National Parks in Africa
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Chobe National Park
Close to the border of Namibia, Zimbia and Zimbabwe
In terms of both variety and diversity, Chobe Naitional Park is just ridiculously good. It's divided into four distinct sections, where Chobe riverfront is the most popular - partly because the density of animals is great here and partly because of its proximity to Victoria Falls (in Zimbabwe and Zambia). Chobe is famous for its large elephant herds, which you can get terrifyingly close to. But warthog, hippo, zebra, giraffe and different species of antelopes, including lechwe and sable, are all among the usual game - but there are no rhinos. There is a good chance to see lions and, with a bit of luck, even a hunting leopard or cheetah. Chobe River makes out the park's natural boundary to north and is great for some midday river safari when the animals come down to drink - this is particularly good during dry season (May through October). But for the best chances to see some predators, you can't beat morning and to some extent evening drives - and who wants to miss the wonders of the red African sun setting behind a herd of elephants!
Makoro ride - Okavango Delta
There are many different ways of viewing wildlife, but none really come close to gliding along silently in a makoro dugout canoe. Makoros are used by local people of the Okavango Delta to fish and traverse channels, although as a tourist you may end up with a fibre-glass version rather than a traditional wooden one. Travelling by makoro is a magical experience. The silence is almost complete, and unlike walking safaris it is possible to get (sometimes disconcertingly) close to wildlife, all of which will appear enormous from half a metre above the water surface. But with or without wildlife, this is without a doubt one of the most memorable and special ways of experiencing the unique environment that is the Okavango Delta. Just watch out for those hippos!
The Okavango Delta is a place of wonder â€“ it is as simple as that. The myriad of waterways that weave their way through the otherwise unforgiving Kalahari provides sanctuary for a plethora of animals, from the Big Five and the rare African wild dogs to countless species of birds. The experience changes depending on your mode of transport â€“ safari vehicle, plane, makoro canoe or on foot â€“ and the seasonal variations are equally significant. The Okavango Delta is home to vast populations of elephants and is a great place to spot predators of all kinds, but it is also a unique habitat, and an Africa that is difficult to find anywhere else. Watch a herd of buffalo make their way across the water from one island to the next, or a clan of hyenas lounging on one of the many small airstrips, as you enjoy the many canals, swamps and islands that make up this stunning inland delta.
Birds and butterflies
Kakamega Forest may not feature on the itinerary of many first-time visitors to Kenya, but for those with a bit of time on their hands, or self-drivers travelling between Kenya and Uganda, might want to take a couple of days to explore this remnant of a once huge forest, extending well into the Congo and covering much of western Kenya. The main attraction here is the huge array of butterflies and birds, although Colobus monkeys and the faint chance of seeing a pangolin also draw visitors. There are a number of guided walks in the area, although it is worth just exploring on your own as well â€“ the guided walks are interesting, but overpriced. Butterflies enjoy the sunlight, and simply by driving some kilometres past the main entrance to the reserve you are likely to spot flocks of them by the side of the road. The forest also provides a refreshing change of scenery from the shrubs and open spaces of most of Kenyaâ€™s other parks and reserves, and cultural dances and story-telling (from members of the Luhya tribe) sessions can be organised.
Lake Naivasha National Park
If you have the slightest interest in hippos, you must visit the large freshwater lake Lake Naivasha, which lies in the Great Rift Valley. However, there are only enough activities to spend a single day/night at this lake, which is located 1880 meters above sea level. There is a very large number of hippos in the lake, and when darkness falls, the animals, who spend most of the day in the water, will emerge from the lake and graze on land. Tent sites are fenced off, since hippos are extremely dangerous. They are actually the large animal in Africa that kills most people per year. But you can sit safely and in tranquility in small cabins on stilts and observe/hear the animals eat in the darkness.
Safari at Lake Nakuru
Lake Nakuru National Park
If you are going to Kenya on safari, a couple of days at Lake Nakuru National Park is very recommendable! The National Park lies in the Great Rift Valley 140 kilometers northwest of Nairobi. The area is extremely rich in various animal species - and the concentration of animals per square kilometer is unusually high. There are giraffes, rhinos, water buffalos, monkeys and zebras in one big hotchpotch â€“ and not least a very good chance of seeing the elusive leopard, (which is one of the Big Five). The large freshwater lake - Lake Nakuru is filled with thousands of pelicans, flamingos and storks, which are amazing to watch - especially on a morning game drive at sunrise.
Safari in Masai Mara
Masai Mara National Park
Besides other game, you can find "The Big Five" (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) in Masai Mara. A part from dry savanna, there are also rivers with crocodiles and hippos. You may walk around here, but you need to be accompanied by an armed guide, if a crocodile or a lion should suddenly attack. So a walk along the rivers is not for the faint-hearted! However, it is amazing when you experience large animals close to you or get to see an animal hunt. The park covers approx. 1500 square km, so sometimes you need to drive around a bit longer to find wildlife. At the entrance to the park you are often "attacked" by eager Masai women, who want to sell homemade jewelry. They are persistent - but not aggressive or nasty. Furthermore, be aware that there is significantly less wildlife to see, when the annual animal migration into Serengeti National Park in Tanzania takes place.
Tsavo East National Park
Tsavo East National Park is huge, hot and dusty. There are three reasons to go here instead of opting for more popular destinations such as Masai Mara or Amboseli: it is much closer to the coast (and thus easier to combine with a visit to Mombasa), you want to be able to drive around all day and barely see another person, or you like hot, dusty places. The entire park has a red tint to it, coloured as it is by the dust. There is a huge number of elephants here â€“ also coloured red by the dust â€“ but self-drivers need to be aware that they can be considerably more aggressive than their Amboseli or Mara counterparts as a result of heavy poaching during the 1960s and 1970s. While there is a decent population of lions, the sheer size of the park â€“ and the abundance of shrubs and bushes â€“ makes spotting them a challenge. Tsavo East makes for an interesting contrast to many of the lusher parks and reserves in Kenya, but most people would find it difficult to justify spending more than a few days here.
Tsavo West National Park
Tsavo West is separated from Tsavo East by the Nairobi-Mombasa highway, but has a very different character to its twin. The landscape is arguably more attractive here, with plenty of woodland, rolling hills and rocky outcrops (although it is no less hot, dry or dusty). There is a spring, where visitors can walk around and look at hippos and crocodiles. There are also lava fields and a rhino sanctuary in the park, which is easily accessed from Mombasa due to its position right along the highway. The southern half of the park, towards Tanzania, is very remote and sees few visitors. Like its eastern counterpart Tsavo West has a large elephant population, and it is here that the famed man-eating lions of Tsavo â€“ immortalised in "The Ghost and the Darkness" â€“ harassed railway workers a century or so ago. While their population has dwindled, there are still plenty of lions and leopards in the park.
Andringitra National Park
For national parks in Madagascar, this one is a little bit different. Where in most parks people first come for watching typical Malagasy animals and endemic fauna, in Andringitra it is all about hiking and beautiful scenery. It takes a while to reach the national park because the road is rough and you need a 4x4 to get there. Whether you opt for a day hike or go on a longer trek with the ascent of Madagascarâ€™s highest climbable mountain: Pic d'Imarivolanitra (formerly known as Pic Bobby), you will be able to enjoy some beautiful and diverse landscapes. In the lower regions, where there are still villages, you have the red earth and rice fields, but in the higher regions, the scenery starts to look more like a moonscape.