5 best safari destinations

Whether you want to witness one of the great migrations, go in search of Indian big cats or watch hippos, crocodiles or herds of elephants, these are our favourite safaris.

BBC Wildlife Magazine travel supplement, March 2014.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The blue wildebeest isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing of creatures. Looking like a drab, skinny cow with a mournful face and scraggy beard, it’s certainly no pin-up.

But the sight of 1.3 million of them trundling on an endless circuit around the Serengeti is almost overwhelming, especially when they are joined in their great migration by more than 200,000 plains zebras and hordes of antelopes. And where these creatures go, predators follow.

The Seronera Valley in the south of Serengeti National Park is one of Africa’s premier leopard-spotting zones, while lion prides, spotted hyenas and cheetahs feast on the plentiful prey across the savannah of the Serengeti and Kenya’s adjacent Maasai Mara.


Pench National Park, India

This part of India was reputedly the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, and this reserve’s undulating teak forests are classic tiger-tracking territory.

Stake out a water hole by the Pench River for the chance to encounter Shere Khan – or, indeed, Baloo: sloth bears amble through the trees.

Leopards also lurk here, as do dholes (Indian wild dogs), gaur and wolves.


Kafue National Park, Zambia

Bigger isn’t always better, of course, but Kafue is the poster-boy for plus-sized safari destinations.

Zambia’s largest national park – also among the world’s heftiest – covers 22,400km2; in international scientific units that’s about one Wales, with an array of habitats and animal inhabitants to match.

In the far north, the Busanga Plains and adjacent swamps are antelope heaven (the park hosts 16 species), densely packed with huge herds of red lechwe, plus roan, oribi and others.

Night drives bag leopard sightings galore, and lions here are renowned for their tree-climbing prowess.

Elsewhere, rivers are lumpy with hippos and crocs, while the forests around them host Pel’s fishing owls.


Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

There’s one main reason to beat around the bush in Yala: leopards. Densities of the big cat are among the highest in the world, and early morning or evening trips into the park claim healthy success rates.

Asian elephants, sloth bears and more than 200 bird species, including six Sri Lankan endemics, may all make it onto your ticklist.


Amboseli, Kenya

Want to get close to wild elephants? Then this could be your best bet.

With a population of about 1,500 individuals in just under 400km2, the photographic opportunities here are plentiful. And with Kilimanjaro in the background it’s one of the few places to capture both bull elephant and snow-capped mountain in the same photo.

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