Top 10 African safari experiences

The array of wildlife-watching opportunities in Africa is dizzying. So how do you pick your perfect safari? BBC Wildlife asked the experts.
 
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Cheetahs on the plain
 
1. Best for big cats: Olare Orok Conservancy, Kenya
 
At a time when lion numbers are declining, it is heartening to find somewhere that is bucking the trend. Since Olare Orok was founded in 2006, the local feline population has increased dramatically, and one of the joys of staying here is getting to recognise them as individuals. There’s no mistaking Nguro, one of the Ridge Pride lionesses – her Maasai name means ‘short tail’. Nor does it take long to identify Mzee and Lolalai, grizzled Moniko Pride males.
 
Another bonus is that low-density tourism rules, so you can usually watch big cats with no other vehicles around – something that is much harder in the National Reserve. Brian Jackman
 
Now you do it
  • Stay at Porini Lion Camp, one of only three camps with exclusive game-viewing rights on this private wildlife reserve. Details from Gamewatchers Safaris. Call 0870 471 7122.
  • Go any time except April and May, which is the rainy season
 
Also recommended
 
 
2. Best for canoeing: The Zambezi, Zambia
 
Few tasks concentrate the mind so much as steering a canoe between a pair of hippos submerged in a channel of the Lower Zambezi. Stick to the shallows, and supposedly you’ll be in no danger. But the problem is you don't often see signposts reading ‘Shallow water’ or ‘Here be hippos’.
 
However, canoeing the Zambezi is mostly a serene activity, and moments will be etched on your memory forever – such as floating within 10m of a pride of lions. It is one of Africa’s most compelling experiences, offering the immediacy of being right there, on the river, without an engine in earshot or a window frame in sight. Philip Briggs
 
Now you do it
  • Sausage Tree Camp offers one-hour to one-day canoe trips
  • All-inclusive packages can be booked through Expert Africa. Call 020 8232 9777.
  • The best time to visit is June to September, the dry winter months.
 
Also recommended
 
 
3. Best for volunteering: Tuli Block, Botswana
 
Getting up-close and personal with elephants takes on new meaning with the Tuli Conservation Project. Working as a volunteer, your job will be to develop ID cards and record behaviour for the 1,400 or so elephants found in the study area.
 
This is one of southern Africa’s last free-roaming populations, and research into their movements is key to the success of the Limpopo-Shashe Transfrontier Conservation Area that allows wildlife to migrate between Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Other activities focus on recording predator and baboon behaviour, game counts and habitat restoration. William Gray
 
Now you do it
 
Also recommended
  • Frontier has a wildlife conservation project in Tanzania’s Kilombero Valley. Call 020 7613 2422.
  • Earthwatch has a cheetah conservation project in Namibia. Call 01865 318838.
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