Africa: Safari hunt

There is no more spectacular image than a parade of elephants on a mission to find a watering hole within a seemingly infinite landscape. Almost as impressive is the sight of giraffes around acacia trees reaching for the highest, freshest twigs and leaves to snack on.

It is the prospect of these kinds of moments that draw first-timers to safari holidays, while experienced hands know that nothing is more exciting than getting up close to the "big five" beasts - lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino.

Places such as southern Kenya and northern Tanzania provide the perfect backdrop, and although not all safari destinations are home to all the big five, each area has its own wonders. For example, there are no rhinos in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia, but no matter because the walking safaris there are said to be the best on offer.

Tanzania

Probably the most famous safari area is the Serengeti in Tanzania. The name means "endless space" and the scale of it is truly breathtaking. During the migration season, massive wildebeest herds pound across the savannah. Meanwhile, at the Ngorongor Crater, big game assemble in spectacular numbers. Though traditionally it has been the northern circuit that is most popular among visitors, the Selous Game Reserve - dubbed the southern circuit - is gaining ground. It has the Ruaha National Park and offers a varied terrain with dense bush which supports a wider variety of wildlife. Boat trips on the Rufiji River are particularly enjoyable. Expect to see plenty of lions, elephants, and buffalo.

Getting there

Botswana
Carrier: 0161 492 1353

Tanzania
Exodus: 0845 863 9601

Namibia
Mahlatini: 028 9073 6050

South Africa
Kruger Travel Bag: 0871 811 1629

Rwanda/Uganda
Opulent Africa: 01604 643 341

Namibia

Get there in the dry season and you won't have to go too far into the Etosha Pan to see all kinds of big-game animals gathering at waterholes. The experience is less safari by truck and more stakeouts in the park, but patience will be rewarded with sightings of elephants, black rhinos, lions, herds of zebras and even flamingos (more commonly spotted in the rainy season).

Botswana

A river runs through the Kalahari - the Okavango River. In its futile attempt to reach the sea it splits the land into islands and waterways and the animals love the lush growth it produces, even in the dry season. Next door is the Chobe National Park which offers the same amazing variety of wildlife. You won't have to be eagle-eyed to spot herds of elephants and buffalo as well as wild dogs and even some lesser-seen wetland birds such as Pel's fishing owl.

Kruger National Park, another very well-known safari destination, still has impressive populations of all the big five and lots more besides. The area has a sensational infrastructure which caters to tourists on a budget, and money-no-object travellers, allowing both the opportunity to savour the safari experience. The most exclusive reserves are Sabi Sands, Timbavati and Manyeleti. Kruger is one of the largest safari areas and you will get to see white rhinos, lions, cheeky cheetahs who think they own the road, hippos, crocodiles and wild dogs.

Rwanda/Uganda

Remember the film Gorillas in the Mist, starring Sigourney Weaver as naturalist Dian Fossey. This is gorilla country and two-thirds of the world's population live in misty mountain forests between Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. You may not be able to get as up close as she did, but chances are the encounters you do have will be awesome.

    Last updated: 12:53pm, May 1 2013