I have been photographing wildlife in Africa for more than 20 years. Here are my favourite nine wildlife photography destinations.
- Botswana (Okavango and Moremi)
- Namibia (Etosha)
- Kgalagadi South Africa
- Sabi Sand South Africa
- Thornybush South Africa
- Kruger Park South Africa
- Madikwe South Africa
- Zimanga South Africa
- Pilansberg South Africa
9 Best Wildlife Photography Destinations Africa
1. Botswana (Okavango and Moremi)
The Okavango Delta is a vast inland river delta in northern Botswana and it is a UNESCO world Heritage site. It’s known for its sprawling grassy plains, which flood seasonally, becoming a lush animal habitat. Filled annually by rainfall making its way down from the highlands of Angola, the Delta is a photographers’ paradise. Whether you explore the waterways by boat, canoe or 4×4 vehicle you will continuously be amazed at the sheer number and diversity of the animals and birds you can photograph.
The Moremi Game Reserve occupies the east and central areas of the region and is one of my favourite places on earth. The grasslands are sometimes flooded and there are a large number of trees and glades that provide shelter for innumerable species of birds and general game.
Recommended lodge to stay in the area: Camp Xaxanaka
2. Namibia (Etosha)
Etosha National Park is on a huge pan and is the third largest national park in Africa. It is quite bleak and dusty most of the year although this does mean that the animals congregate at the numerous waterholes scattered throughout the park, affording great photographic opportunities.
The only negative aspect of the park is it’s popularity with tourists. You do find a large number of very large tourist busses driving through here that can spoil the mood somewhat.
Here you will be able to see and photograph lion, hyhena, springbok, cheetah, leopard, zebra and giraffe.
On my last visit we stayed outside of the Park boundary and I recommend you consider this as an alternative next time you visit.
Recommended lodge to stay in the area: Mushara Outpost
3. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park South Africa/Botswana
Two thirds of the park is situated in Botswana and it borders Namibia to the west. A popular self drive destination, it can be traversed from three countries’ border posts and has several accommodation and camping options ranging from the very isolated and rustic to isolated and luxurious!
As it is an arid area with very little standing water you will not find elephant, hippo or rhino here. It does have good numbers of other predators such as lion, leopard, caracal and hyena so you won’t be disappointed if it is action you are looking for.
There are also a large number of birds of prey to be seen, particularly in the summer months when the migratory birds from Europe are present.
It is home to the critically endangered Pangolin and other unusual smaller mammals such as the Cape Fox and the Bat Eared fox.
Recommended Lodge in the area: Xaus Lodge
4. Sabi Sand Game Reserve South Africa
Sabi Sands Game Reserve, adjacent to the Kruger Park, is leopard country! On one unforgettable trip there we came across a leopard even before we had seen an impala.
This is also Big 5 country and is a very popular wildlife photography tour destination. Sabi Sands has a number of luxury lodges to choose from. In an area broadly known as the ‘Greater Kruger’ there are no fences between it and the Kruger park and the animals cross freely between the reserves.
This is a great destination if you only have three nights or so to spend photographing wildlife as you will likely see leopard, lion and elephant by your second or third drive. Off roading is allowed on certain concessions which means you are almost guaranteed some close up experiences.
Recommended lodge to stay in the area: Cheetah Plains
5. Thornybush Game Reserve South Africa
Situated in the Greater Kruger area, the 14,000-hectare Thornybush nature reserve is also a private reserve with many luxury lodges to choose from. I must have stayed in Thornybush on at least 20 different occasions and have never been disappointed with the images I came away with from there.
Numbers of vehicles at each sighting are well controlled and you will be afforded great opportunities when you go off road – which is allowed under certain circumstances.
This is Big 5 country and Thornybush also has cheetah and wild dog moving through on a regular basis. A large pride of resident lions in the north of the reserve always entertain with their highly efficient and rather frightening predation of buffalo.
Recommended lodge to stay in the area: Jackalberry Lodge
6. Kruger National Park South Africa
A South African treasure, the Kruger National Park in northeastern South Africa, is one of Africa’s largest game reserves. It is larger than Wales in the UK and has Mocambique to the east of it and Zimbabwe to the North.
The density of animals thins out as you go North but this area makes up for in beauty what it may lack in animal sightings during periods of drought. The leopard makes it’s home the length and breadth of the park so you have a chance of seeing one wherever you happen to be in the Park.
The rhino population of the Kruger is unfortunately under siege from poachers and so the numbers of this magnificent animal have dropped over the years.
The aptly named Crocodile River is the parks’ southern- most border and the image below was taken there.
Recommended lodge to stay in the area: Imbali Safari Lodge
7. Madikwe Game Reserve South Africa
Madikwe Game Reserve is in South Africa’s North West Province, bordering Botswana. Madikwe is made up of land that was previously utilised as cattle farms and hunting concessions. There are some reminders of this here and there (fence posts and the like) but you will be enchanted by its wild nature and red sands. Dotted with rocky outcrops and patches of forest, Madikwe is Big 5 country with very large numbers of elephant and buffalo.
It is also famous for its large packs of wild dogs who seem to thrive here. There is a large dam in the center of the park which is the perfect spot to sit and wait for photographic opportunities, particularly in the dry season when animals stream down in search of water.
Recommended lodge to stay in the area: Rhulani Safari Lodge
8. Zimanga Game Reserve South Africa
Zimanga is the first reserve I have ever visited that is specifically designed for wildlife photographers. There are a number of custom built hides on the reserve that are strategically positioned for the rising or setting of the sun, affording you that golden light from the correct direction.
The accomdation is luxurious and a four night stay here including all activities will set you back a pretty penny.
The reserve is situated in Northern Kwazulu Natal and is a family owned business. One of my top recommendations if you want to maximise photographic opportunities in a short space of time.
Recommended lodge to stay in the area: Zimanga Main Lodge
9. Pilansberg National Park South Africa
Pilansberg is only two and a half hours drive away from Johannesburg and is popular with Johannesburgers for weekend getaways and business conferences. The reserve is beautiful but it does suffer somewhat from it’s close proximity to the platinum mining belt. You are able to hear the machinery from certain areas of the park and the pylons servicing the mines with their electricity supply run through the park.
Having said that, this is a great place to visit and is also Big 5 country. Pilansberg has a number of luxury lodges in the north west of the park in a concession called the Black Rhino Reserve.
It has an incredibly diverse number of animal and bird species which are relatively densely congregated due to the parks small size.
Recommended Lodge to stay in the area: Tambuti Lodge