Off-the-beaten-track African safari destinations worth visiting

Take the road less travelled and explore off the beaten path safari destinations. Picture: Unsplash

Take the road less travelled and explore off the beaten path safari destinations. Picture: Unsplash

Published Mar 7, 2024


This year is all about exploring hidden gems.

Wildlife safari destinations like the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, the Kruger National Park in South Africa, Okavango Delta in Botswana and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania often come to mind when planning a safari vacation.

And these destinations are much-loved for bringing travellers from around the world to the continent.

While these destinations are captivating and famous for their abundance in wildlife and game viewing opportunities, there are off the beaten track safari destinations just as marvellous and waiting to be explored.

So if you’re ready to go create memories in lesser known spots, these places are worth checking out:

Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

Visitors relaxing at Gorongosa National Park. Picture: Instagram

Gorongosa National Park in northern Mozambique tells the story of the amazing efforts done to restore the wildlife in this region.

The region in the south tail of the Great Rift Valley was almost completely destroyed during Mozambique’s civil war from 1977 to 1992, however, due to conservation efforts, the park was restored by a US philanthropist who teamed up with the Mozambican government.

As part of efforts to resurrect wildlife in the region, trees have been replanted while lions, wild dog, elephant, zebra, hippo and other species have been brought in and the elephant numbers in the region have grown from 200 to about 1000 today.

The park closes during the rainy season from 15 December and reopens in March/April and bookings are essential.

You can stay at Montebelo Gorongosa Lodge & Safari starting from R2 260 a night for 2.

Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe

Elephants at Matusadona National Park with Lake Karibu in the background. Picture: Unsplash

According to African Parks, Matusadona National Park gets its name from the rolling Matusadona hills that form part of its water-rich landscape.

The safari park is flanked by Lake Kariba in the north and two perennial rivers, the Ume and the Sanyati. This remote, rugged park presents enormous potential for wildlife and tourism

At 1,470 km², this unique and varied landscape consists of undulating hills descending to thickly wooded browse-rich habitat that is interspersed with prolific perennial springs and tall riverine vegetation.

Open grasslands surround the northern edge of the park, which borders the vast Lake Kariba.

A healthy variety of mammal species can be found within Matusadona, including lion, leopard, buffalo, zebra, elephant, hippo and an impressive variety of antelope species. Consider a stay at the Spring Resort starting at R1 452 a night for 2.

Ruaha National Park, Tanzania

Jabali Ridge at Ruaha National Park. Picture: Instagram

Ruaha National Park in the centre of Tanzania takes its name from the Hehe word for "river“.

The Great Ruaha River serves as a lifeline for the park’s wildlife and though the park is the largest national parks in the country and rich in wildlife, Ruaha is one of the least busy places to visit in Tanzania, so safaris here feel remote and exclusive.

The park is a year-round destination differing from many safari destinations that are visited in winter.

It has waterbuck, impala and gazelle, lions, leopard, cheetah, skulking jackal and hyena on the lookout for an opportunity to catch their next meal.

Ruaha is easily combined with a Serengeti safari or Zanzibar beach break. If this is the destination for you, then consider a stay at Jabali Ridge starting from $800 (R15 152) a night for 2.

Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi

A leopard at Majete Wildlife Reserve. Picture: Unsplash

Malawi is an off the beaten path destination and Majete tells an incredible story of a reserve, once in decline, transformed into a haven for wildlife.

The wildlife reserve has herds of zebra, buffalo, kudu, sable antelope and other large mammals thrive, providing a healthy prey base for lions.

According to the park, elephants bathe in the waters of the Shire River whilst hippos wallow nearby and the park also boasts Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, klipspringer, cheetah, giraffe, and reintroduced African wild dog.

It is also a birder’s paradise with four species of vulture and local specials such as Livingstone’s flycatcher, Bohm’s bee-eater and racket-tailed roller, all regularly sighted.

There are also a variety of activities available make it immediately apparent why Majete is such a beacon of hope for conservation.

To enjoy the beauty of Majete, consider a stay at Ng'ona lodge starting from R3 424 a night for 2.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Botswana

Inside a Polentswa tented camp at Kgalagadi Transfronteir park. Picture: Website.

According to Info-Botswana, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTF) is one of the largest nature conservation areas in the world and is nearly as big as Switzerland, covering an area of 39 000 km² with three quarters of the park situated in Botswana and one quarter in South Africa.

The park was established in May 2000 and is an integration of the former Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (South Africa) and the Gemsbok National Park (Botswana).

KTF is also the first project of the so-called peace park project in southern Africa, which aims to conserve and protect wildlife and the unfenced border of the two countries runs through the park with Namibia to the west.

When it comes to wildlife viewing, the park is known to be a fantastic place for viewing big cats, including the black-maned lion of the Kalahari, cheetah, leopard, the rare southern African wildcat, the spotted and brown hyena and the jackal.

You can also see typical Kalahari antelopes like oryx, springbok, red hartebeest, eland, kudu and steenbok and ostriches.

Consider a stay at the Polentswa tented camp starting from $ 384 (R7 280) a night for 2.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, South Africa

White rhino at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. Picture: Unsplash

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, formerly Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, is the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa consisting 96,000 ha) of hilly topography north of Durban for wildlife to roam freely.

The park in central KwaZulu-Natal is known for its rich wildlife and conservation efforts is operated by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

Throughout the park there are many signs of stone age settlements and iron smelting sites and the area is claimed to have been declared a royal hunting ground for the Zulu kingdom in the time of Shaka.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is a Big Five Game park meaning the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino are animals can be found that you can encounter.

The park also has one of the largest populations of white rhinoceros in the world although it remains threatened by poaching.

Close to Durban, the park is accessible and not as busy as the Kruger.

Consider a stay at Hilltop Camp Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife starting from R2 100 a night.