January 27

Top 5 Destinations for African Safari and Culture Tours

January 27, 2023

There are plenty of pairings to enjoy on our continent, but one of our favourites are African safari and culture tours. As the world's second-largest continent, Africa is massive, measuring around 11,724,000 square miles (30,365,000 square km). Furthermore, you'd be surprised by how much diversity there is throughout Africa, not only when it comes to landscapes but wildlife and cultural diversity too. As the World's Best Safari Company, we've shared the multifaceted joys of our home continent with over 180,000 delighted guests. Here are our top destinations featuring sensational safaris and captivating cultures.

Maasai warrior leaning against a tree

Safari and culture? In Africa, you can!, Image Credit: Sanctuary Olonana

1. Big 5 Safaris in Zululand, South Africa

South Africa is often referred to as "a world in one country" due to its baffling diversity of all things. It's also revered for its Big 5 safaris. Kruger National Park is, without a doubt, the most popular safari destination here, and rightly so. However, we personally love the duo of safari and culture that KwaZulu-Natal provides and often recommend this for guests who love both wildlife and culture.

A verdant terrain with dramatic mountain ranges and sub-tropical beaches licked by warm Indian Ocean waves, it's the dream holiday destination not only for adrenaline junkies but also for those looking for a chance to kick back and relax. The province is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, namely the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park and iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The former is where you'll find Africa's highest mountain range and plenty of ancient San paintings that give you a glimpse into the past. 

The majestic Drakensberg Mountains are a must for South African travel in 2023

Our majestic Drakensberg Mountains

Coastline Safaris

There are many game reserves for you to choose from, most notably Phinda Private Game Reserve and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi National Park. Phinda has seven distinct habitats,  which is why it's often referred to as the "Seven Worlds of Wonder", with an abundance of wildlife, including the Big 5 and over 380 bird species. On the other hand, Hluhluwe is best known for being the oldest nature reserve in South Africa, with the largest population of white rhinos on earth and celebrated for its many conservation efforts.

Because of its Indian Ocean coastline, it's the perfect destination to add an ocean safari, as places like Sodwana Bay's reefs have over 1,200 species of fish, as well as dolphins, flat-mouthed sharks, humpback whales, sea turtles and more to admire underwater.

Couple on safari at sunset in Phinda Private Game Reserve

Most romantic setting, Image Credit: Phinda Private Game Reserve

Zestful Zululand

As the largest ethnic group in South Africa, the Zulu culture is fascinatingly rich with colourful attire, customs and more. A cultural excursion to their traditional homesteads will open your eyes to their way of living, from sampling their cuisine, listening to their music, and learning more about their history and customs.

&Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve Zulu Dancers in KwaZulu-Natal

Zulu dancers at Phinda, Image Credit: &BeyondPhinda

2. Desert Safaris in Himbaland, Namibia 

Namibia is one of our most requested destinations because it's so unique in every way. Not only is it a land of contrasts where the ocean meets desert and wildlife seems to thrive even under the harshest conditions, but the local Himba culture is also enlightening. Double the size of Germany, Namibia might be big, but it's sparsely populated, giving you plenty of untouched landscapes to marvel at and capture unbelievable photographs. 

Lone oryx in the dunes, Namibia

A lone oryx roams the red dunes of Namibia

Desert-Adapted Wildlife Safaris 

Namibia has plenty of safari destinations, of which Etosha National Park is the most famous. Home to four of the Big 5 (excluding the buffalo), as well as animals like cheetah, giraffe, two types of zebra, hyena, springbok and many more, it's an excellent safari destination. Then there's also Damaraland, where you can witness first-hand how the wildlife has not only managed to adapt to but thrive in the challenging desert environment.

Many different wildlife gathering in Etosha National Park

Etosha is a meeting place for all kinds of species, Image Credit: R.M. Nunes

Himba Homeland

Namibia has many fascinating cultures, one of which is the Himba. The first of their ancestors can be traced back to the early 16th century, and today you'll find them in the northwest corner of the country, the Kunene Region. If you've seen images of this tribe's women, you've likely noticed the red ochre cream they cover their bodies and hair with. Once they reach puberty, the women also wear a crown crafted from cow or goat leather. They have many other interesting customs you can experience and learn more about first-hand during your visit to Namibia.

Himba woman in Nambia

Himba woman covered in clay paint and wearing a leather crown

3. Water Safaris and Ancient San Tribes, Botswana

The largest inland delta in the world, the Okavango Delta in Botswana is world-famous for its puzzling flooding during the dry winter months and for being a gathering place for an unbelievable diversity of species. A mirage-inducing oasis found in the otherwise arid Kalahari, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the Big 5 and many other (endangered) species. 

Elephant in the Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is home to many different wildlife species in staggering numbers

Mokoro Safaris 

Besides your usual game drives and bush walks, you can experience a mokoro safari while visiting the Okavango Delta. A mokoro is reminiscent of the gondola in Venice, a dugout canoe that gives you the best perspective of the wildlife coming to drink and play in the water channels. It's also silent – no engines detracting from the safari sounds.

Other than the Big 5, you can look forward to seeing hippo, Nile crocodile, cheetah, plenty of different antelope, zebra, the endangered black and white rhino, African wild dog, and many more. There are over 500 different species of birds to admire too. But it's not only about the birds and beasts, as flora and fauna are also out of this world, with the Okavango Delta having one of the most complex ecosystems globally. 

Mokoro safari in Okavango Delta

A mokoro safari is one of our top activities in Botswana, Image Credit: Belmond Eagle Island

Meet One of the Oldest Cultures on Earth

The hunter-gatherer San culture, also called Bushmen, is listed among the oldest cultures in the world. Sometimes referred to as "living fossils", they're admired in particular for their rock art paintings and impressive hunting and survival skills. Botswana has the highest density of San people compared to the rest of Southern Africa. During your stay in Botswana, you can go on cultural tours where you spend some time with San people to learn more about their way of life. 

Some of the bushmen of Botswana

Visit the San Bushmen in Botswana on one of our African safari and culture tours

4. Great Migration and Maasai Tribes, Kenya

The Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, East Africa, is an extraordinary destination, not only because it's host to part of the annual Great Wildebeest Migration and home to an impressive volume and variety of wildlife, but it's also where you can meet the Maasai people known for their vibrant attire and fascinating customs.

Hot Air Balloon safari in Kenya

We love going on a hot air balloon safari in Kenya

Africa's Greatest Show

The Great Migration is one of the main reasons our guests want to visit East Africa, and it's entirely understandable! This spectacle is one of our personal favourites and still takes our breath away even after seeing it many, many times. It's a natural phenomenon when about two million wildebeest, accompanied by zebras and other antelope, take on a pilgrimage through Kenya and Tanzania in search of food. Of course, this attracts plenty of attention from hungry predators – from lions to crocodiles, and the wildlife must fight for survival, promising drama-filled safari scenes. One of our preferred ways to watch this show unfold is from the sky on a hot air balloon safari.

Wildebeest crossing river during the Great Migration

The Great Migration in East Africa is an action and drama-packed experience

Meeting the Maasai

The Maasai culture is easily identifiable by the bright sheets wrapped around their bodies, most commonly red. They also have unique beadwork jewellery that you can buy from them. What they wear has meaning and indicates social status, for example, whether they're married or not. They are also known for their music and dancing, most notably their traditional jumping dance. During your time in Kenya, you can go on cultural visits to their villages and even partake in unique activities such as running with Maasai through the wilderness. 

African safari and culture tours include Kenya's Maasai Mara

The Maasai Mara in their colourful traditional clothing, Image Credit: Angama Mara

5. Tantalising Tanzania and Zanzibar, East Africa

Tanzania is known for also being host to the Great Migration and is home to the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, and some of the largest lakes in the world. It's also one of our top destinations to recommend to guests if they want to combine a bush and beach holiday, as lounging on the Zanzibar coastline is the perfect ending to an adventure-filled safari. 

Three local women walking on the beach in Zanzibar

Zanzibar is rich in culture and beaches

Ancient Volcanic Crater Filled with Wildlife 

As the only intact caldera in the world, the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is a conservation area and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's filled to the brim with wildlife, from the Big 5 to more than approximately 6,000 wildebeest, a wide range of fauna and flora, and bird species.

Wildebeest and flaming gather in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania

The Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania

Spice Island Tours

Made up of three main islands in the Indian Ocean, the Zanzibar Archipelago is located off the coast of Tanzania. It used to be an essential stop on the spice trade, whereafter Arab sultans claimed it and settled in with the local Swahili culture. As a result, you have an interesting mix of Indo-Arabian architecture, delicious cuisine, arts and crafts, and more. The cultural and historical capital, Stone Town, is the birthplace of famous singer Freddie Mercury and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Stone Town in Zanzibar

The famous and culturally-rich Stone Town

Book Your African Safari and Culture Tours Today

As you can see, Africa has it all! Our African Travel Experts have first-hand experience and insight into the best African safari and culture tours. Contact them today, and let them start tailoring your dream African safari! See you in Africa. 

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About the author 

Tania de Kock

Tania has always been an avid reader, which ultimately led to her life-long dream of becoming a best-selling author. She loves travelling, super spicy food, South African wine, and cats! When she's not reading with a glass of wine, you can find her at the nearest beach or camping, running or hiking in the mountains.

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