You Can't Find That in the Zoo!

There is no place in the world where you can (safely) get as up close and personal with the animals as you do in Africa. The continent famous for its safaris and game parks gives visitors the opportunity to view animals in their absolute natural environment, interacting with each other and their surroundings - an experience that's full magnificence can only be felt through a first hand encounter. 

The animals:

The "Big Five" - elephant, rhinoceros (either black or white), leopard, buffalo and lion were chosen based on the difficulty in hunting them, rather than their size as the name may indicate.  They are often the animals most sought after on a game drive or safari, though all five may not reside in every park. Leopards are the trickiest to spot, as they often hide high in trees and tend to be solitary. Other animals frequently spotted include hippos, wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, warthogs, multiple species of antelope, wild dogs, baboons and other primates, hyenas, jackals and hundreds of species of birds 

Getting the best view

There are numerous parks throughout Africa where game can be viewed. Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa have the most well-renown game regions.  The top 10 game spots include:

Kruger National Park (South Africa) - boasts the largest variety of game viewing in Africa with over 146 mammals, including the "big five".

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (South Africa) - one of the largest conservation areas in the world, with over 3.6 million hectares of red sand dunes and sparse vegetation.    

Etosha National Park (Namibia) - the largest game region in Namibia, it offers unique viewing at its waterholes.    

Moremi Wildlife Reserve & the Okavango Delta (Botswana) - home to a high concentration of predators including lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena.   

Chobe National Park, Linyanti & Savute (Botswana) - these stunning natural surroundings are home to the largest population of elephants in Africa.   

Lower Zambezi & Mana Pools National Parks (Zambia and Zimbabwe) - the most scenic game park in Zimbabwe, it's home to the big five and much more.    

South Luangwa National Park (Zambia) - the country's largest population of hippos and crocodiles live here.    

Selous Game Reserve (Tanzania) - eastern and southern African wildlife reside in the woodlands and sandbanks near the Rufiji River. 

Serengeti - Masai Mara Ecosystem with Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Tanzania and Kenya) - one of the greatest and most varied collections of wildlife in the world. 

Ruwenzoris National Park (Uganda) - unique from the other parks, Ugandas parks are famous for their gorillas, chimpanzees and other primates, both familiar and rare.    


Spotlight on Chobe                                                                                                    

Chobe National Park is located in northern Botswana on the Chobe River, close to borders of Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Unlike most other game regions, Botswana does not fence their national parks, so visitors truly see the animals as they roam without any restrictions or manipulation for better game viewing. I had the incredible opportunity to spend three days there, during which I enjoyed three boat tours along the Chobe - one at sunset and two in the mid morning, three sunrise game drives and two in the late afternoon/early evening. The scenery was breathtaking, the atmosphere one of the most serene I have experienced and the animals simply magical. While I could not possibly describe everything that I saw here, the highlights include: an elephant that came so close to our jeep that we could have touched him (we did not, and I do not advise others to touch the animals); two lionesses playing on the banks of the river and later stalking a jackal, warthogs snacking on the grass outside of our room at the lodge, and watching a lightening storm crackle through the night sky from the treehouse deck. The Chobe Game Lodge itself provided luxurious yet not over-the-top accommodations, and the price included all of the above-mentioned tours, three meals a day, laundry service and a friendly, welcoming and helpful staff. For further details on my Chobe experience visit my blog, "Close Encounters of the Elephant Kind".