The second largest continent on the globe, Africa is far more nuanced and diverse than many mainstream media accounts imply. A broad array of vibrant groups and cultures call the continent “home”. Africa is a continent with immense and iconic ecological diversity as well. Over the past century or so, lots of this beautiful land has fallen under state protection in the form of national parks and game conservatories. Here are some of the most extraordinary among them.
The Serengeti, Tanzania
The Serengeti is one of the most famous regions of Africa. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and many consider it to be one of the top 10 wonders of the world. A lot of wildlife lives here, and the Serengeti National Park serves to protect and preserve it. One of the most exciting events that takes place here each year is the great wildebeest migration, where six million of these animals partake in this 40 km long ritual that has existed for millennia. In addition to witnessing this magnificent aspect of nature, Serengeti National Park maintains the natural balance of predator and prey. You can see lions, serval cats, and aardwolves on the hunt here as well.
South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia, is the southern most of three national parks in the valley of the Luangwa River, and is a world-renowned wildlife haven. It supports large populations of Thornicroft’s giraffe, herds of elephants and Cape buffaloes often several hundred strong. The Luangwa River supports abundant crocodiles and hippopotamuses. It is one of the best known national parks of Africa
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger National Park in South Africa was established in 1898. The park boasts of containing African wildlife’s ‘Big Five’, which include; lions, rhinos, elephants, buffaloes, and leopards. Here you can even go on an elephant back safari. Like many of the national parks on our list, Kruger prides itself in its grassroots animal breeding and conservation efforts. There are also unique historical and archaeological sites within the bounds of the park where you can see things like ancient bushman rock paintings. If you aren’t able to make it to the park, you can also keep track of what’s going on through the park’s live webcams.
Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya
Deemed ‘the bird watcher’s paradise,’ Lake Nakuru National Park is home to a type of algae that attracts staggering numbers of pink flamingos to feed on the algae in Lake Nakuru each year. Sometimes these numbers reach into the millions. The park harbors an ecologically broad spectrum of species beyond the iconic flamingos as well, including white rhinos, baboons, warthogs, cheetahs, giraffes and more. Established only about 55 years ago, the park was recently enlarged to help provide sanctuary for the rare and endangered black rhino. Some of the other bird species worth watching out for at Lake Nakuru National park are the pied kingfisher, African fish eagle, and the Goliath heron.
Queen Elizabeth Park, Uganda
Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the most visited parks in Uganda. It it is the perfect park when combined with gorilla tracking at Bwindi Impenetrable forest. One can, in five or six days visit the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, see the tree climbing Lions in the Ishasha area of Queen Elizabeth Park, and take a Boat Ride Safari on the Kazinga Channel with its abundant wildlife, hundreds of birds, and the highest concentration of hippos in the whole wide world. You can also include chimpanzee tracking in what BBC called the “lost valley”, which is part of the Western Rift in Uganda, also known as the Kyambura Gorge. Queen Elizabeth Park is simply a tapestry of natural wonders in the western region of Uganda. Queen Elizabeth Park is filled with lots of wildlife. Besides its lions, leopards and other cats, it has elephants, buffaloes, antelopes and more species of birds than any other Ugandan Wildlife Park. In this same national park, you will also find the scenic Katwe explosion craters and the Maramagambo forest where you can go hiking, birding, and also enjoy the cultural visits of the region.
Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo
If you’re in search of biodiversity, head to Virunga National Park. It is the most biologically diverse part of the continent. You’ll find rain forests, volcanoes, mountains with glacial peeks, savannas, swamps and more. From the top of the Nyiragongo Volcano, you can see a full view of the largest volcanic lake in the world. Virunga the national park, does a lot to protect the mountain gorillas that live here and are nearly extinct. Chimpanzees and lowland gorillas live here as well. A dedicated group of forest rangers run the park and ward off poachers.
Tsavo National Parks, Kenya
Approximately 150 miles south of Nairobi, this park boasts of Wildlife that includes; Leopard, Cheetah, Buffalo, Rhino, Red Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Lion, Crocodile, Mongoose, Hyrax, Dik- dik, Lesser Kudu, and Nocturnal Porcupine, among others. Together the Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks form one of the largest national parks in the world, covering around 4% of Kenya’s total land area. The emerald-hued Galana and Tsavo Rivers run through the area, with the Nairobi-Mombasa highway and railroad separating the two parks. The river banks are a great spot for viewing the wildlife, especially the African Elephants that flock here in large numbers. The Lugards Falls are a major attraction as well, with the Galana River flowing through eroded rocks and pooling to form a haven for some monster crocodiles.
Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Amboseli National Park contains over 400 species of birds and 47 species of raptors, thanks to the presence of a large system of swamps. It is said to be one of the best places in the world for viewing birds and other wildlife. Come and marvel at parades of elephants as they pass by, and against the backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro which makes up a large portion of the horizon. In fact, this is also one of the best places in Africa to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures. The park originally began as a reservation for the Maasai peoples, and there is legislation in the works to afford them more control over park activities and upkeep.
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
If you’re looking for the world’s tallest waterfall, head to Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Here you will find Victoria Falls. Hwange National Park was named after a celebrated leader of the local Nhanzwa tribe. Over 500 species of animals and birds reside in this unique ecosystem of forests at the edge of the Kalahari Desert. Elephants in particular tend to thrive in Hwange National Park. Unfortunately, the park has experienced some poaching issues in the last few years, including the tragic death of the famed lion named Cecil. The park authorities are actively doing what they can to prevent such awful acts on this beautiful and biologically diverse land.