentiful, while buffalo, leopard, and elephant are present, but tougher to spot.
Many visitors combine Kasanka National Park with a trip to the nearby Bangweulu Wetlands to see the renowned shoebills and endemic black lechwe.
What You Need to Know:
- Kasanka is the only place in the world where you can witness this natural phenomenon.
- The migration only takes place for about 90 days (late October to mid-December).
- We recommend flying directly to Kasanka by private charter plane (there is an airstrip inside the park).
#7 LAKE KARIBA
Lake Kariba may not be as deep as Lake Kashiba, but it holds the distinction of being the largest man-made reservoir in the world by volume, extending over 5000km2 along Zambia’s southern border. The lake spans over 140 miles/220 kilometers along the border with Zimbabwe and reaches up to 25 miles/40 kilometers in width at its widest point.
Access to the Zambian side of Lake Kariba is fairly limited, with Sinazongwe and Siavonga being the only two towns of any significance providing access to the lake. Siavonga is only a few hours’ drive from Lusaka. Regarded as a laid-back lakeside holiday village, it is the larger of the two towns and very popular among locals. As Sinazongwe is much smaller and less developed, most locals and visitors head to Siavonga as their base for exploring Lake Kariba.
The Zambian side of Lake Kariba is far less wild than the Zimbabwean side. For wildlife sightings and encounters you will have to visit one of two large islands, Chete or Chikanka. Both islands are located in the southwest and accessible from Sinazongwe. Chete is the larger of the two islands and guided game walks/walking safaris are possible. Chete is home to a small population of elephants, some leopards and plenty of hippos, crocodiles, and birds.
Chikanka is privately owned, with a single, dedicated fishing lodge. It is one of many fishing options on Lake Kariba, with tigerfish being the most sought-after catch.
Houseboating is a very popular activity on Lake Kariba, and you are likely to see countless hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and all manner of birds as you drift along. You can also opt to enjoy a private motorboat trip or canoe safari. All of these exciting expeditions and safari adventures can be arranged from Siavonga.
#8 BLUE LAGOON NATIONAL PARK
Located a mere 75 miles/120km by road from Lusaka (the capital city of Zambia), Blue Lagoon National Park is not only one of the top wilderness destinations and tourist attractions in Zambia, but one of its most accessible parks for locals and tourists alike. Besides being incredibly easy to get to, it is absolutely worth the visit.
Blue Lagoon National Park is a relatively undiscovered park that was established in 1976. However, it was closed to the public by the Ministry of Defence and became a haven for poachers. Thanks to highly dedicated and successful rehabilitation efforts, the park reopened to the public in 2003.
Today, Blue Lagoon National Park welcomes visitors and avid wildlife enthusiasts from far and wide to its stunning location and vast wilderness terrains. As it remains largely untouched by the masses and developmental efforts, it has a certain undeniable and untamed natural beauty that’s hard to deny.
The best time to visit the Blue Lagoon National Park is during its wet season when the vast floodplains fill with water, attracting thousands of birds and mammals.
#9 LIUWA PLAIN NATIONAL PARK
Located west of the upper Zambezi River, close to the border with Angola, Liuwa Plain National Park is one of Zambia’s most remote national parks. Liuwa Plain is primarily made up of vast grasslands with a smattering of pans, palms, and clumps of Kalahari woodland.
During the rainy/wet season (December – April) large areas of the park are completely flooded, as with much of northern Zambia. Even during the drier winter months, Liuwa Plain National Park is difficult to reach. This only heightens its appeal among eager adventurers, thrill seekers and dedicated nature and wildlife enthusiasts. The lucky ones who reach this Zambian wilderness hidden gem, will feel like they have the entire national park to themselves – and perhaps they even do!
Boasting jaw-dropping panoramic views and unapologetic natural beauty, genuinely low visitor numbers (due to its remote location), and an abundant and diverse wildlife population, Liuwa Plain National Park is the ultimate African wilderness and safari destination.
Liuwa Plain’s biggest single wildlife attraction is its annual blue wildebeest migration when an estimated 40000 animals or more migrate as the rising water levels force the herds southeast in search of fresh grazing. This remarkable spectacle takes place in November each year and is the second largest of its kind in the world.
Liuwa Plain’s birdlife is another major draw, with some of its pans holding water year-round. Attracting a large variety of species, including spoonbills, marabou and saddle-billed storks, herons, and a noteworthy bird rarely found in groups elsewhere, the Slaty egret – it is a true bird lover’s paradise! Another notable wildlife highlight is Liuwa Plain National Park’s thriving hyena population. Estimated at around 600, they take the top spot as Liuwa’s apex predator.
#10 SIOMA NGWEZI AND NGONYE FALLS NATIONAL PARK
Covering 5,000km² of Kalahari woodland, Sioma Ngwezi is Zambia’s third-largest national park. Bordered by the Kwando River to the west (which also forms Zambia’s border with Angola) and Namibia to the south, Sioma Ngwezi is tucked away in the southwestern corner of Zambia. Combined with the impressive Ngonye Falls National Park located further north, it has become one of Zambia’s top up-and-coming regions to visit with its diverse wildlife attracting avid adventure travelers and wildlife enthusiasts.
Sioma Ngwezi National Park has a history of excellent giraffe sightings and visitors can look forward to seeing various wildlife species, including lion, leopard, and spotted hyena when visiting the park. As water is scarce in this region of Zambia, the best time for wildlife viewing is just after the summer rains when animals congregate in large numbers around the drying pools.
While Zambia’s 25 metre high Ngonye Falls may not be as grand as the renowned Victoria Falls, what it lacks in stature it more than makes up in volume. Besides admiring its beauty, visitors can enjoy various exhilarating adventure experiences, including kayaking, white water rafting, swimming, and fishing.
Zimbabwe is a country endowed with so much natural beauty, profound history, vast and remarkable landscapes, and an incredible diversity of wildlife, birdlife, national parks, and reserves to explore. Zimbabwe boasts a range of diverse habitats, from the forested valleys of Matobo Hills National Park, and the watery wilderness of Lake Kariba, to the floodplains of Mana Pools National Park, and the mopane woodlands and savannas of Hwange National Park.
Beyond its astounding landscapes and habitats, Zimbabwe is home to an astounding 500 species of birds, 199 mammal species, 130 species of fish and several rare and endemic species such as the sable antelope.
What sets Zimbabwe apart from its fellow southern African neighbors is the fact that it offers tourists and travelers alike the chance to experience superb game viewing and unforgettable safari adventures without the large crowds – Undoubtedly making it one of the best safari destinations to visit in Africa.
Offering an endless variety of things to see and experience, here are the best things to do and top 10 tourist attractions in Zimbabwe, all of which should be on your Zimbabwean bucket-list.
#1 Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park is one of Africa’s top national parks. Covering a vast expanse of around 5,655 square miles/14,650 square kilometers, it is both the largest and oldest of Zimbabwe’s game reserves.
Hwange National Park is undoubtedly one of the top tourist attractions for wildlife enthusiasts as the park has the biggest diversity of mammals out of the world’s national parks. Home to over 100 species of mammals, including the renowned African Big 5, lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, and buffalo, Hwange National Park’s game viewing and sightings are unparalleled. In addition to its exceptional diversity of wildlife, this world-renowned national park is famous for its profound population of elephants, boasting over 50 000 elephants. The Hwange elephant population is thought to be one of the largest in the world.
The park is also known for regular sightings of some of Africa’s rarest safari animals, such as the brown hyena, the critically endangered black rhino, roan, sable, and the endangered wild dog – Hwange National Park is said to be home to one of Africa’s largest populations of the endangered wild dog. Visiting Hwange during the dry winter months of July to October guarantees spectacular wildlife sightings, as animals gather around the man-made waterholes in the park to drink. Birdlife is also abundant at Hwange National Park, with over 500 species recorded within the park.
What makes Hwange so special is the fact that it is easily accessible as well as its lack of crowds. For all of its biodiversity, huge herds of elephants and ease of sightings in the winter months, the park never gets crowded, which means you have the space and the quiet to soak up the magic of the bush.
#2 Lake Kariba
Situated in the north of Zimbabwe, northeast of Victoria Falls and sharing a border with Zambia, Lake Kariba is landlocked Zimbabwe’s answer to the seaside: a massive manmade lake that provides a wonderful combination of water and wildlife. Stretching for over 140 miles/220 kilometers in length, and measures 25 miles/40 kilometers across at its widest point, it is the world’s largest man-made lake in terms of volume. The traditional and by far the best way to explore the wonders of Lake Kariba is on a houseboat. Kariba is renowned as one of the best places in the world to catch tiger fish, a ferocious freshwater species, as well as for its remarkable sightings of hippos, crocodiles, elephants and vast birdlife.
The lake’s islands also offer ample opportunities for game viewing. Perhaps the most rewarding wildlife area is Matusadona National Park, located on Kariba’s southern shore.
#3 Mana Pools National Park
Regarded as being both Zimbabwe’s best park and one of the finest wilderness areas in Africa, Mana Pools National Park is a superb safari destination. Situated at the northern most point of Zimbabwe straddling the Zambian border, Mana Pools is renowned for its untamed natural beauty: a riverine wilderness on the Zambezi River of pools, floodplains, baobab trees and forests that feels totally remote and never gets crowded.
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its incredible and diverse concentration of wildlife, Mana Pools National Park is undoubtedly one of the top tourist attractions in Zimbabwe for wildlife lovers from around the world. The park is famous for its huge elephant herds, as well as exceptional sightings of cheetahs and the entire African Big 5. It is also known as one of the top places in Africa to spot the endangered African wild dog.
Mana Pools is a haven for water-based wildlife, with large populations of hippo and Nile crocodile. They live in the four pools that give the park its name, each one created by the Zambezi River before it altered its course to flow northward. The largest pool is approximately 3.7 miles/6 kilometers long, and acts as a valuable water source, especially in the height of the dry season. The abundance of water present in this area makes it a prime spot for birders.
The appeal of the park is not just its wildlife – it’s how you get to experience the bush in immersive ways: staying in unfenced campsites in the midst of the wilderness and going on walking and canoeing safaris to see its profound and diverse wildlife and birdlife is where the true magic and adventure lies. Mana Pools National Park is also one of the only parks in Africa where you can walk and explore without a guide. It is however advised that you have a lot of bush knowledge and experience before going off on your own.
#4 Victoria Falls
Tumbling down 100-metre-high cliffs surrounded by lush forests, Victoria Falls is the biggest sheet of falling water on the planet. Regarded as one of Africa’s most astounding sights as well as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, Victoria Falls reigns supreme as one of Zimbabwe’s top tourist attractions.
During peak flood season (February – March), the spray thrown up by the plunging Victoria Falls water can be seen from approximately 50 kilometers away. This spectacular natural spectacle which has people travelling from around the world to witness and experience first-hand, gives the falls its indigenous name — Mosi-oa-Tunya, or “The Smoke That Thunders”.
Stretching 1.7 kilometers wide, the falls span across both Zimbabwe and Zambia. There are pathways on each side of the border that lead you to the edge of cliffs. On the Zimbabwean side, the path winds its way along the edge of the gorge with viewpoints offering breathtaking panoramas of the plummeting water and the renowned rainbows that hang suspended above the chasm. While the sound is known to be somewhat overwhelming, and you’re bound to get soaking wet from the famous falls’ spray (a bucket-list worthy experience in itself), the magnificent spectacle you get to witness is one you’ll never forget.
As the town of Victoria Falls sits right by the falls themselves on the Zimbabwean side, it is famous for its vast variety of thrilling adrenaline sports and incredible safari activities. Some of these experiences include bungee jumping, abseiling, white-water rafting, and wildlife spotting from horseback.
#5 Matobo National Park
Regarded as the spiritual home of Zimbabwe, Matobo National Park boasts some of the world’s most impressive granite scenery. The fascinating granite rock formations and lunar landscape of balancing rocks, known as kopjes – giant boulders stacked on top of each other, as if they’re about to topple over – is not only a remarkable sight and one of the top tourist attractions in Zimbabwe, but a stunning natural spectacle and work of art. This site has an intriguing history, tracing back some 2000 million years ago when molten rock erupted across the landscape.
Several of the rocks are marked with ancient rock art created by the San bushmen about 2000 years ago. In fact, the recreational section of Matobo National Park has Southern Africa’s highest concentration of ancient rock art with 3500 sites dating back 13,000 years. To this day the Matobo Hills are considered incredibly important to the local community as they are used as sacred sanctuaries and shrines.
Matobo National Park is an exceptional wildlife and safari destination. The game park section of Matobo National Park is not only home to Zimbabwe’s highest concentration of white and black rhinos, it has one of the largest leopard populations in Southern Africa and is a great place to spot Verreaux’s eagles, in addition to other wildlife and birdlife species.
**Interesting Fact: Cecil Rhodes, a controversial 19th-century imperialist, businessman, and politician, was buried here. His remains are marked by a brass plaque perched atop World’s View, the park’s most iconic viewpoint.
#6 Chimanimani National Park
Located on the eastern border with Mozambique, the mountainous Chimanimani National Park is known for its unapologetic natural beauty. Famous for its plunging gorges, lush valleys, mountain landscapes, and soaring peaks, with the highest summits reaching over 7,990 feet/2,400 meters, Chimanimani National Park has become a top destination among adventure seekers, keen hikers, campers, and those looking to immerse themselves in nature.
If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, you certainly won’t be disappointed when visiting this top Zimbabwe tourist attraction and natural oasis. As the lower reaches of the park are covered by dense virgin forest, it is known to attract and provide shelter to several obscure wildlife species including eland, sable, and the blue duiker antelope. It is also one of the best parks in Zimbabwe to spot the elusive leopard as they roam free in the Chimanimani mountains, as well as enjoy incredible sightings of Southern Africa’s smaller cat species such as Serval, the African Wildcat, Caracal, the mysterious Sand Cat, Jungle Cat, Black-Footed Cat, and the African Golden Cat. If you’re an avid birder, you can look forward to some spectacular birdlife sightings when visiting Chimanimani National Park and the Chimanimani mountains.
Amenities in the park include unpaved hiking trails, communal huts and a campsite with basic cooking and ablution facilities. Wild camping is also allowed throughout the park.
#7 Nyanga National Park
Regarded as the home of the Highveld, Nyanga National Park is a wild and wonderful place to visit on any trip to Zimbabwe. Located more than 1,800 meters above sea level, it is said to be perched on the very roof of Zimbabwe, formed by hulking hills of dolomite rock and suspended boulders – Making it quite a unique sight to behold.
Besides being the home of the Zimbabwean Highveld, Nyanga National Park boasts a fascinating and incredible landscape which is dressed in groves of msasa trees and cypresses which are considerably rare to these regions. Due to the vastly unique landscapes of the park, the unique habitats that exist within Nyanga National Park can host a truly otherworldly array of creatures and a remarkable diversity of wildlife species.
Several of the species in the park are entirely endemic to the region, such as the Old World Samango monkeys with their white-brushed throats that can only be found in these parts of the world. The Nyanga National Park is also home to a number of leopards, lions, and other wildlife species, ensuring you get to enjoy the full authentic African safari and wildlife experience.
#8 Chinhoyi Caves
Located in north central Zimbabwe, the mysterious Chinhoyi Caves is not only one of the top tourist attractions in Zimbabwe, but a place of geological interest too. Made up of a subterranean system of limestone and dolomite caverns and tunnels, the caves are protected as part of the Chinhoyi Caves National Park. The caves have a mystical appeal about them as local elders believe they are sacred. Due to several artifacts found and uncovered in the caves (such as pottery, drawings, and human remains), it is suggested that the caves have been inhabited since at least the 1st century. Most famously, the Chinhoyi Caves provided a refuge from raiding tribes for Mashona chief Chinhoyi and his people.
Undoubtedly the main attraction of the Chinhoyi Caves is the ‘Wonder Hole’. This deep blue natural pool is a collapsed cavern with sheer walls that drops straight down into what is known as the crystalline Sleeping Pool. Besides a bucket-list worthy experience, the glacial blue color of the lake’s water provides the perfect backdrop for the most incredible photographs. It is also the site where visitors can enter the illuminated Dark Cave.
A visit to Chinhoyi Caves is a great opportunity to hear and learn about the historical significance of the caves as well as the folklore that surrounds this mysterious place. Chinhoyi is a popular destination for technical scuba divers.
#9 The Great Zimbabwe National Monument & Masvingo
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Zimbabwe National Monument is located approximately a four-hour drive south of Harare or east of Bulawayo (two of Zimbabwe’s largest towns). Regarded as one of Zimbabwe’s top tourist attractions, the Great Zimbabwe National Monument protects the remains of Great Zimbabwe, the capital of the historic Kingdom of Zimbabwe and the most important stone ruins south of the Sahara. Built between the 11th and 15th centuries, these 700-year-old ruins crumble and crack under the sun, revealing tales of grave history and the nation’s old Shona-speaking folk.
The ruins cover a vast area, including a hilltop acropolis which once housed kings and chiefs. Making it quite an enthralling historical landmark to visit and explore on your trip to Zimbabwe. The valley surrounding the Great Zimbabwe National Monument is scattered with the ruins of more humble dwellings, all of which were built using perfectly cut granite blocks. As various artifacts such as porcelain from China and Arab coins from the East African coast have been discovered at this very site, it suggests that Great Zimbabwe was once a powerful and wealthy center of trade.
Some 20 kilometers away from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Great Zimbabwe is where you’ll find Masvingo. Situated neatly on the edge of the Mutirikwi National Park, Masvingo is the ultimate destination for keen adventure travelers and thrill seekers looking to explore and discover as it has plenty in the way of outdoor exploration up its sleeve. It is also regarded as one of the prime drop off points, welcoming VIP tourists and travelers to the deeper reaches of Zimbabwe, as they make their way through to the southern edge of the country.
#10 Matusadona National Park
A relic of the former state of Rhodesia, Matusadona National Park clings to the southern banks of Lake Kariba, on the Zimbabwean side of the great water body. After becoming subsumed by Zimbabwe following the various upheavals, the area retained its protected status and established itself as one of the top tourist attractions in Zimbabwe.
One of Matusadona National Park’s main allures is that the whole region is beautifully untouched and untrodden. This makes it the perfect African wilderness escape for those seeking an off-the-beaten-track safari adventure. In addition to its vast diversity of wildlife, the majestic Cape buffalo and African elephant are by far the two most popular wildlife species you can look forward to seeing when visiting Matusadona National Park.
The nearby water of Kariba provides ample grazing lands which has only flourished since the creation of the Kariba Dam. This allows ungulates such as giraffes, hippos, rhinos, zebras, wildebeest, aardvark, and an incredible array of antelope (to mention merely a few), and predators alike to thrive along its fringes.
Kariba is also known as one of the best places in the world to catch tiger fish, as well as for its remarkable sightings of hippos, crocodiles, and vast birdlife. The lake’s islands offer ample opportunities for game viewing with the most rewarding wildlife area being none other than Matusadona National Park.
Regarded as one of Kenya’s top parks to visit for both first-time and avid safari-goers, the Aberdare National Park is a fairly small national park located in Kenya’s cool central highlands along the Great Rift Valley. Aberdare National Park boasts two unique landscapes; a moorland plateau and areas of dense rainforest and lush mountainous regions of valleys, rivers, waterfalls, and forests.
The Aberdare National Park offers a totally different safari experience to the better-known, open savannah parks of Kenya. When you visit the Aberdare on safari, you’ll not only enjoy unique and spectacular scenery, you’ll also experience excellent game viewing.
The Aberdare National Park is well located and easy to get to, making it a great addition to your Kenyan safari itinerary.
With so much to see, do, explore, and experience, here are some of the top reasons why you should visit Aberdare National Park in Kenya.
Highlights of visiting Aberdare National Park in Kenya
- Home to the Big 5
- Has the second largest black rhino population
- In Kenya’s Central Highlands, it has a unique range of moors and tropical forests
- Much cooler and more pleasant climate than many of the other parks
- Chance to see rare forest animals like the bongo antelope, Colobus monkey, black leopard
- Photographic hides close to salt licks and waterholes get you close to big game
- Year-round safari destination with excellent game viewing
Abundant Wildlife & Rare Game
Naturally, wildlife viewing is one of the primary reasons to plan an African safari adventure. Aberdare National Park boasts a vast diversity and robust population of wildlife. Avid wildlife enthusiasts will have the pleasure of seeing every member of the renowned African Big 5, elephants, lion, leopard, buffalo, and rhino in their natural habitat, with sightings of elephant and buffalo almost guaranteed. Aberdare National Park also has the second largest black rhino population.
In addition to the Big 5, Aberdare National Park is home to a distinct variety of remarkable and extremely rare wildlife species and forest-dwelling game. Some of the rare species you may be lucky enough to see include, the black serval, the black leopard, the black-and-white Colobus monkey, skyes monkey, golden cat, giant forest hog, the nocturnal greater galago, Harvey’s red duiker, and the eastern bongo, the country’s most elusive antelope that lives in the bamboo forests.
If you time your trip to Kenya’s Aberdare National Park to coincide with the dry season, you’ll be able to witness the bountiful abundance of wildlife congregating at the waterholes, as well as the rare black leopard and black rhinos if you’re lucky.
Exceptional Bird Watching
Undoubtedly one of the top reasons why you should visit Aberdare National Park in Kenya is its prolific birdlife and bird watching opportunities. The moorlands and forests of Aberdare National Park are home to over 290 species of birds. Some of the less common bird species avid birders can look forward to spotting at Aberdare include, the rare scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird, Hartlaub’s turaco, Red necked Spurfowls, and the Aberdare cisticola, which is entirely endemic to the region.
As many of these remarkable bird species can be found at higher altitudes like mountain peaks, be sure to pack some powerful binoculars for a satisfying bird watching experience.
One of the many great things about Aberdare National Park is the fact that it is considered to be more of a year-round safari destination compared to other national parks and reserves in Kenya. This is due to its mountainous area which can experience both mist and rain all year long.
While it is possible to enjoy an exceptional and exciting safari experience at the Aberdare National Park throughout the year, the drier months of January and February and June to September are typically the best times to visit, especially when it comes to game viewing. The dry season is also the perfect time for those looking to explore the park more extensively, such as avid hikers.
Dry season highlights include (June – September):
- It is mostly sunny and there is less rain
- Large herds of animals congregate around the waterholes allowing for exceptional wildlife sightings
- It is the best time for hiking and exploring the moorland zone at higher altitude
- Driving around the park is easier
Wet season highlights include (October – May):
- Bird watching is excellent and migratory birds are present
- Park, hotels, reserves, and lodges are less crowded
- Low season rates apply
Downfalls to visiting Aberdare National Park during the wet season:
- Heavy rainfall can be a hinderance to wildlife sightings
- Wildlife visibility is low due to misty, rainy conditions
- Rainfall can interfere with game drives, hiking, bushwalks, and other safari experiences
Along with the exciting prospect of enjoying close encounters with wildlife and spotting rare and endemic birdlife, Aberdare National Park’s stunning scenery has captured the hearts of many. Boasting endless miles of woodlands, forests, swamps, and anthill-dotted plains, exploring Aberdare’s beautiful panoramic backdrops and unique landscapes are an adventure in itself.
Whether you’re walking or driving through the undulating savannah plains and picture-perfect African landscapes of Aberdare National Park, the vast range of scenic natural wonders and remarkable wildlife will provide you with endless photo opportunities to capture your experience.
Aberdares Mountains & Mount Kenya
Rising to 5,199m / 17,057ft high, Mount Kenya is the largest mountain in Kenya and the second tallest in Africa, topped only by the famous Kilimanjaro. Linked to the more westerly 3,999m Aberdare Mountain Range by an elevated grassy saddle, these two massifs represent extremes of geological antiquity. Both Mount Kenya and the Aberdares Mountains are protected within a national park.
The two mountains collectively support most of the country’s surviving Afro-montane forest and Afro-alpine moorland and share many ecological affinities. The Aberdares Mountains and Mount Kenya are host to an exceptional diversity of fauna, as well as all the iconic members of the African Big 5, alongside more localised forest species such as Sykes monkey, black‑and‑white colobus, Harvey’s red duiker, mountain antelope, and giant forest hogs.
Space, Privacy & Exclusivity
If you’re eager to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy a more exclusive safari experience in Kenya, Aberdare National Park is the ideal safari destination. As Aberdare does not see as many visitors compared to Kenya’s larger and more popular parks like the Masai Mara and Amboseli National Park, a trip to Aberdare National Park means you get to enjoy more space and privacy.
Positioned to provide true away-from-it-all indulgence, it will feel like you’ve escaped to your own piece of unspoiled African wilderness. The only ‘interruptions’ you’ll encounter are wandering elephants, curios giraffes, lions roaring at twilight, laughing hyenas, high-pitched bird calls, and, if you’re lucky, a leopard basking in the midday sun. This makes for an intimate and unforgettable one-on-one encounter with nature and a more fulfilling African safari experience.
Aberdare National Park is one of Kenya’s more historic wildlife parks with a profound colonial history. Well established lodges like Treetops and The Ark are not only regarded as two of the top safari lodges for first-time and avid safari-goers visiting Aberdare, but continues to boast about their illustrious guest lists from days gone by.
These historic treetop lodges gained overnight fame in 1952 when it hosted the young Princess Elizabeth on the very night that her father King George VI died, and she became the uncrowned Queen of the United Kingdom.
Kenya is regarded as one of the world’s most pristine African safari destinations. Home to some of the best – if not the best – parks, conservancies and game reserves in Africa, people travel to Kenya from all around the globe to experience one of the most unique African adventures.
To ensure you have the ultimate African safari experience when visiting Kenya, have a look at our ‘Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Kenya‘ blog for all the best places to go on your trip.
Kenya is regarded as one of the world’s most pristine African safari destinations. Home to some of the best – if not the best – parks, conservancies and game reserves in Africa, people travel to Kenya from all around the globe to experience one of the most unique African adventures. Kenya is known for its unspoiled and varied landscapes, remarkable conservation initiatives, high concentration of game, exceptional sightings, and a sensational diversity of wildlife. From the renowned African Big 5 to wildlife species that can only be found in this part of the world, it’s no surprise Kenya has been dubbed one of Africa’s top wildlife and safari destinations.
Boasting and endless variety of things to do and experience, here are the top 10 tourist attractions in Kenya.
#1 Masai Mara National Reserve
The world-renowned Masai Mara National Reserve is undoubtedly one of Kenya’s most remarkable reserves and safari destinations as well as the country’s most sought-after tourist attraction. The Masai Mara is a northern extension of Tanzania’s Serengeti, and is the site of the annual Great Wildebeest Migration which takes place from late July through to early October during which millions of wildebeest and thousands of zebra migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania. The Masai Mara’s Great Migration is regarded as one of the greatest wildlife spectacles and natural wonders to witness first-hand. By far the most anticipated part of this journey is the dramatic Mara River crossings that occur between July and September as the animals enter Kenya.
Along with millions of wildebeest and huge herds of zebra, antelopes and other grazers, this jaw-dropping spectacle is a magnet for predators. There is no better place to witness lion, leopard, and cheetah in double-quick time, helped by the open terrain and the cats’ ease around vehicles. The Masai Mara National Reserve is therefore one of the best places in Africa for big cat sightings.
#2 Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park is one of the top 10 tourist attractions in Kenya. Located close to the Tanzania border at the northern base of Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park is renowned for being the best place in Africa to get up-close to one of Africa’s largest members of the Big 5, elephants.
While Amboseli is considered relatively small, especially when compared to some of Kenya’s other reserves and parks such as the famous Masai Mara National Park, it remains a long-standing highlight of Kenya’s safari circuit. Well known for its high density of elephants, the Amboseli National Park forms the unfenced core of an 8,000 km2 ecosystem that includes large tracts of Maasai community land both in Kenya and across the border in Tanzania.
#3 Mount Kenya and Aberdares Mountains
Rising to 5,199m / 17,057ft high, Mount Kenya is the largest mountain in Kenya and the second tallest in Africa, topped only by the famous Kilimanjaro. Linked to the more westerly 3,999m Aberdare Range by an elevated grassy saddle, these two massifs represent extremes of geological antiquity. Both Mount Kenya and the Aberdares are protected within a national park. The two mountains collectively support most of the country’s surviving Afro-montane forest and Afro-alpine moorland and share many ecological affinities. These two iconic Kenyan attractions are host to an exceptional diversity of fauna, as well as all the beloved members of the African Big 5, alongside more localised forest species such as Sykes monkey, black‑and‑white colobus, Harvey’s red duiker, mountain antelope, and giant forest hogs.
Mount Kenya is essentially an extinct stratovolcano that erupted into existence approximately three million years ago when the East African Rift (part of the Great Rift Valley) opened up. Today Mount Kenya’s upper slopes are dominated by glaciers and rugged snowy peaks, and its lower slopes are covered in African rosewood trees and stunning forests of bamboo. The mountain runoff also provides water to millions of people in and around the area. Mount Kenya is therefore not only one of the top tourist attractions in Kenya, but one of the most beautiful places to visit too.
Keen travellers and avid adventurers eagerly hoping to summit Mount Kenya can either hike to Point Lenana, one of the three peaks, by taking the world’s highest via ferrata route, or opt to climb Batian Peak, the highest point on the mountain – however, this route requires skill and experience of technical climbing.
#4 Samburu National Reserve
Located in northern Kenya, Samburu National Reserve is regarded as one of the best wildlife and safari destinations in the country. Due to the Uaso Nyiro River that runs through it and the mixture of forest and grassland vegetation, Samburu National Reserve is known to attract a prolific and vast diversity of wildlife and birdlife. Within the reserve you’ll encounter lion, cheetah, leopard, elephants, buffalo, hippos, and countless other wildlife species, as well as over 450 species of birds. If you’re lucky, you may be fortunate enough to spot some of Kenya and Samburu National Park’s rare and remarkable sub-species such as the Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, East African oryx, packs of endangered wild dogs, and the gerenuk (long-necked antelope). Not to mention large numbers of Nile crocodile that call the Uaso Nyiro River their home.
This region of Kenya is also home to the Samburu people, distinctive tribes people famed for their many strands of brightly colored beaded jewellery.
#5 Lake Nakuru National Park
Lake Nakuru National Park is not only one of Kenya’s top tourist attractions to see and destinations to visit, but a true bird lover’s paradise. It is home to a vast number of bird species, most notably huge flocks of flamingos, with more than a million pink flamingos flocking to the shores of Lake Nakuru. Often called the greatest bird spectacle on earth, the flamingos are undoubtedly one of Kenya’s top attractions. Lake Nakuru is one of Kenya’s Rift Valley lakes, and the vast diversity of birds are attracted to the high levels of algae in the water. In addition to millions of flamingos, the beautiful African fish eagle, Verreaux’s eagle, pelicans, cormorants, the Goliath heron and hammerkops can frequently be spotted around the lake.
Along with Lake Nakuru’s prolific birdlife, Lake Nakuru National Park is known for its incredible sightings of white and black rhinos, lions, cheetahs, warthogs, giraffes, zebra, hippos, ostriches, and other wildlife species throughout the park.
#6 Tsavo National Park
Tsavo National Park is divided into Tsavo West and Tsavo East. Together, Tsavo’s two national parks make up the largest national park and protected wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. Located approximately10 hours’ drive from Nairobi, Tsavo National Park is more remote than Kenya’s other safari parks. This makes Tsavo perfect for those looking to experience a slightly off-the-beaten-track African safari adventure.
Extending over 21,812 km2, Tsavo National Park boasts a vast diversity of landscapes to explore as Tsavo West and Tsavo East are quite different in character. Tsavo West is known for its spectacular scenery with a rolling volcanic landscape, jagged black outcrops, solidified lava flows and tangled acacia woodlands overshadowed by Kilimanjaro on the southwest horizon. The larger and less developed Tsavo East has more open savannah than its western counterpart. The red-earth plains of Tsavo East also have stronger affiliations with the semi-arid badlands of northern Kenya, despite being alleviated by the presence of the perennial Galana River.
Being the largest conservation area and protected wildlife sanctuaries in Kenya, Tsavo National Park protects significant populations of wildlife and the African Big 5. Both parks boast an unrestricted wilderness atmosphere that will appeal to both first-time and repeat safari-goers. Tsavo National Park is home to a remarkable diversity of wildlife and birdlife. From all the members of the renowned Big 5, elephants, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo, to incredible sightings of giraffe, cheetah, serval cat species, oryx, gazelle, antelope, stripped hyena, impala, and over 500 species of birds – Tsavo will definitely not disappoint.
The sight of elephants spraying the blue waters of the Galana River on themselves is one Tsavo National Park highlight you’ll cherish forever. Tsavo East is also home to two iconic trees, the baobab and the doum palm.
#7 Hell’s Gate National Park
Hell’s Gate National Park is undoubtedly one of the top 10 tourist attractions in Kenya. Once a tributary of a prehistoric lake that fed early humans in the Rift Valley, Hell’s Gate National Park is a tiny park named after a narrow break in the cliffs. Regarded as one of Kenya’s hidden gems, Hell’s Gate National Park is known for its steep cliffs, dramatic scenery, gorges, and basalt columns.
While it may be one of Kenya’s smaller national parks, it is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including lion, leopards, cheetahs and so much more. Besides Hell’s Gate National Park’s vast scenery, landscapes, and wildlife, it is unique among Kenya’s wildlife parks and safari destinations as you are allowed to walk or cycle through the park without a guide present – This gives you the opportunity to tick a thrilling adventure off your African safari bucket-list.
#8 Rift Valley Lakes
Kenya’s Rift Valley is located northwest of Nairobi. It boasts sheer basaltic cliffs, and a classic East African landscape of open savannah, studded with jagged volcanic outcrops and surrounded with beautiful lakes.
The Rift Valley and its surrounding lakes (Rift Valley Lakes) are world-renowned for its vast and prolific birdlife. The most sought-after attraction and main attention-grabber for birding enthusiasts from across the world are undoubtedly the million-strong flocks of flamingos that frequently amass at saline lakes Nakuru and Bogoria. In addition to the lakes of Nakuru and Bogoria, the freshwater lakes of Naivasha and Baringo are not only two of the most beautiful lakes and must-visit spots for sensational bird sightings, but top contenders for the title and accolade of ‘top general birding hotspot outside the national park system’.
While large mammals are less abundant in Kenya’s Rift Valley than the likes of larger national parks such as the Masai Mara and Amboseli National Park, it still offers visitors incredible wildlife sightings. In addition to marvelling at the millions of magnificent flamingos that frequently amass at Lake Bogoria and Lake Nakuru, Lake Nakuru National Park is regarded as one of the best places and safari destinations in East Africa to find both black and white rhino.
To top it off, Hell’s Gate National Park, Crescent Island, and Green Crater Lake Sanctuary offers visitors, and avid safari and wildlife lovers the exciting opportunity to see large wildlife species on foot in their natural habitat.
#9 Nairobi National Park
Nairobi National Park is regarded as one of the attractions in Kenya. Located a mere 10 minutes’ drive from the center of Nairobi, Nairobi National Park is undoubtedly one of Kenya’s most accessible and popular national parks to visit, with only a fence separating the park’s prolific wildlife from the metropolis. Despite being relatively smaller than some of Kenya’s other sought-after and sizeable national parks, Nairobi National Park boasts a vast and varied wildlife population, promising spectacular wildlife sightings and encounters.
To add some extra anticipation and excitement to your Nairobi National Park wildlife experience, thousands of migrating wildebeest and zebra can be seen gathering in the park during the dry season. The Nairobi National Park is also one of Kenya’s most successful rhino sanctuaries.
#10 Laikipia Plateau & Conservancy
Once dominated by livestock ranches in the colonial era, the immense Laikipia Plateau has since been transformed into one of East Africa’s finest and most exclusive wildlife destinations. Overseen by the non-profit Laikipia Wildlife Foundation, the several dozen private and community-owned sanctuaries of the vast Laikipia Plateau now function as Kenya’s second largest wildlife sanctuary and conservancy, encompassing 9,500km2 in total, after Tsavo National Park.
In addition to its exclusivity, remarkable conservation status and size, the Laikipia Plateau is home to an incredibly diverse wildlife population. As the plateau is transitional to the central highlands and northern deserts, it provides an important stronghold for wildlife rarities such as the endangered African wild dog, Grevy’s zebra, and black rhino. It also supports various dry-country wildlife species such as the greater and lesser kudu, gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, and Beisa oryx, along with substantial populations of leopard, lion, and cheetah.
There are a number of extraordinary sanctuaries and conservancies located within Laikipia Plateau. Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a Big Five conservancy found in the foothills of Mount Kenya, is one of the prime sanctuaries of Laikipia Plateau. Ol Pejeta Conservancy is renowned for its exceptional conservation initiatives. Its highlights include the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa; a population of southern white rhino; a refuge for the last two northern white rhinos left in the world (Ol Pejeta Conservancy is where the last male northern white rhino, Sudan, died in 2018; the last females of the sub-species still live at Ol Pejeta and are protected around the clock). The Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary can also be found in the Laikipia Conservancy.
The Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary houses orphaned and abandoned chimpanzees as well as chimpanzees rescued from the black market.
Visiting Laikipia Plateau and its incredible sanctuaries and conservancies, especially Ol Pejeta Conservancy, is not only one of the top 10 things to do in Kenya, as well as one of Kenya’s top attractions, but a great destination to learn more about the relationship between people and wildlife and the various challenges faced in the conservation industry.
Visitors and wildlife lovers will also have the opportunity to enjoy a range of exciting experiences such as lion tracking, exhilarating bush walks, and thrilling night drives and safaris.
Are you thinking of going on a safari holiday with your kids, but you’re not sure what to expect? A safari might not be the first activity that comes to mind when planning a getaway with young children, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better experience that exposes your little ones to nature, wildlife, and traditional African cultures. With that being said, it can be challenging to find family-friendly lodges or resorts that specifically cater to families.
To ensure you have an unforgettable African safari experience, we’ve put together everything you need to know to plan your perfect family safari holiday.
Best African country for a safari with kids
While Africa offers several pristine safari experiences in various countries, South Africa is undoubtedly the top destination for a safari with children. Not only is it home to an exceptional range of national parks and conservation areas, but it is also easily accessible and boasts several malaria-free reserves. As many children aren’t able to take malaria prophylactics (especially when they are very young), it is crucial to avoid high malaria zones. South Africa is almost entirely malaria-free, with the renowned Madikwe Safari Lodge being one of the country’s top malaria-free reserves.
South Africa has the best infrastructure, with a wide variety of safari accommodation options and family-friendly lodges. Most of these lodges have dedicated kids’ clubs, children play areas and exciting safari programmes. These safari programmes include a variety of adventures and “mini-safaris,” introducing kids to the bush in a safe and regulated way. Top family-friendly lodges and camps across South Africa are recognising the importance of having dedicated safaris for kids and are even offering specialist junior ranger programmes. These programmes give children the opportunity to learn more about Africa’s wildlife and biodiversity through guided, safe and age-appropriate activities.
Some of the family-friendly lodges that should be on your safari travel bucket list are Madikwe Safari Lodge; Marataba Safari Lodge; Kambaku Safari Lodge; Nottens Safari Lodge; Rockfig Timbavati, and Black Rhino Safari Lodge.
**TIP: When planning your family safari holiday, we highly recommend taking the time to do thorough research. This will help you find the perfect lodge that best suits you and your family’s needs. Take note that some lodges have a minimum age restriction ranging anywhere between 4 and 12 years old.
Safari with kids
One of the most frequently asked questions is whether you can take kids on a safari. The short answer is yes, definitely! However, there are several important factors to consider when planning a family safari trip.
Lodges have age restrictions
It is important to note that not all safari activities are open to children of all ages. Most lodges and safari camps have age restrictions when it comes to their safari experiences and game drives. The majority of game lodges do not allow children under the age of 5 on game vehicles. Some lodges extend their age restriction to 6 – 8 years old. This is dependent on the specific game lodge and their set of safety regulations and guidelines.
If you are travelling with young children (under the permitted age for a safari or game drive) and would like to go on a safari, you may be able to book a private safari vehicle for you and your family. Provided that the lodge you are staying at offers this service.
Alternatively, almost all of South Africa’s family-friendly lodges offer excellent babysitting services while you go on safari. Many safari camps and lodges have also developed tailored children’s activity programmes and some even have a dedicated guide specially allocated to families with young children. For kids aged between 4 and 8, these programmes consist of a guide who keeps the children entertained with a range of activities around the camp. Some activities include storytelling, painting/drawing animals, birding and bug collecting.
Walking safaris and guided bush walks are other activities where the age restriction can vary and is often dependant on the prevalence of dangerous game in the area/reserve. The general age restriction for walking safaris is 16 years old.
**Tip: While the general age restriction pertaining to kids taking part in safari experiences applies to most game lodges, it can still vary from one lodge to the next. It is recommended that you do your research for full clarification regarding their specific age restrictions and guidelines.
Private game-drive vehicles
Many lodges ask that families with young children book private game-drive vehicles which enables you to enjoy a tailor-made safari. An extra bonus is that it gives the whole family the opportunity to enjoy a bucket-list worthy African safari experience.
Pricing and discounts for children
With regards to pricing, most game lodges and safari camps consider anyone over the age of 12 to be an adult. This is not to be confused with the minimum age restrictions pertaining to game drives and safari experiences. There are very few game lodges and safari camps that offer discounts to children over the age of 12, and even children under the age of 12 need to be sharing with an adult to receive a discounted rate.
Proximity to wildlife
Some policies restrict how close guides with young passengers onboard can get to predators, especially in open vehicles. This means your viewing of the big cats, such as lions, leopards and cheetahs, and perhaps even other unpredictable game like buffalo may be very restricted or distant if there are children present on the safari.
Many lodges are unfenced
Many of South Africa’s lodges and safari camps are unfenced to offer guests an unparalleled and immersive African wilderness experience. An unfenced lodge or camp allows all wildlife – including predators like lions, leopards and hyenas that are very active at night – to wander through. If you are travelling with very young children, you may want to stay at a fully fenced lodge.
If you’ve fallen in love with the bushveld after an African safari experience, why not consider a career in the safari industry? This growing tourism field offers exciting opportunities for those with a passion for nature. Combine that with a personality which easily connects with people, and you are set for an exciting career in the African wild!