Deciding on Southern or East Africa for Your Holiday Destination
Both destinations offer fantastic experiences and deciding is not always easy. Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia) is more diverse offering modern cities, good infrastructure, convenient direct flight connectivity, safari, Victoria Falls, winelands, excellent cuisine, culture, history, marine experiences (whales, sharks, penguins), flowers, deserts, shopping, golf and beaches.
The game varieties and animal densities (especially in respect of The Big 5) at southern Africa reserves are impressive, as is the diversity of landscapes and superb accommodations.
Kenya and Tanzania are the iconic safari destinations immortalized by the likes of Hemingway and several classic movies. It is the original home of safari and reserves like the Masai Mara, the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater have long been considered essential to the classic safari. In East Africa, it is predominantly about safari, although the destination also offers authentic cultural experiences as well as excellent beach holidays. And, of course, Rwanda boasts growing populations of Mountain Gorillas, golden monkeys, blue monkeys, chimpanzees and a variety of other primates. All these animals can be enjoyed from an ever-increasing array of excellent lodges.
Factors to consider when making your choice:
Southern Africa safari
- A great diversity of landscapes, from the Namib Desert in Namibia to the Okavango Delta in Botswana
- With good accessibility in and around southern Africa, it is somewhat of an easier introduction to safari than East Africa
- Easily combined with a trip to one of the world’s most popular cities, Cape Town, or an Indian Island resort
- Visiting Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World
- High animal concentrations and low density of visitors means you encounter nothing but wildlife and wilderness
- Intimate safaris in private concession areas where animals can be followed into the bush allow for ‘close-up’ game experiences
- Night game drives provide a different perspective and allows one to see the nocturnal creatures
- Open safari vehicles for easier game viewing
- Zambia and Zimbabwe, in particular, are renowned for exceptional guided walking safaris
- A wide range of accommodation from five-star luxury to more rustic camps
- A unique variety of ways to view wildlife – from a mokoro (dug-out canoe), the back of an elephant or on horse-back
- Malaria-free safari destinations
East African safari
- The ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ – the annual wildebeest migration involving millions of animals
- Classic postcard African scenery of rolling savannahs and acacia trees
- Large numbers of game on the open plains game as well as predators on the open plains
- Views of, or the chance to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain
- Easy to combine Kenya and Tanzania (and even tack on a beach visit to Zanzibar) in a single trip
- Local cultures of the Maasai who maintain a traditional way of life
- Many exciting new areas opening up in northern Kenya and southern Tanzania
- Gorillas and chimpanzees in the mountains and forest areas
- A beautiful coastline makes the region ideal for a ‘bush and beach’ vacation
- Relatively short international flights into Nairobi, Kenya
Both destinations offer an exceptional holiday and your choice will depend on your personal interests, time available for the trip and travel dates. Should time permit, the option of combining both East and southern Africa with a range of new flight options between the destinations of late makes this a feasible option too.
If you have decided to travel to southern Africa, but are unsure as to which destinations to include and if safari is high on your list of priorities, we would certainly recommend including visits to both Botswana and the Kruger region.
Botswana is a truly pristine wilderness area – wild and unspoilt. With the lush and fertile Okavango Delta, the country features fabulous wide-open spaces, a variety of terrain – from permanent land areas to seasonal wetlands and permanent water. This variety of terrain, besides offering wonderful scenery, attracts a diversity of wildlife from land predators, general game, crocodiles, hippo and superb birdlife. Botswana has the added appeal of offering a diversity of game activities – 4×4 game drives, boat rides, mokoro (canoe) trips, walking safaris and helicopter excursions.
Botswana’s wildlife area is immense and the tourist lodges and camps relatively few, so one encounters very few other vehicles whilst on safari. Botswana also boasts large herds of elephant and buffalo. An added attraction is the opportunity to visit the mysterious and compelling Kalahari Desert and Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, the latter whose winter landscapes are like nothing on earth!
Whilst some of the high-end camps offer air-conditioning, many properties operate on solar power and run overhead and/or pedestal fans in the rooms. In the height of summer, clients sensitive to high temperatures, or the elderly, may find the lack of air-conditioning challenging, so this is a consideration when selecting your choice of accommodations.
Kruger National Park / Sabi Sand Game Reserve
The private game reserves in the Sabi Sand (on the western boundary of the Kruger) and the handful of private concessions within the Kruger Park have become world-renowned not only for their excellent Big 5 sightings but also their very luxurious lodges. The density of predators in these reserves, and the ability to find these animals is arguably the best in Africa. Never a guarantee, but the likelihood of seeing Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino during a 2-3 night stay, are very high.
There are no restricting fences between the Kruger Park and Sabi Sand Reserve allowing the wildlife to roam freely between the two game preserves. Two perennial rivers, the Sabi and the Sand flow through the Sabi Sand Reserve, sustaining the diverse fauna and flora of the area.
Night drives and dining in the bush, which are not always possible in Botswana, are popular features in the Kruger reserves. Much of the accommodation in Botswana is tented (albeit very luxurious), whilst the Kruger offers mostly bricks & mortar lodges. These different types of accommodations also make these two game destinations very complementary.
Most of the lodges in the Greater Kruger National Park offer air-conditioning in their rooms.
In terms of the itinerary order, it does not make much difference whether one visits Botswana or Kruger first, but many of our trips include Botswana first, a 2-night break in the Victoria Falls area and then ending at a Kruger lodge. This works well, because, if, for example, you did not see one of the Big 5 (like leopard or Rhino) in Botswana, the chances are excellent that you will find this in the Kruger.