Samburu National Reserves.

This is number 7 of my Top Ten, simply because it provides the opportunity to see some unusual species in comparison to the rest of East Africa!

Where: Located in northern Kenya, a flight from Nairobi or a long drive that can take in Mount Kenya and other interesting areas.

Why: Unusually amongst East Africa’s parks, Samburu offers a number of dry area, or desert-adapted species more commonly associated with the deserts of northern or southern Africa.  These include oryx, gerenuk and the Somali ostrich, but also present are reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra.  The proud and colourfully and exotically dressed Samburu people live in this area and are often employed in the camps, providing an interesting cultural aspect to the visit.   There are some wonderfully remote and scenically spectacular areas outside the reserve offering great desert-type vistas.

When: Samburu is open year round but game viewing tends to be at its best during the dry season, June to October when wildlife is drawn to the waters of the Ewaso Ng’iro River.  Unfortunately due to holiday season this is also the busiest time for visitors to Samburu.

Where: The Samburu Reserve itself is small at only 165 and does have the most dense concentrations of big game: elephants, crocodiles and all the big cat species can be found here, but it also has the highest density of lodges and camps, meaning it is heavily used by safari vehicles.  Staying in one of the more upmarket camps outside the reserce will help avoid the congestion, spending time in the more remote areas and coming into the reserve itself for your big game ‘fix’.

How long: You need at least 2 nights in Samburu, preferably 3 if you have the time.

What to do: Game viewing by vehicle is the option inside the Reserve, but if you are staying outside walking safaris and balloon trips are possibilities.

My View: The game viewing in Samburu is unusual and can be terrific.  You have to decide if the crowds will bother you, if so, either give Samburu a miss or stay outside of the Reserve.  If you are a first time safari-traveller, seeing the spectacular oryx and gerenuk, not to mention reticulated giraffe will probably make the visitor traffic worthwhile!

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For more information on Samburu and Kenya’s other safari destinations visit:

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Next on the Top Ten – the Selous Game Reserve.


Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest!   The name alone is enough to conjure up exotic images, and with gorillas, chimpanzees, other primates and a host of fascinating bird species, this is a safari destination for those looking for something different and is number 6 on my list of Top Ten African wildlife safari destinations.

gorilla portrait


Where: Located in south-western Uganda, close to the border with both Rwanda and the Congo, with whom Uganda shares the last habitats of the endangered mountain gorillas.   A one and half hour light aircraft flight from Entebbe, or a nine hour drive from Kampala.  Alternatively Bwindi can be reached from Rwanda’s capital Kigali by road around four hours drive plus the border crossing.

Why: Gorillas!  The endangered mountain gorillas are the big draw of which almost half the world’s population live in Bwindi, with a number of habituated families allowing the fantastic and unique experience of sitting just 7 metres from a family of wild gorillas in their natural habitat for one hour.  Bwindi does though, have much more to offer, with a number of other primates regularly seen including red-tailed monkeys, L’Hoescht monkey, black and white colobus and grey-cheeked mangabeys.   Walking in the forest is fascinating and a number of waterfalls can be viewed in some areas.  In total Bwindi has 120 species of mammals and a bird list of 348 species making it a hotspot as a birding destination – even the most avowed non-birder is impressed by the Great Blue Turaco!

When: Gorilla viewing in Bwindi is year round, but avoiding the rainy seasons of March and April and mid-September to November is advisable.  As Bwindi is a mountainous area at around 6 to 8000 ft above sea level, rain is possible at any time of the year.

Where: The Buhoma area of Bwindi is the most visited with most gorilla permits available, whilst the Nkuringo area to the south is harder to get to, but is reached via very beautiful scenery, the ‘The Little Switzerland of Africa’, and has astonishing views over the volcanoes of Rwanda and the Congo.

Bwindi Forest walk

 How long: If you can afford the permits, allow time for two days of gorilla trekking to see two different families, you’ll enjoy both days and will give you the chance to watch these great apes more closely.  If you have time, and are looking for something unusual, it’s possible to arrange to walk with a ranger from the Nkuringo area to Buhoma.  With 2 nights and a gorilla trek in each area, and a fabulous 5 hour walk in between, this will give you a real view of Bwindi!

What to do: Gorilla trekking involves an early start and can take from half an hour to up to eight hours walking – if you find yourself on a longer day, you won’t have much time for much else!  If you find the gorillas quickly, walks to waterfalls and village visits on the edge of the Bwindi Forest are possible.   The park rangers try to put clients in the right group, maximum of eight, depending on their walking ability and fitness, but there are no guarantees you won’t have a long walk – the gorillas move!

My View: Viewing the mountain gorillas is undoubtedly one of the great wildlife experiences.  There is nothing like it, and combined with the stunning scenery and wonderfully friendly people of Uganda, it makes for a great destination which can fairly easily be turned into a longer safari taking in Queen Elizabeth National Park, with its elephant and lion and the relatively easily seen chimps and other wildlife of Kibale Forest.

Buhoma Lodge

For more information on Bwindi and Uganda’s other safari destinations visit:

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Next on the Top Ten – Kenya’s Samburu Reserves.

Chobe National Park and the Kwando and Linyanti River systems.

Chobe National Park and the Kwando and Linyanti river systems is fifth on my list of  Top Ten African safari destinations   You could argue I’m cheating as they are not one place and certainly not one park, however as the Kwando River becomes the Linyanti River which in turn becomes the Chobe River before it flows into the mighty Zambezi River, I feel justified in putting them together!

Kwando Elephant

Where: Located in northern Botswana, the Chobe National Park borders the town of Kasane, easily reached by air or overland from Victoria Falls.  Access to the Linyanti or Kwando Rivers is normally by air from Kasane or Maun.

Why: Unbelieveable numbers of large herbivores: buffalo, hippo and especially elephant gather along the Chobe water-front particularly during the dry season in vast herds – it’s a quite extraordinary sight!.   The Savuti area of Chobe and both the Kwando and Linyanti have good numbers of lion and leopard and offer great predator viewing.  Kwando in particular, has a consistent record of excellent wild dog sightings, the Painted Wolves of Africa, one of Africa’s most endangered predators.

The area has small and excellent all-inclusive camps, great guiding and the concession areas outside of the park allow for a very exclusive safari experience including night drives, game walks and off-road game driving

Kwando bathroom Kwando wild dog

When: Game viewing in Northern Botswana is at its best in the dry season from July to October when the wildlife is drawn off the surrounding areas to the permanent waters of the rivers and swamps, but beware it can be very cold at night in the June to August period and very hot in October in the day!  Vegetation cover is also low at this time making for easier game viewing; during the early part of the yeat December to March, you should expect to see fewer animals, but the light is clearer for photographs, bird-watching is at its best and some camps offer considerable savings of up to 60% on the high season prices.

Where: The Chobe waterfront is the most game-rich region in the dry season, but also has the most visitor traffic – it’s hard to get an exclusive game viewing experience at this time of the year by vehicle or boat.  The concession areas of Kwando and the Linyanti offer much more personalised and exclusive viewing, but are harder to get to, and in general offer smaller, more expensive camps.

How long: I recommend a 3 night stay at Kwando or Linyanti and 2 nights at the Chobe water-front area.

What to do: Game viewing by 4 x 4 and by boat is on offer along the Chobe River; during the dry season this is a great place for watching elephant in water who regularly swim across the Chobe River in fromt of the boats.  Birdwatching plus hippo and crocodile watching, amongst many other species, can also be excellent from the boats.  The concession areas of Kwando and Linyanti offer game drives, both day and night as well as game walks and boat excursions from many camps.

 My View:  Fantastic game viewing areas and terrific camps make this one of Africa’s top safari areas, with a great range of safari activities available.  If you can afford the high season prices at the smaller camps, you’ll get a truly pristine wildlife safari experience!

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For more information on Chobe, Kwando and the Linyantu and Botswana’s other safari destinations visit:

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Next on the Top Ten – Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.