October 27

Safari by Starlight: A Night Safari in the African Bush

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October 27, 2023

A shiver races down your spine as the tell-tale cackle of a hyena pierces the night. Your heart starts pounding as, with a flick of the wrist, the safari vehicle roars to life beneath you. Tension fills the air as the deafening roar of a lion signals that the hunt is on... And the hyenas aren't the only ones out on the prowl tonight. Under the cloak of darkness, lions begin to stir as leopards abandon their trees for more solid ground and the prey that inhabits it. A night safari is the perfect opportunity to see the circle of life in live-action!

One of the more elusive predators of Africa, the black-backed jackal, Image Credit: Simon Hurry

A Whole New World, a New Fantastic Point of View 

Contrary to popular belief, a night safari does not equal a nightmare. In theatre terms, when the night sky blankets the African landscape, a full set change is happening with a whole new cast of characters set to make an appearance.

As the sun sets and the temperature drops, lions and the more elusive predators like leopards and hyenas become more active as they prepare for a hunt or patrol their territories for possible invaders. 

A night safari also offers the chance to spot the rare "Shy 5," namely the meerkat, aardvark, porcupine, aardwolf and bat-eared fox. In other words, a safari lit by the glow of the moon adds a completely new dimension to game viewing. 

So, buckle up because we're about to take you for a ride through the best places to experience a night safari!

Are you ready for some night safari magic?, Image Credit: Paul Joynson-Hicks

Don't Forget to Don Your Night Safari Chic

It's important that your attire matches the occasion, as a safari chic ensemble helps make the experience all that more enjoyable. Therefore, you should bundle up with a nice cosy jacket, scarf, beanie and gloves. And let's not forget your toes! Keep them warm with thick socks and a good pair of sturdy closed shoes.

For that extra touch, trade your "eau de parfum" for some "eau de bug banisher", and you're ready to go!

Hyenas are far more active at night, Image Credit: Wilderness

All Dressed up and Nowhere to Go…

Now that we've covered the why and the what, it's time for the really fun bit, aka the where! Not all national parks and conservation areas allow for night drives, so it's important to keep that in mind when choosing your destination.

East Africa vs Southern Africa, that's the question...?

Exploring East Africa

For the intrepid travellers among you, East Africa is a great choice for a thrilling night safari. Tanzania's wild and untamed landscape provides an amazing backdrop for a moonlit safari adventure. On the other hand, being amongst Kenya's vast and beautiful landscape will remind you exactly why it was chosen as the location for "The Lion King". 

Lions are quite lazy during the day, so the real action happens at night, Image Credit: Wilderness

Captivating Kenya

In Kenya, you have several options when it comes to a night safari. While the Maasai Mara National Reserve does not allow for night safaris, the private concessions here do. Therefore, you should look at going to the Olare Motorogi and Naboisho Conservancies bordering the Massai Mara. 

In Kenya, sightings of lions, elephants, buffalo and hyenas are abundant. And Mahali Mzuri, as well as Naboisho Camp, are excellent options for the chance to witness the classic struggle of predator versus prey.

Tarangire National Park is a mysteriously magnificent setting for night safaris, Image Credit: Ian Cummings

Take on Tanzania

Tanzania's untamed landscape is a great option to see various African animals in action under the cover of darkness. With luck and a great guide on your side, you could be treated to black rhinos, leopards, lions, crocodiles, giraffes and hippos as they go about their nightly expeditions. 

Oliver's Camp in Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara Lodge in the Serengeti National Park are both great options for thrilling night safaris.

Seeing little ones like these cubs is exhilarating on a night safari

Star-lit Safaris in Southern Africa 

When it comes to night safaris in Southern Africa, the sky, or in this case, the night sky, is the limit. Countries in Southern Africa are teeming with various habitats and wildlife, setting an excellent stage for a night safari. 

Leopards are one of the most elusive predators in Africa

Bring on Botswana

A night safari in Botswana offers many unexpected twists and turns, from the more sought-after sightings like lions and hyenas to their more seldom-seen castmates. 

Sightings of bushbabies, spring hares, servals, and genets are more common here, with the chance to spy the ever-elusive leopard, pangolin or even an aardwolf or two as they go about their nightly routines. 

Abu Camp in the famed Okavango Delta and Duma Tau Camp in the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve are both well-versed in night safaris and are sure to provide an unforgettable experience.

The Oryx is Namibia's national animal, Image Credit: African Safari Mag and Luke Stackpoole

Nocturnal Splendour in Namibia

Namibia redefines the idea of a safari by starlight, with the NamibRand Nature Reserve being the only International Dark Sky Reserve in Africa. 

The reserve has little to no impact from light pollution and artificial light. Therefore, the view of the night sky is nothing short of breathtaking. There's also a diverse range of wildlife you can see amongst the dunes, from antelope such as oryx and kudu. And not to forget about those predators ready to pounce, like the leopard, spotted and brown hyena, black-backed jackal, aardwolf, bat-eared fox, and many more. 

In a nutshell, Namibia is truly a unique destination for a safari, be it under starlight or sunlight. Wolwedans Dune Lodge and Wolwedans Plains Camps are excellent choices for a starlit safari experience. And combined with sundowners in the desert, it's a match made in safari heaven. 

Leopard in a tree at dusk

Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve is famed for its high population of leopards, Image Credit: Belinda Beale

Star-Studded Safaris in South Africa

No two night safaris in South Africa will ever be the same, as there's a vast array of wildlife practically on your doorstep.

There's the possibility of encountering lions, hyenas, rhinos, and the more evasive species such as leopards, cheetahs and African wild dogs. Moreover, you could be treated to guest appearances by some members of the "Shy 5", such as the aardvark, pangolin, meerkat and porcupine.

Lodges located near and in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, such as Londolozi and Silvan Safari, are great choices to guide you through the moonlit landscapes.

Sleepout deck at Little Makalolo, Image Credit: Wilderness Little Makalolo

Zen and Zeal in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe, specifically Hwange National Park, creates an exciting atmosphere to scour the woodlands and plains in search of predators and their prey. Keep your eyes peeled for the rare roan and sable antelope species and the leopards, cheetahs and African wild dogs that hunt them. 

Hwange is particularly well known for its large population of elephants. So, if lady luck is not on your side for some exciting predator sightings, watching these gentle giants is by no means merely a consolation prize. 

Little Makalolo Camp is a wonderful choice for a night safari experience as they also offer the chance to sleep under the stars with the sounds of the bush lulling you to sleep. 

On a night game drive at Little Makalolo Camp in Hwange National Park

A night safari game drive with Little Makalolo Camp is always an exciting experience, Image Credit: Wilderness

Book Your Night Safari With The Best 

A night safari in Africa is a unique and thrilling experience that will give you plenty of memories to cherish and stories to tell for years to come. 

But don't let your safari become a logistical or stressful nightmare. Instead, let our Travel Experts craft an African itinerary you'll never forget! As the World's Best Safari Company, you can rest assured you'll be in the best hands.

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About the author 

Xinay De Vries

Born and raised in South Africa, Xinay is no stranger to all the amazing possibilities Africa has to offer. She's a self-proclaimed bookworm and coffee addict with a yen for bubbles and rosé, so you'll often find her exploring the streets of Cape Town looking for the best cup of coffee or glass of wine. With a passion for travel and her home country, she's determined to get others to love Africa as much as she does!

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