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Top 3 Destinations for Your First Safari

March 27, 2024  By: Gretchen

Going on your first safari is exciting – many people consider it the vacation of a lifetime! There are many places on the African continent that offer unforgettable safari experiences, so how do you choose which to visit on your safari? We are here to help! Here we explore some of the best destinations in Africa for a first-time safari.

outdoor bath with elephants

South Africa and Victoria Falls

South Africa is easily reached from North America’s East Coast with several direct, nonstop flights. Once there, you’ll be spoiled for choice on where to go. The country’s private game reserves offer a world-class wildlife experience, and the country offers the continent’s only malaria-free safari areas. Some areas are so dense with game, travelers might see Africa’s Big 5 on a single game drive!

There are many accommodation styles to choose from on a South African safari – from luxurious lodges to intimate tented camps and even treehouses! When you work with one of our Journey Specialists, they’ll help you choose the right accommodations for your travel style and sense of adventure.

Sara looking at Victoria Falls

We love combining South Africa with a trip to one of the world’s wonders – Victoria Falls. Just a short flight gives you the chance to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Africa’s adventure capitals where you can find adrenaline activities for any appetite. You can bungee, white water raft, take a dip in a ‘pool’ on the very edge of the falls and much more! There are also serene river cruises, gorgeous sunsets, cultural experiences and game viewing.

You can visit Victoria Falls from either Zimbabwe or Zambia. One of our Journey Specialists can talk you through the differences, though you can also narrow down which side of the falls might be right for you on our blog.

Masai Mara hot air balloon


Kenya is a great destination for a first-time safari. Offering a classic East African safari that you might have seen in the pages of a magazine, the Masai Mara is the country’s flagship game reserve, seasonal home to the Great Migration and a beautiful place to safari. You can choose to stay inside the reserve or in one of the private conservancies that border it. One of our expert Journey Specialists can help you decide which area you would enjoy the most.

couple at Giraffe Manor

Kenya has diverse topography, offering adventures on the scenic mountainous plateau surrounding Mt Kenya, as well as the desert regions of Samburu National Reserve and Tsavo National Park. The semi-arid savanna of Amboseli National Park offers postcard-worthy views of Kilimanjaro along with vast landscapes filled with wildlife, including East Africa’s biggest ‘tuskers’ (elephants). Kenya also offers some unique up-close wildlife experiences, such as feeding giraffes from your breakfast table, visiting rescued orphaned elephants and horseback riding among plains game such as giraffes and zebras.

safari vehicle looking at elephants

Tanzania and Rwanda

Tanzania offers the kind of safari that many travelers dream of. The vastness of the Serengeti Plains can’t be overstated and while there is wildlife year-round, it might be at its most impressive when the Great Migration is passing through. You should work with an expert to ensure you choose accommodations in the right area of the park (or adjoining reserve) at the right time of year to see the migration if that is a priority for you.

taking picture of a chimpanzee

Tanzania also offers many off-the-beaten path parks, including (but definitely not limited to) two of our favorite places on the continent to trek to see chimpanzees – Mahale Mountains National Park and Gombe Stream National Park on Lake Tanganyika. This idyllic area gives you the chance to see chimpanzees in the same area where Jane Goodall conducted her renowned primate research!

gorilla in field

Rwanda is a great combination with Tanzania as getting between the two countries has become easier in recent years. While Rwanda has a number of small, intriguing national parks with varied wildlife, it’s the mountain gorillas and the storied history of Dian Fossey’s research on the species that steal the show. The chance to trek and spend time with the endangered mountain gorillas is one of the greatest natural experiences on earth and one you’ll never forget!

cheetahs on game drive

The best way to choose a destination for your safari and to start planning is to talk to one of our Journey Specialists. They will work with you to determine the destination that will hit all the right notes for your customized adventure.

Are you ready to decide where to go on your first safari?

Contact one of our Journey Specialists to start planning or subscribe to our newsletter below to keep in touch.


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Photos courtesy andBeyond, Londolozi, AAC Journey Specialist Sara Stark, AAC President Kent Redding, AAC Livingstone Club members Rhae Mae C. and Ashley P., and Anisha B.