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Differences Between Eastern and Southern Africa

Larger than China, Europe and the United States combined, the African continent is a vast and varied. Deciding where to go in Africa is your first decision when planning your safari. Each destination offers an experience that is unique and awe-inspiring: whether you travel to Eastern Africa or Southern Africa the wildlife will astound you. And on a Wildland Adventures African safari some of your most memorable and meaningful experiences will be among the people you meet traveling with our exceptional guides and sharing stories with indigenous people like the Zulu of South Africa or the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania.

There are many factors to consider in deciding where to go on safari. Our African travel specialists have spent much of their lives on African safari tours. They can help you decide where to go on safari in Africa, and once you know where you want to go they help travelers in choose which African safari is right for them.

Eastern Africa
Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda

Eastern Africa is most well known for the endless grasslands of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem and the seasonal migration of wildebeest between Kenya and Tanzania. The seasonal rain patterns over the rich savannahs support one of the most spectacular mass game migrations in the world including 1.3 million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra, gazelle and the predators that follow them. On safari in East Africa you can also experience a diversity of habitats: dry soda lakes of Nakuru and Manyara attract large flocks of flamingos, the baobab forests of Tarangire support large herds of elephant, the Ngorongoro Crater is the largest unbroken caldera in the world, Mt Kilimanjaro the highest mountain in Africa, and the dry scrub forests of Samburu add to the diversity of landscapes. Established dirt tracks inside national parks ensure exceptional wildlife viewing at a close range in safari vehicles. Off-road and night driving is not allowed in the national parks but can be done on private concessions which are more widely available in Kenya. Bush walks with Maasai are permitted in designated areas allow you to get you out of the vehicle on bush walks with Maasai to experience the African wilderness on foot.. There are numerous cultural opportunities to interact with local tribes such as the Maasai, Datoga, Samburu, and Hadzabe hunter gathers. Hot air balloon safaris over the African savannah are spectacular! Also consider wildlife safaris and gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda, and wash off the dust after your safari on a tropical island in the Indian Ocean such as Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania.

Key Characteristics of Safaris in East Africa
• Vast open spaces and the diverse landscapes of the Rift Valley
• Vast herds of wildebeest and zebra
• Two dry seasons: Jun-Oct and Jan-Mar
• Safaris in closed 4WD vehicles with open roof tops
• Mostly game drives in national parks, some walking in private reserves
• Numerous opportunities for cultural encounters with local tribes
• Private reserves in Kenya allow greater flexibility for game viewing – night drives, bush walks, off road driving.

Top Picks for an East Africa Safari Adventure:
Serengeti Wilderness Safari: The classic safari experience to Serengeti, Tarangire and Ngorongoro Crater, walking with Maasai, bow and arrow hunting with Bushman. Great for families!
Maasailand Safari: Wildlife safaris combined with a profound cultural experience living among the Maasai.
Uganda Gorilla Safari: Track and observe a mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, chimps in Kibale National Park, and wildlife of Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Southern Africa
South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi

Southern Africa spans a diverse range of topography with a wide variety of habitats from grassy savannahs and bushy woodlands, to the thundering waters of Victoria Falls, the sweeping sand dunes of the Namib and Kalahari deserts, the rugged Drakensberg Mountains, the beautiful beaches and coastlines of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and of course the historic city and winelands of Cape Town. The dramatic seasonal variation of this region creates a diverse and stunning landscape: from the dry deserts of the Skeleton Coast and Kalahari Desert, to the heavy rains of the Angolan highlands that fill the Okavango Delta, the biggest inland wetland in the world, game viewing very much depends on season, and water and food availability.

Safari tourism in Southern Africa has been developed for the most part as low volume with smaller camps and lodges on private concessions (instead of only national parks), creating a more exclusive, personalized safari experience at a higher cost. African wildlife safaris originated in Southern Africa more than a century ago and have helped set the standards and practices throughout the continent including guide training, interpretation and conservation.

Compared to East Africa, safaris in Southern Africa do not offer the vast open vistas or massive wildlife concentrations like the Serengeti plains. In Botswana and Zambia especially there are more opportunities to join walking safaris following native trackers to locate wildlife in tall grasses and acacia woodlands. Game viewing on many private concessions provides opportunities to drive off-road and at night. In the unique wetland habitat of the Okavango Delta and along the Zambezi River exciting boat safaris are also available with some of the most charming and remote African camps. Cultural experiences among indigenous peoples are more limited compared to safaris in East Africa, although visits with the San Bushman of the Kalahari or Zulu community in Kwa-Zulu Natal are available and special township tours outside of Cape Town are a highlight.

Key Characteristics of Safaris in Southern Africa
• Varied and distinctive topography and habitats from deserts to wetlands
• Smaller herds, more concentrated in smaller private concessions
• Dry season: May-October
• Open 4WD vehicles; small aircraft flights between destinations are common
• Many small private camps are limited to 8-12 guests
• Wildlife viewing on private concessions with few other tourists
• Some cultural opportunities although indigenous communities are more isolated
• Wider variety of safaris activities: extensive walking opportunities, mokoro (canoe), motor boat, hot air ballooning, kayaking and mountain biking.

Top Picks for a Southern Africa Safari Adventure:
Wild Botswana Safari: Adventurous luxury mobile camping safari exploring the Okavango Delta and thundering Victoria Falls.
Transfrontier Wildlands of Africa: Experience the best of the bush in Kruger National Park and track elephants and lions with researchers in Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.
Ultimate African Adventure: Trek through the African bush with an expert tracker in Zambia and then relax in beautiful Lake Malawi.
African Safari Guides
All our African safari guides are exceptionally trained and experienced professional naturalists, spotters and drivers. In East Africa, although we make us of some local flight connections, most safaris are overland expeditions in 4WD vehicles (not minivans) with the same English-speaking, expert driver-guide throughout your itinerary. He will be with you from dawn until dusk, and depending on the accommodation he may stay at another location returning early the next morning for the next day's activities. On Southern African safaris, where fly-in itineraries are more common, guides are often resident naturalists based at the lodges and camps. Because Southern African safari camps are often small, remote and more exclusive, guides usually share meals with guests developing close relations until you move to the next camp where you meet the next resident naturalist.

Family Safaris
In general, East Africa offers more opportunities and greater value for African family safaris. Most camps and lodges accept young children, travel involves fewer flights, and the abundance of wildlife everywhere keeps kids interest piqued. Another of the greatest advantages in East Africa for kids are the unforgettable encounters with Maasai, Datoga and Bushman tribal peoples. Our Tanzania Family Safari is the most popular family safari in Africa.

South Africa family safaris are a wonderful experience with some lodges and camps located in malaria-free areas where anti-malaria medications are not necessary. Many camps outside of South Africa, especially Botswana, Zambia and Namibia, are less conducive to African family safaris requiring minimum age of eight years old, unless you reserve the entire camp or we arrange a privately guided safari vehicle each day. If you have at least eight travelers in your family safari group, it is possible to fill some of the smaller camps. Therefore, families with younger children may best consider East Africa.
Your friendly safari expert, 
Jeff Stivers
Got questions about Africa? Ask Jeff!
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