I love and miss Africa. It's where I grew up and I love it so much because of how diverse it is — the people, nature, languages and all its cultures. In one continent, you have deserts, beautiful snow-capped mountains, jungles, cities, rivers, thousands of plant varieties, and animal species. There's never a dull moment, and once you experience it for yourself, you'll know what I mean.
In the four years that I've lived in Singapore, most people I've met visit Africa for its national park safaris. All national parks will have a range of accommodation options as well as different types of guided or self-drive tours that cater to every budget. So the best way to start planning for a national park visit would be to decide on what you would like to see, and the type of experience you're after.
Below, you'll find my top five national parks in Africa — I look forward to seeing you there.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The Serengeti is one of the most famous regions in Africa. It is a safari paradise and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, due to its biodiversity and ecological importance. This is the place to be if you want to witness the annual migration of more than 1.5 million wildebeest.
The park also has a complex community of diverse wildlife, and is home to a healthy stock of the Big Five. The Serengeti is thought to be home to the largest population of lions in Africa, due to the abundance of prey species in the area. There are also more than 500 species of birds here. Serengeti National Park covers 14,763 square kilometres, and will give you an outstanding view of savannah scenery. It's no wonder this is where The Grassland Landscape of Planet Avatar was filmed.
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Kenya is Africa's most popular safari destination, and the Maasai Mara National Reserve offers the wild African spirit of the Maasai Mara, sightings of the Big Five, as well as encounters with the local Maasai tribes.The park shares a common border with the Serengeti and was named in honour of the Maasai people, who are native inhabitants of the area and have always co-existed with wildlife in the area.
In addition, the Mara Predator Project also operates in the Maasai Mara. It catalogs and monitors lion populations in the region. Guides are trained to identify lions and report sightings. Visiting guests are also encouraged to take part in the project by sharing their photos of lions that are spotted during game drives.The project's online database of individual lions is open for public to access.
Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia
Most of us think of lush vegetation, watering holes, and animals when we think of national parks. However, at this park, the most striking landmark is its orange dunes. The Namib-Naukluft National Park contains part of the Namib Desert considered the world's oldest desert), as well as the Naukluft mountain range.
A large portion of the park is inaccessible but there are a few well-known attractions that are found in the desert. The Sossusvlei area is a popular attraction, where you'll find towering orange sand dunes surrounding white salt pans. The orange colour of the sand is a sign of its age, as iron in the sand oxidises over time. This means that the older the sand dune, the brighter the colour.
This is the fourth largest game park in the world and contains some of the most unusual wildlife and nature reserves in the world. If you've watched the documentary, "Samsara", you may recognise some of the desert shots taken here.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
South Africa is a popular destination for Singaporeans who are visiting Africa and planning for a safari trip for the first time. Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and is home to the Big Five.
It has a subtropical climate (which means hot and humid summer days), so the best time for animal spotting is during the dry winter season — when vegetation is sparse and wildlife congregate at watering holes. There are three main habitats in the park — the grassy southern region, the central savannah region, and the mopane scrub land in the north. Other than game drives, visitors can also take part in mountain biking, day walks, and eco trails.
Kruger National Park supports one of the four remaining populations of the endangered African Wild Dog. There is an estimated 400 to 500 of them in the park.
Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo
Virunga National Park (previously Albert National Park) was created by King Albert of Belgium in 1925, as Africa's first national park, and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
This is the most biologically diverse part of the African continent. In this park, you'll find volcanoes, snow-capped mountains, rainforests, swamps, savannahs, and more bird, mammal, and reptile species than any other protected area in Africa. Virunga is also home to the world's critically endangered mountain gorillas. There are only about 700 mountain gorillas left in the world, and about 200 of them live in the Virunga National Park.
About Mehdi Elaichouni
Always ready for his next adventure, Mehdi took his first flight to Sudan when he was three years old and stayed there for seven years with his family. Mehdi is now based in Singapore where he founded ANIA, a skincare company inspired by his childhood in Africa, with a focus to bring the highest quality natural and organic formulations from Africa. Follow his adventures with ANIA on Facebook and Instagram.