While 2020 was an unprecedented year and the future of travel remains uncertain, we’ve identified some promising trends in planning for future safari travel.
One thing is certain: health and safety will be top of mind when travelling in 2021. We are seeing that travellers are cautious and planning single destination holidays to avoid multiple connecting flights at different international airports, numerous customs facilities, crowded places, and sundry COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
The best African safari destinations for 2021 will be the countries that can offer visitors more than just game viewing. Countries like South Africa and Tanzania should top the lists of places to go on safari because they can deliver a variety of experiences from seeing incredible wildlife, enjoying world-class services and cuisine to basking on exquisite beaches – without crossing international borders.
An African safari is not only one of the best ways you can travel in 2021 because of the direct impact your trip has on protecting wildlife, conserving habitats, employing people in rural communities, and educating children across Africa. It has also been one of the safest. And as we settle into the ‘new normal’, safari will be one of the safest ways to travel anywhere in the world.
Why is Safari a Safe Way to Travel?
Whether you are sitting down for a delicious dinner, enjoying a thrilling game drive or transferring between camps, social distancing is inherent in the African bush.
Wide Open Spaces
Not only does safari travel put you in the great outdoors and keep you away from crowded places, it provides you with the healthiest natural air to breathe.
Every Detail is Taken Care Of
When both your satisfaction and your budget are at risk in a destination with foreign cultures, unusual logistics and a diverse offering of accommodation, you want to work with a travel agency that's based in Africa, like Go2Africa. Someone that’s totally plugged in and understands the important cultural ins-and-outs of the continent.
Since 1998 we’ve successfully navigated various crises and global disruptions and are committed to creating once in a lifetime trips while supporting conservation, communities and sustainability in Africa, now more than ever. Health and safety protocols are excellent throughout the continent: sanitiser stations, temperature checks, social distancing and the wearing of masks are standard practices. But the real beauty of Africa lies in its isolated safari destinations, far away from any crowds...
5 Best Places to Go on Safari in 2021
The Origin of Safari
Kenya is very likely to deliver some of the best African safaris in 2021. The country offers visitor-friendly COVID-19 entry requirements and a trip for every type of traveller. From unforgettable family safaris with child-friendly activities to exclusive hideaways for couples and honeymooners, there’s not much that beats a Kenya safari. The standards of service are high and Kenya’s top destinations offer luxury African safari accommodation ranging from lavish, colonial-style lodges to contemporary boutique hotels and authentic tented camps.
The Masai Mara’s rolling plains provide a sanctuary for an abundance of animals like elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, hyena and the Mara’s famous big cats: lion, leopard and cheetah. The reserve’s astonishing density of wildlife offers a spectacular safari experience no matter what time of the year you visit, and the wide-open plains and mild climate mean that vegetation is never too dense to see animals. We recommend staying in the private conservancies that are contiguous with the national reserve. These exclusive conservation areas offer uncrowded game viewing, walking safaris, and night game drives while staying at some of the best luxury African safari lodges in Kenya.
The high plains of Laikipia lie to the northeast of the Great Rift Valley and are increasingly recognised as one of Kenya’s best-kept secrets. Almost the size of Wales, the Laikipia region is home to some of Kenya’s most encouraging conservation success stories, like the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, a sanctuary for black and white rhinos as well as Grevy’s zebra. This hidden gem destination sees low visitor numbers and features excellent family-friendly safari lodges and camps. You won’t need to escape any crowds on your 2021 African safari in Laikipia.
2. South Africa
A World in One Country
When it comes to complete holiday destinations in Africa, South Africa is seriously tough to beat. The country offers its visitors a plethora of unique experiences and arguably the best tourism infrastructure network on the continent. Daily commercial flights link all its major cities, while chartered airplanes can easily get you to safari lodges that have their own private airstrips. From Big 5 safaris at luxurious lodges and the world’s best land-based whale watching to gastronomic delights amid magnificent rolling vineyards, South Africa has it all and then some. Plus, you can crown your South Africa safari with some well-deserved R&R along the country’s stunning coastline.
Bathed in over 3 000 hours of sunshine a year, South Africa’s oldest city offers visitors a smorgasbord of activities while being immersed in its incredible natural beauty. Table Mountain, gorgeous beaches and surrounding wine valleys provide an elegant, Mediterranean twist to a South Africa safari while culinary excellence can be relished at Cape Town’s award-winning restaurants. If visiting between July and September, add a sojourn in Hermanus to experience the world’s best land-based whale watching. And if you’re in the mood for a family road trip, consider an unforgettable self-drive holiday along the Garden Route: one of Africa’s most beautiful stretches of coastline.
Hear what a few international travellers had to say about their trips to Cape Town during COVID-19:
Madikwe Game Reserve
Although the Kruger is South Africa’s most popular wildlife destination and one of the best places in Africa to see the Big 5, we’ve picked the lesser known Madikwe Game Reserve. By no means an inferior South Africa safari experience, Madikwe is a great choice for families with children, as it lies in a malaria-free region. Easily accessible from Johannesburg by road or air, this private game reserve is a sanctuary for the ‘Magnificent 7’: elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion, leopard, cheetah and rare wild dog. It also boasts some of South Africa’s best luxury African safari lodges that all have access to Madikwe’s 75 000 hectares (185 300 acres) of wilderness without any of the traversing restrictions found in other private game reserves.
Marataba is a special place and our insider’s tip for South Africa’s rising star in 2021. This game-rich, privately managed section of the Marakele National Park offers a rare safari experience: conservation-focused activities that allow guests a hands-on approach to wildlife management and ecological conservation – creating a travel experience with a purpose. Guests can participate in enriching activities like telemetry tracking walks with cheetah, compiling individual identikits for elephants, and notching rhinos. With just four lodges in the entire Marataba, you won’t see other vehicles on game drives – making your luxury South African safari experience feel totally private and authentic.
South Africa is one of the most stable and reliable travel hubs in Africa. In a post-COVID world where avoiding multiple connecting flights at different international airports is going to sound more and more appealing to cautious travellers, single destination itineraries are going to outshine trips that require a number of air transfers to offer a varied safari experience. In South Africa, connections are simple. You can go from the Kruger to Madikwe, Phinda to Cape Town quite effortlessly without being exposed to large international crowds and still enjoy a diverse African safari experience.
– Monique Lange, Africa Safari Expert
The Ultimate Bush-to-Beach Destination
Safari happens almost everywhere you look in Tanzania. It’s been a way of life here for decades. Few destinations in Africa can rival Tanzania's sheer diversity of wildlife and landscapes. From the never-ending savannah of the Serengeti to the beaches and coral reefs of tropical Zanzibar, a Tanzania safari delivers one fascinating experience after another. The country was one of the first on the continent to reopen for international travellers and offers some of the most visitor-friendly COVID-19 entry requirements for African safari tours in 2021.
Ruaha National Park
Ruaha is Tanzania’s biggest national park. Despite its sheer magnitude, it is home to only a handful of lodges and camps. This has strengthened Ruaha’s reputation as the country’s best-kept secret, especially when it comes to game viewing – the park’s diversity of animals is matched by their colossal numbers. It’s home to the largest elephant herds in East Africa and delivers excellent sightings of predators like lion, leopard, cheetah and highly endangered wild dog. Ruaha will offer some of the best African safaris in 2021 for intrepid travellers in search of beautifully wild and off-the-beaten-path experiences.
Nyerere National Park (Selous)
Along with Ruaha, the Nyerere National Park (Selous) forms part of the lesser-known Southern Tanzania safari region. Remote, enormous (almost 1.5 times the size of Switzerland!), and filled with wildlife, Nyerere is unlike Tanzania’s iconic safari destinations such as the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. It remains relatively unknown to most safari travellers and offers an incredibly diverse African safari experience in one location. The lifeblood and defining feature of Nyerere is the great Rufiji River. Forming a series of interconnected lakes and palm-fringed channels, the Rufiji harbours huge numbers of hippo and Jurassic-size crocs, and nourishes mega-herds of elephant and an impressive array of birds. Nyerere offers unique safari activities like boat cruises, and because it’s not subject to the restrictions that govern Tanzania’s national parks, you can also enjoy guided walking safaris and adventurous fly-camping excursions.
Days on safari can be long, dusty and action-packed. That’s why we always recommend crowning your trip with some well-deserved relaxation on a tropical island like Zanzibar: the perfect grand finale to your Tanzania safari. Easily accessible from the mainland, the island of Zanzibar is a magical place where powder-soft beaches are flanked by undulating palm trees and lapped by the warm, gin-clear waters of the Indian Ocean. Lazy days in the sun and fabulously fresh seafood are par for the course with Zanzibar, but if you feel a bit more active, there are always the incredible snorkelling and scuba diving conditions to savour.
More Than Just Gorillas
There are only about 900 mountain gorillas left on Earth and trekking into their native forests is the only way to see these critically endangered primates, as they cannot survive in captivity. No other wildlife encounter can rival sitting with endangered gorillas in their natural habitat and observing the fascinating family dynamics of our ancient relatives. The emerald rainforests of Uganda are incredible destinations for gorilla trekking – the continent’s most powerful wildlife experience – and the country’s trekking permits are among the most affordable in Africa. Plus, Uganda offers the chance to augment your gorilla trekking experience with one-of-a-kind chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park as well as fantastic game viewing in Queen Elizabeth National Park. If you’re looking for some of the most diverse African safari tours in 2021, look no further than Uganda.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Bwindi is a World Heritage Site of both montane and lowland forest: a verdant habitat for about 350 bird species, 220 butterfly species, 120 species of mammals, plus many more reptiles and amphibians. Thanks to the income generated from tourism, the park’s endangered mountain gorilla numbers have increased to about half of the world's population. There are fantastic accommodation options in and next to the forest to compliment your unforgettable gorilla trekking adventure.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda's premier game viewing destination and most accessible savannah reserve. The park is home to big game like elephant, buffalo, leopard, and the famous tree-climbing lions of the Ishasha Plains. It’s one of the most biologically diverse parks in the world, not least thanks to its mind-boggling list of 610 bird species – more than the entire British Isles! Don’t miss a boat cruise along the Kazinga Channel to spot hippo, crocodile and a plethora of feathered creatures.
Birthplace of The Walking Safari
Although a visit to the world-renowned grandeur of Victoria Falls should be on everyone’s Zambia safari itinerary, it’s the country’s hidden gem locations that are among some of Africa’s most under-rated safari destinations. Zambia is home to an alluring network of national parks that are often less visited than their counterparts in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania. The country boasts some of Africa's wildest and most remote corners, but you'll be far from roughing it on a Zambia safari. You can enjoy sensational big game viewing accompanied by some of the best safari guides in the business, while staying at luxury African safari lodges and camps. A long-time favourite among safari connoisseurs, Zambia doesn’t attract the crowds that cluster around sightings in the better-known parks of Africa. The raw and undisturbed beauty of Zambia will undoubtedly stage some of the best African safaris in 2021.
South Luangwa National Park
Few parks in Africa can match the phenomenal density of game that gathers around South Luangwa’s lakes and rivers. Massive numbers of elephant, buffalo and giraffe come to slake their thirst under the watchful eyes of Nile crocodiles and powerful lion prides. South Luangwa is famous for its guided walking safaris that can be anything from a gentle morning stroll to hiking between camps over several days. Africa takes on a new perspective when you experience it on foot, as the first explorers did. A bush walk is a unique physical, mental and spiritual adventure through nature. Experiencing the sights, smells and sounds of the bush with expert and passionate guides are among the best African safari experiences you can have. And nowhere does it better than South Luangwa.
Lower Zambezi National Park
Unlike the rest of Africa, some of Zambia’s national parks are protected only for private use, so you won’t see tour buses or self-drivers in these areas. Only licensed operators may conduct safaris in these parks, and only the few lodges situated within these areas may conduct boat and canoe safaris, and under strict regulations on the number of boats allowed on the water. The Lower Zambezi is such an area and visitors to this park are assured of seeing very little human activity and enjoying some serious game viewing. Providing one of Africa’s finest wilderness experiences, the Lower Zambezi National Park offers a diverse range of African safari activities from day and night game drives, guided nature walks, river cruises and fishing expeditions.
Zambia is geared for safari travel in the future. It’s remote but relatively easy to access and the parks boast incredible wildlife, varied safari activities, and lend themselves to multiple night stays. Most of all, they’re lesser known and therefore not as busy as Africa’s more popular destinations.
– Mark Smith, Africa Safari Expert
Ready to Start Planning Your 2021 African Safari?
Get in touch with one of our Africa Safari Experts to help tailor-make the best African safari to suit your travel wishes in 2021: