by Kevin Bluer
Africa’s Best Game Reserves
Africa is the only continent that is blessed with spectacular and varied wildlife reserves. The continent, filled with thriving wildlife and unflinching local, rustic culture and traditions offers you more than you can ever imagine. The continent presents a huge assortment of wildlife reserves and game parks – both private and public – that encircles every potential landscape from coasts to mountains, forests to deserts, swarming with the rare wildlife species, including Africa’s Big 5 – Rhinoceros, Buffalo, Elephant, Lion and Leopard. A ride into any of Africa’s game parks is always hard to resist, no matter if you are an expert of the savannah or an Africa neophyte. However, it’s quite a task to choose from the numerous parks but we have made it easier to choose your African adventure by listing some best game viewing destinations in Africa.
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Maasai Mara National Reserve has been named after the famous inhabitants of the place – the Maasai Tribe, who are known for their unique customs and colorful outfits. Spread over the two nations of Kenya and Tanzania, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is home to not only the Maasai people but a large variant of wildlife and birdlife as well.
The fact that Maasai Mara is Africa’s most popular reserve has made it globally renowned and has attained it the number one spot on this list. Thus, it is no surprise that each year thousands, from around the world, visit the place to be enthralled by the huge animal reserve it contains. What fascinate most people about this land are the extensively populous predators lurking around. Lions, cheetahs, crocodiles are some of the deadliest predators found here, preying on herds of impalas, zebras and wildebeests. If the far-reaching landscapes make up for astounding backdrops, then it’s the wild beasts here that make up for the real adventure.
Though most areas of the Maasai Mara are accessible for safari tours, certain patches are kept under strict control and privacy, so much so that even poaching is next to nil there. Vehicle movements are also restricted to certain animal sighting regions, which means better game viewing and a more authentic feral experience. The reserve displays ample variety in bird species alike, such as storks, hornbills, vultures, ostriches, falcons, eagles, secretary birds, and genus of foxes, hyenas, jackals, giraffes, gazelles, elephants, etc.
And when you drop dead from game viewing (which is rarely the case), you can enjoy the clear skies of an early morning in a Hot Air Balloon safari over the Maasai Mara. While up there, don’t forget to keep a camera handy for some exquisite images from the birds-eye-view angle.
The best time to visit Maasai Mara is during the migration months of July and August. If you get a chance, do visit the local tribes for a warm and heartening experience.
Ngorongoro Crater Conservation, Tanzania
Miles away from Maasai Mara is another picturesque locale in Tanzania, known as the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation area. This quaint, scenic beauty has earned the badge of UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unsoiled natural habitats that are home to some of the most exotic species on the planet.
Ngorongoro is a Conservation Park in the Northwest of Tanzania. Ngorongoro is a crater of an old volcano formed after the natural collapse of itself; naturally the steep circumference of the crater makes for a natural border encompassing many wild species in it. No doubt, Ngorongoro has been identified to be one of the most beautiful sites in the world to sport a natural wildlife safari and indulge in great game viewing at the same time.
Ngorongoro is world’s largest intact volcanic caldera, formed around two to three million years ago, and which has sweeping grazing grasslands from one point of the diameter to the other. The place is a magnificent site to behold, when glimpsed from one of the high rises of the boundary. Ngorongoro is famous for being the habitat of the ‘Big Five’, which refers to the healthy populace of lofty mammals like tusker elephants, black rhinos, wildebeests, lions and leopards. This is a region of dense lion population, so sighting them won’t be a problem.
There are also around 400 bird species to be seen, with the most fascinating ones being the flamingos in their migration hours. Cheetahs, hyenas, zebras, buffalos, gazelles, foxes are in plenty. Visit at any time of the year, and the place will reward you with great game viewing. The peak seasons to experience the cream of wildlife are considered to be the months of November-December and March-April
On the crater terrain, you will only have driving as an activity, but it is on the steep high-rises that you can spend your time walking, trekking, viewing the land stretches, camping in the slopes and visiting the Olduvai Gorge. The Maasai tribes will be more than happy to please you with their warm welcome.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Down south, the most happening safari ride is at the Kruger Park in South Africa. This conservation park is no doubt a world renowned spot, because it is segregated into 14 different eco-zones; each eco-zone nestling a unique community of wildlife. This is, undoubtedly, South Africa’s leading game viewing destination.
The Kruger is much revered for it unspoiled and untamed environments that offer a perfect backdrop for raw, wild experiences. It’s a thorough tour to that wild side of Africa, one really imagines Africa with. Of course, with all that attention showered on Kruger, one can definitely expect a bevy of posh and luxurious lodging and wellness prospects out here. From the big five to the small five, be ready to grasp in every inch of authentic wilderness whilst here.
With a far-flung region of about 2 million hectares, the Kruger Park was established in 1898 to serve as a conservatory sanctuary of those exotic wild species. Today, Kruger Park stands alone to be South Africa’s only and one of the world’s largest wildlife sanctuaries. The Limpopo River flowing amidst the Park is a major viewing site where most of the animals, including lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos and rhinos regularly visit, to quench their thirst and consequently hunt down their prey. What is also fascinating to see, at the River, is the deadly crocodiles teeming out of the river to forcibly snatch the prey into river with just one bite and make a meal out of them!
All this action can be experienced live throughout the year!
Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
The Kalahari region is known for its desert landscape. One of the prominent deserts in Africa, the Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana has preserved in itself ecosystems, relatively, free from human intervention. As such the place has authentic and largely unspoiled natural wilderness to be shared with us.
The place has sweeping desert and sandy landscapes as far as the eye can see. Thus, the region observes a high quantity of migrating beasts like wildebeests, gemsboks, springboks, elands, etc. to be complimented by carnivores like lions, cheetahs and leopards, and hundreds of slithery reptiles. With extreme, harsh climates Kalahari Reserve is more popular for its distinguished offering in flora and fauna.
Other than the usual wild animals listed above, Kalahari has a host of other exotic, desert-habituated species unique to this region only. Like the endangered wild dogs species, the elands, bat-eared foxes, pangolin, and the famously notorious Meerkats who’ve found their way to an exclusive National Geographic series shot on them. Besides these terrain species, Kalahari Reserve is witness to a wide variety of bird genus – migrating birds like the flamingos and the pelicans, Bateleurs, Pygmy Falcons, Sociable Weavers and Vultures being the few common ones.
It goes without saying that since the Kalahari is an arid space, game viewing in summers can be a grueling experience unless, of course, you are ready to bear the heat. The same amount of incredible game viewing can be experienced in the winters as well. The normal daytime temperatures are around 25 degree Celsius and while the nights are colder, its bearable. The region experiences more droughts during the winters, as a result of which the game is inevitably drawn to the waterholes of the riverbeds, which means clearer view.
Etosha National Park, Namibia
The Etosha National Park in Namibia is another hot game viewing destination in our list. The name of the game reserve has been derived from the centrally located Etosha salt pan within the Park. The term Etosha would literally translate to mean big white place, referring to the salt pan.
Like the Kalahari Game Reserve, during the cold, this slat pan becomes a hotbed of real game viewing, as most of the animals come here to satiate their longing thirsts. The popular, denser herds of wildebeests, gemsboks, springboks and zebras can be found here. Other than these, lions, elephants, giraffes, jackals and rhinos dominate the place to an extent.
After dusk, at the major camp sites which are located close to the watering holes, you can witness many animals settling down for water, mating and the occasional tussling endeavors. You can enjoy these experiences at night from the comforts of your campsite.
A tour in the Etosha National Park is actually closer to the wilder side of beastliness, so whilst here be very cautious. But let not that deter you from seeing the most authentic game viewing in Africa.
Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda
Moving onto the Eastern side of Africa, we have the Kidepo Valley National Park as the next setting in our list of Africa’s Best Game Reserves.
Unlike the other topographies seen, so far, the Kidepo sports open tree savannah field at sweeping stretches. Kidepo offers curiously unusual flora and fauna. The Park is highly revered for inhabiting (what is considered as rare sightings) of unusual mammals and reptilians. Additionally, the park houses many endemic species of birds and primates, found seldom anywhere else. Kidepo Valley National Park alone is host to over 77 mammal species and 475 bird species.
Talking of the varied wildlife here, you will be simply baffled even by the mere names that the sight has in store to offer you. White buffalos, Rothschild giraffe, tree climbing Lions, bush duikers, Kavirondo bush babies, jackals, the hunting dogs, bushbucks, striped Hyena, bush pigs and the rarely sighted aardwolf. Zebras, elands, warthogs, leopards and plenty of small wild cats are among the other animal species found here.
Unlike other reserves, at Kidepo, a tourist will have plethora of activities to do, other than simple game viewing, to make his tour more memorable than the rest. Hiking and sightseeing make up for the best possible adventures one can go for, as the land is buzzing with breathtaking locales and scenic beauty. Bird watching is another major activity done here, and ornithologists from all around the world come to Uganda to pursue their passion.
A special icing on the Kidepo cake comes in with fabulous ethnic and cultural performances by the local tribe entertainers here. A wide variety of songs and dance forms dominate the performances, which can be enjoyed by putting forward a special request to the locals.
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