Travel

Animals of southern Africa: 5 amazing wildlife experiences

We know that wildlife safari holidays in Africa can be very expensive. Fortunately, there are some cheaper options that offer the full safari experience and are run by trusted tour operators. Award-winning UK based tour operator On The Go Tours are running a “Falls, Deltas and Dunes” tour throughout which includes visits to all of the parks listed in this article, as well as the amazing Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

The tour sits comfortably between luxury and budget (you’ll still be sleeping in either hotels or comfortable safari camps). Prices start from just £3,095 per person and includes transportation in an overland expedition truck, accommodation, park entrance, most activities and some meals.

The Big Five in South Africa

Kruger Park is arguably the most famous in Africa, and it covers an area the size of Wales. All the species you are likely to want to see on safari are represented here, many of them in big numbers.

Kruger’s main attraction is the Big Five: elephant, rhino, Cape buffalo, leopard, and lion, these were the animals most highly prized by trophy, and they’re still amongst the most exciting animals to encounter up close on a game drive. You’re less likely to want to meet them on foot!

Conservation credentials: Kruger, one of the oldest parks in the world, and is home to several species such as the rhino, African wild dog and Martial Eagle. The park employs “rhino bodyguards” to help protect the animals from poachers.

Best time to visit: It is easier to spot the animals during the dry season during May to September when the the bush thins out, and at this time animals congregate around waterholes and rivers. If you can, avoid July and August as this is high season (coinciding with school holidays).

Majestic elephants in Botswana

Botswana has the largest African elephant population in the world (around 130,000). Known for their intelligence and complex emotions these creatures are able to express joy, anger, grief, compassion and love. They use their trunks to communicate and handle objects. The females form family units of ten or so, led by the “matriarch”. The smaller bachelor herds only join the female group to mate.

The delta offers a permanent source of water, and you may spot elephants as they gather to drink, bathe and frolic.

Conservation credentials: Elephants are poached for their ivory and this has become a serious issue. Local foundations such as the “Elephants for Africa” strive to protect future generations of elephants from this cruel fate through research and education.

African wild dogs in Botswana

There are only around 6,600 African wild dogs in the wild. They native to sub-Saharan Africa and their population is declining. You do, however, stand a good chance of seeing African wild dog in Chobe Park.

They are social animals and tend to hunt in a pack around dusk, so look out for them leaving their dens or pursuing prey when you are out on your afternoon game drive.

Conservation credentials: Africa wild dogs are in decline due to habitat loss and human-wildlife contact – they are blamed (often unfairly) for livestock. The African Wildlife Foundation employ scouts from local communities to monitor the wild dogs and alert herders if they are nearby. The foundation also help herders build livestock enclosures to protect the livestock from predators.

Best time to go: Chobe Park changes dramatically with the seasons and can be visited all year round. Most people choose the dry season when it is easier to spot the animals.

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