Tips for Planning a Multi-Country African Safari

Laura Pattara

Laura Pattara  |  29 June 2023

Many first-time safari planners mistakenly believe that all wildlife reserves in Africa are created equal. They might think that seeing herds of elephants crossing highways, or tens of thousands of migrating wildebeest, are experiences one can have just about anywhere on the continent.

Not so.

There are several valid reasons why multi-country African safaris are, by far, the most popular and rewarding travel experiences of all. Given that every country has a unique experience (often not found anywhere else), it makes sense that combining various destinations in two or more countries is the best tactic to ensure a comprehensive itinerary.

Although planning a multi-country safari in Africa isn’t as daunting as you might imagine, you ought to keep in mind that infrastructure is still somewhat underdeveloped in parts of the continent. Even when distances aren't great, transferring from A to B can be time-consuming. Add to that the sheer colossal size of Africa, and it soon becomes evident that a little logistical know-how is needed.

Countless happy adventure-seekers enjoy unforgettable safaris in Africa every year. With a bunch of valuable tips from those in the know… you can, too.

Here’s how to do just that!

1. List your most desired experiences (create your Africa safari bucket list!)

2. Understand there’s more than one way to ‘safari’ in Africa

3. Research where all those experiences are offered 

4. Focus on two or more countries in ONE region of Africa

5. Pssst! Don’t forget that for every ‘famous’ reserve, lodge or destination, there are countless others which are just as special

6. Know the best and most popular country combinations

7. The best time to go on a safari in Africa 

8. But don’t get too hung up on timing your African safari ‘just right'



1. List your most desired experiences (create your Africa safari bucket list!)

All nature and wildlife lovers have a ready list of the top African experiences they absolutely must do. What are yours? Are you itching to see the Big Five, enjoy a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the endless savannah plains, or is your heart set on witnessing the Big Migration? Whatever it is, write down your ‘must see’ or ‘must do’ experiences and hone in on those, first and foremost.

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Monarch of the Savannah: Lion's Majestic Presence in the African Wilderness


2. Understand there’s more than one way to ‘safari’ in Africa

Game drives are undoubtedly the single most popular and known way to experience an African safari. But there’s more!

Here are the top ways to see Africa in all her glory:

  • Game Drives: The most iconic safari experience of all, game drives offer the chance to explore wildlife reserves in specially kitted vehicles that can tackle rugged terrain and offer each passenger an uninterrupted view. Led by professional guide/driver teams who are apt at tracking elusive wildlife, game drives are a phenomenal way to see animals in their natural habitats.
  • Walking Safaris: Include a walking safari excursion on your itinerary for a more intimate and exhilarating African experience. These are on offer in several wildlife reserves, primarily those not home to big predators. A walking safari is a marvellous way to immerse yourself in the unique ecosystems of the savannah and appreciate the infinite array of smaller flora and fauna.
  • Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Safaris: One of the most coveted experiences, hot air balloon safaris offer a breathtaking aerial view of the African plains and its precious wildlife. As you silently float above the savannah at sunrise, you’ll cast your eyes on herds of animals from your unique vantage point. The tranquillity and unparalleled views make this a truly unmissable experience.
  • Gorilla Trekking: Venture deep into the highland forests of Rwanda and Uganda for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to spot mountain gorillas. Enjoy an up close (but not too close) and personal encounter with the gentle mountain giants in their remote natural habitat, and you'll experience one of the most life-changing safari experiences.
  • Boat Safaris: Eastern and Southern Africa are home to a handful of incredible water-based ecosystems where wildlife thrives. Boat safaris are the only way to dive deep into deltas, rivers and lakes and explore them easily. Spotting hippos, crocodiles, and a wealth of birds from the comfort of a safari boat is an excellent way to take your safari experience to a whole other level.
  • Sundowner Excursions: A classic safari tradition that you'll no doubt experience anywhere in Africa. The safari sundowner excursion is about enjoying your favourite tipple in a ridiculously scenic wilderness spot – usually a popular waterhole (for wildlife, that is!) – watching an awe-inspiring sunset and keeping your ears open to the sounds of wildlife awakening for the evening.
  • Cultural Visits: Africa is enriched with a bevvy of diverse cultures. The most rewarding safari itineraries incorporate cultural visits where you can interact with local indigenous communities, visit villages, and learn more about their traditional way of life. Cultural encounters on an African safari offer a deeper understanding of the continent’s rich heritage and fascinating people.



 Stripes of the Savanna: Zebra's Timeless Beauty in African Safari


3. Research where all those experiences are offered

Once you have your personal 'Africa safari bucket list', it's time to find out where you will most likely have those experiences. For example, you'll want to visit Botswana to have a chance at impromptu elephant encounters on the road, South Africa for the highest chances of seeing the Big Five in one reserve, and Kenya to see herds of wildlife with a backdrop of Mt Kilimanjaro (the highest peak in all of Africa) and Tanzania for hot-air ballooning and incredible wildebeest migration.

Savute Region Game Drive 13

Pachyderm Parade: Graceful Giants Roaming the African Safari


The easiest and most time-effective way to create a seamless itinerary? Hand your personal African safari bucket list to one of Viva’s Destination Specialists, who will help you create a tailor-made itinerary.

Once you're well versed in what is on offer, and where, you'll notice clusters of experiences in distinct parts of the continent. Now, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty details.


4. Focus on two or more countries in ONE region of Africa

Planning a multi-country African safari by region is the best and most popular option. When it comes to exceptional wildlife encounters, two regions stand out: Eastern and Southern Africa. Since transfers can be time-consuming, you'll want to choose neighbouring countries to make the whole getting-from-A-to-B easier and faster.

Generally, Eastern African safari destinations that combine well together are Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania (including Zanzibar).

In Southern Africa, on the other hand, you have South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia, which combine well with Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

With plenty of time, you can easily combine all nine countries in one totally mind-blowing safari itinerary.

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Ancient Heritage: Maasai Warriors Embodying Kenya's Rich Cultural Legacy


5. Pssst! Don’t forget that for every ‘famous’ reserve, lodge or destination, there are countless others which are just as special

When researching the best destinations for any of the above extraordinary experiences, you'll soon discover that there are usually one or two 'top' places everyone recommends. Yet this doesn't mean they are the only places you can enjoy them. For example, a hot air balloon ride in the Serengeti is by far the most famous and popular safari activity. Yet, you can also enjoy an equally remarkable ballooning experience in Botswana's Okavango Delta, Kenya's Masai Mara, Namibia's Sossusvlei Desert, Zambia's Kafue and Tanzania's Tarangire national parks. 

For every famous and popular spot, Africa offers countless others that might be easier to include in your specific safari itinerary.


Namibia's Sossusvlei Desert


Interested in a particular safari experience but unsure where to include it in your itinerary? Ask us, and we'll help you figure it out.


6. Know the best and most popular country combinations

To inspire your Africa safari plan, it might help to know the most popular combinations of countries that work exceptionally well:

  • Kenya and Tanzania: Cast your eyes on the Great Migration, where millions of wildebeest and other herbivores traverse the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. Both countries have excellent national parks and game reserves, some of the most famous on the continent. They include the Maasai Mara, Serengeti, Amboseli, and Ngorongoro Crater.


  • Botswana and Zimbabwe: Botswana's Okavango Delta is a unique safari destination with its stunning waterways and diverse wildlife. Heading off on a multi-day canoe adventure and immersing yourself in such extreme wilderness is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Combining it with Zimbabwe allows you to visit the legendary Victoria Falls and explore Hwange National Park, known for its abundant elephant population.


  • South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia: This combo offers the most comprehensive array of African experiences. South Africa's Kruger National Park is famous for its insane abundance of wildlife, while Botswana's Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta offer unique game viewing options that aren’t confined to sitting on the back of a 4WD. In Zambia, you can visit Lower Zambezi National Park and experience walking safaris in South Luangwa National Park.


  • Uganda and Rwanda: Combining Uganda and Rwanda is ideal if you’ve been dreaming of a mountain gorilla trekking adventure for years. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda are home to these magnificent, elusive and highly threatened creatures. Uganda also offers opportunities for chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest and wildlife viewing in Queen Elizabeth National Park.


  • Tanzania and Rwanda: Combining Tanzania and Rwanda creates the ultimate wildlife safari in Africa – a chance to experience the Great Migration and see gorillas in their natural habitats. Add a side trip to Madagascar to see lemurs, and you'll bag the African wildlife trifecta!


  • Namibia and South Africa: This particular itinerary combination offers a gorgeous mix of breathtaking landscapes and wildlife encounters; Namibia's Etosha National Park is known for its diverse wildlife, while the Namib Desert and Skeleton Coast are all about jaw-dropping scenery. In South Africa, you’ll have the magic of Kruger National Park at your fingertips and plenty of adjacent private reserves.


  • Zimbabwe and Zambia: Combine Zimbabwe's Mana Pools National Park and Hwange NationalPark with Zambia's South Luangwa National Park – with a visit to Victoria Falls mid-route – and you’ll have a spectacular short and sweet itinerary planned.



Desert Mirage: Namibia's Surreal Sands Embrace the Sea


These are just a few examples of what’s on offer in Africa. Plenty more unique combinations can be arranged based on personal preferences and the specific wildlife experiences you seek.


7. The best time to go on a safari in Africa 


As with all destinations, there is generally accepted ‘best time’ for an African safari and that’s the period between July and October. This peak period coincides with the Great Migration in the Serengeti (which is at the top of most visitors' bucket lists), as well as the dry season which facilitates travel and game viewing. When the savannah is parched, wildlife tends to congregate in higher numbers on the shores of far fewer watering holes.

Going on safari in Africa during peak season has some downsides, including increased crowds, higher costs, limited availability, reduced flexibility, potential disturbance to wildlife behaviour, and fewer opportunities for authentic cultural experiences. However, there are obviously enormous advantages – such as optimal wildlife viewing and chances to witness dramatic and unique wildlife events.

Ultimately, the decision to visit during the peak season will depend highly on your personal priorities and preferences. Some travellers are more averse to crowds and prefer a compromise between ‘optimal’ and ‘tranquil’. Luckily, there are timing options that offer the best of both worlds.


Off-peak travel to Africa is, in our view, a phenomenal option for anyone who is looking for an amazing compromise and endless rewards. The shoulder months – which differ depending on where you wish to go on safari – are the best-kept safari secret of all. When you travel outside the absolute peak period, prices drop and availability increases, last-minute itinerary changes are easy to make and, more importantly, you can enjoy superlative and intimate wildlife encounters. Many times, you’ll be the only one at a watering hole or catching glimpses of an elusive animal on a walkabout.

You’ll also enjoy more personalized attention from guides and, overall, a more intimate and exclusive experience. Will you have a deal with a few downpours on safari? Sure, but tropical downpours usually only last a couple of hours, do a marvellous job of cooling the air and are responsible for the blooming of flora and smaller fauna.

What’s more, avid photographers absolutely relish the dramatic scenery of off-peak season.


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Leaping Elegance: Leopard's Acrobatic Stance in African Safari's Sunset


In Eastern Africa, the best shoulder months are March, April, May and November to early December. In Southern Africa, April, May, September to October are fantastic months for safari and offer an enviable balance between overcrowding and unforgettable wildlife viewing.


8. But don’t get too hung up on timing your African safari ‘just right'

While there might be an ideal time to go on safari for every type of traveller, most people’s lives aren't that flexible. If you must take your vacation at a very specific time of year, don’t shelve your Africa safari plans because you think it won’t be worth your time. Ask Viva’s Destination Specialists about the best alternative safari options at whatever time of year you must travel There are always plenty!

It’s also worth remembering that nuances exist when it comes to specific experiences. For example, if you're busting to see as many baby animals as possible, you should visit much earlier in the year, around February-April.

Mountain gorilla Gorilla beringei endangered popular large ape from African montane forests Bwindi Uganda. shutterstock 2070413114

Baby mountain gorilla, Uganda


To really bring the point home, remember that when planning a multi-country Africa safari, you'll be relying on Mother Nature and her beautiful creatures – none of which are predictable! No one on this planet could ever guarantee you a specific experience anywhere. So, if planning your Africa itinerary is impossible between July and October, don’t fret. Africa offers plenty of fantastic, unforgettable experiences at any time of year.

Itching to start planning your very own Africa safari itinerary? Contact Viva’s Africa Destination Specialists today and take advantage of their knowledge and experience to choose the safari experience that’s just right for you.

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