Find Your Favorite Animal in Africa

On safari, a healthy dose of luck is always welcome. But to lay eyes on the iconic animals of your dreams, it’s best to find out which locations in Africa they most prefer. Bushtracks Trip Planners have unbeatable knowledge of the best game-viewing areas – and the luxury custom safaris to match.

I have to see wild dogs

Let’s be honest: Wild or “painted” dogs don’t come when you whistle. But one of the best places to see them – and where they den regularly – is in Moremi and the greater Okavango area of Botswana, including Linyanti and Savute. The charismatic, big-eared predators are highly endangered, and to see a pack trot by on full alert, all senses engaged in the hunt, is one of Africa’s great wildlife experiences. Another extraordinary species in the area: Hippos, some might argue, rule the Okavango. Water is their medium, and pods keep the myriad Okavango channels open by barreling new pathways through flooded vegetation. When to go: June, when wild dogs start to den, until September. This coincides with higher floodwaters in the Okavango, and lower air temperatures. The water draws game from the entire region – and you’ll be able to float about in a mokoro (dugout canoe). Also try: Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, and Hwange, Zimbabwe, which is home to around 160 dogs watched over by the non-profit organization Painted Dog Conservation.

Giraffes top my list

These lovely herbivores with purple tongues and endless eyelashes are startlingly tall up close. One place to appreciate them fully is on a giraffe safari in Namibia, where the vegetation is sparse and giraffes are often encountered at waterholes along with other animals. Namibia has two long-limbed species, Southern giraffes and Angolan giraffes. Other extraordinary species in the area: Black rhinos, grumpy tanks of the bush, are doing better in Namibia than anywhere else on earth. “Ghost” elephants, white with Etosha dust, are also photographers’ favorites. When to go: Teeming waterholes are a feature of the dry winter months: June to October. July and August can be too crowded. Safari veterans looking for birds might prefer the quieter, greener months of March to April. Also Try: Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, where rare Rothschild’s giraffes are so habituated, they poke their head through the first-floor bedroom windows and beg for snacks from the breakfast table.

I must see wildebeest

A Masai Mara safari is the way to go. Some 1.5 million wildebeest wash across Tanzania to Kenya and back during the Great Migration, justifiably called the Greatest Show on Earth. They go in search of sweet new grass, and must cross croc-infested rivers and escape numerous predators on route. Also a stronghold for: Cape buffaloes, giraffes, elephants, zebras! When to go: The migration is triggered by rains and happens in stages from July to October. It can get crowded in August and September, but a Bushtracks Trip Planner will know of small, intimate camps. Alternatively, consider quiet March, when thunderstorms wash the plains and baby antelope are wobbling to their feet.

Elephants are my totem animal…

Then perhaps you should see them in the remote stronghold of Mana Pools, Zimbabwe, where adults are sometimes photographed standing on their hind legs, reaching into trees with their trunks for fruits. This place of dappled shade on the edge of the lazy Zambezi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and elephant safaris can be done by boat or on a walking safari. Also a stronghold for: Cape buffaloes – bovines with attitude – plus wild dogs and Pel’s fishing owls. When to go: Access can be limited or impossible in the wet season (November to March).

I can’t leave without seeing chimpanzees and monkeys

A custom safari can take you into Kibale Forest, Uganda or Mahale Mountains, Tanzania. Kibale is home to Africa’s largest concentration of chimpanzees, whereas Mahale has a habituated clan and guides know each chimp and its story. Chimp-trekking, sadly, is not accessible to the less mobile traveler; hikes can be long and vigorous and chimps don’t often sit still! A chimp safari can (and should) be combined with a gorilla-watching destination: In Uganda that means Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Other extraordinary species: Red Colobus and blue, red-tailed and vervet monkeys all frequent Mahale. When to go: Most prefer the drier months of December to February or June and July in Kibale, and June to October in Mahale.

Where have all the rhinos gone?

Since the poaching wars began, pinpointing rhino whereabouts is frowned upon. But safari newbies desperate to see these beleaguered, prehistoric creatures up close can do so on foot in Livingstone, Zambia – where you’re practically guaranteed a sighting after a mere stroll. They have armed rangers caring for them, so they are used to people, and will continue drinking or grazing as you watch from a short distance away. Also a stronghold for: African finfoot, highly secretive aquatic birds that skulk along the banks of the Zambezi. When to go: Year-round viewing for rhinos; Victoria Falls is at its rushing peak from April to June.

Oh please let us see a leopard…

Leopard sightings can seldom be guaranteed – although a Kruger National Park safari comes close, particularly in the private reserves bordering the enormous park where populations are densest. Sabi Sand is justifiably famous, and its spotted cats are particularly obliging. Also a stronghold for: The rest of the Big Five, lovely giraffes, and hippos. When to go: Year-round, although November to February can be extremely warm. The highly-rated guides won’t be daunted by thick vegetation in summer months.

Incredible game viewing in Africa

Africa is blessed with diverse habitats which certain species favor – but all teem with glorious life. Bushtracks luxury African safari tours ensure you’re always in the right place, at the right time.

The first version of this article was posted on 04 Mar 2020 at 4:27 PM.