Africa is an exciting place to be these days. The continent that is filled with natural beauty is also filled with natural resources. Lots of them.
Natural resources fuel booming economies such as that of Angola's, where I've lived for the past half year. People are flocking to Angola for work, especially Portuguese who are emigrating by the tens of thousands.
These days, Africa isn't only a place for natural beauty but it's also a place for opportunities. But if you want to see the natural beauty that Africa is traditionally known for and have an adventure packed experience, where should you go?
Africa's safaris really differ from country to country with landscapes such as desert plains or lush forest. What kind of adventure are you looking for?
Below is a list of some of the most famous national parks in Africa as well as one that's making a comeback - Angola's Kissama National Park which I had the pleasure of visiting.
Kissama National Park
Angola's national park, called Parque Nacional do Quiçama (in Portuguese) is the site of a modern day Noah's Arc story. Angola was ravaged by civil war for 27 years during which much of the wildlife had been killed. Now that the country is finally at peace, Operation Noah's Ark brought pairs of animals from neighboring Botswana and reintroduced them to the national park. The operation has been a success and I was lucky enough to see its progress with a family of giraffes, a family of elephants, and herds of zebras, deer, and antelope.
Kissama is located right outside of Angola's capital of Luanda. At this moment, there appears to be just one tour company offering safari trips to Kissama but it's an awesome one! Tours to Kissama not only drive through the bush in search of wildlife, they also include a boat ride on the majestic River Kwanza where monkeys make their way toward the water and birds fly overhead, and a stop at Miradouro de Lua ("Lunar Viewpoint" in Portuguese).
Kissama was an awesome initiation into wildlife safaris for a gal whose only other "safari" experience was the "Wild Safari" at Six Flags in New Jersey! In real game parks, animals don't appear on command with giraffes sticking their heads in your window or monkeys jumping on your car's hood but it's actually really exciting to go out and search for them in the wild where they roam free.
Now I'm hooked and can't wait to check out some of Africa's most popular national parks. Let's take a look at what they are.
Botswana's Chobe National Park
Botswana is semi arid and desert, providing vast areas for animals to roam freely.
Chobe National Park is located in the northwestern part of the country and known for its large variety of wildlife. The largest elephant population in Africa both in number and size (the Kalahari) is in this beautiful park. Furthermore, you can see four of the Big 5 at Chobe: elephants, lions, leopards and buffalo. There's also antelopes.
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There are a number of tours to Chobe National Park, most of which are full day - half day by 4-wheel drive and half day by boat.
Victoria Falls is located just 60 km (37 miles) at the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Etosha National Park in Namibia
Etosha National Park was established back in 1907 when it became the world's largest national park.
Located in the northern part of Namibia, it takes up 8,600 square miles (20,000 sq km). The park is home to 114 mammal species including elephants, lions, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest and the endangered black rhinoceros.
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park, located in South Africa covers a staggering 20,000 square kilometers. At Kruger, you can see the Big Five, hippos, crocodiles, cheetah and more.
Adding to this park's popularity is the fact that it's the best maintained park in all of Africa. If you're looking to be your own tour guide on a safari, Kruger is the place for you.
Amboseli National Park in Kenya
You know that iconic image you have in your mind of a wildlife safari with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background? It was probably taken at Amboseli National Park.
Mt. Kilimanjaro with its snowy peak is actually located in Tanzania but it dominates Amboseli National Park.
This park is known for its many herds of elephants.
Best Time to Go on a Safari
Are you psyched to go on an African safari but wondering when the best time is to go? Well, there are a number of things to consider.
The weather differs depending on where in Africa you want to go. For instance, in southern Africa you can expect dry winter months from May through August when the animals congregate around bodies of water. Wintertime is also the most popular and expensive time of year to go on a safari.
The rainy season lasts from November through March and the weather is very hot and humid. During this time of year, it's least expensive to go on a wildlife adventure although the weather is very uncomfortable and you're on a higher risk of getting malaria (which you definitely want to avoid!).