Southern Africa and East Africa are two popular holiday and safari destinations. But the question we normally get asked is, “If you had to choose, is East Africa or Southern Africa better?”
Both geographic areas are amazing and, while we think you should visit both, we’ve compiled a simple comparison between Southern Africa and East Africa below. It’s a list of highlights and gems that we love.
Countries included in the regions
- South Africa
(Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of the Congo are generally considered Central Africa)
In terms of landscapes and attractions, the regions are quite different.
- Okavango Delta wetland (Botswana)
- Skeleton Coast and Namib desert (Namibia)
- Kruger National Park (South Africa)
- Kalahari Desert (Botswana & Northern South Africa)
- Victoria Falls (Zambia and Zimbabwe)
The wildlife species found in the two areas are the same; most of the predators and plains game can be seen in both regions and only some birds and a few mammals and reptiles are distinct in the regions. The major difference is the number of species and the general experience a visitor will have when viewing them.
Botswana and Zimbabwe are home to 80 % of Southern Africa’s 300,000 elephants and huge herds are a common sight along their northern borders.
East Africa offers herds of zebras and wildebeests in the hundreds of thousands. The annual migration between the Maasai Mara in the north and Tanzania’s Serengeti in the south is a spectacle unequaled anywhere on earth today.
The weather also varies between the regions.
- In Southern Africa, while each country varies, the rains generally fall between November and March with the rest of the year being mostly rain-free.
- Most of the camps stay open year-round.
- The rainy or “green” safari season in Southern Africa offers benefits such as herbivores having their babies, lush green landscapes and dramatic skies, all of which combine to create superb photographic opportunities.
- In East Africa, October marks the beginning of the “short rains” while April brings “long rains.”
- Many of the safari camps close during the long rains due to difficult driving conditions.
Density of tourists & Accommodation
The major difference between East Africa and Southern Africa for safaris is the density of tourists, accommodations and safari vehicles.
- Southern Africa is known for its luxury tented safari camps and huge tracts of wilderness areas with low tourist densities for a private safari experience.
- For the most part, Southern Africa is dominated by huge land concessions, owned or leased by luxury safari camp operators, and these concessions are for the sole use of the individual camp and its guests. With an average camp size of only 10-16 guests and one or two vehicles on the concession. You can drive all day and not encounter anything but wilderness and wildlife.
- East Africa, in general, has earned a reputation for a high density of tourists staying in hotel-style lodges.
- But there are a growing number of luxury lodges cropping up in East Africa, particularly in Tanzania, and these lodges offer a more exclusive experience than the large safari lodges that are typical for Kenya and Tanzania.
- In the private safari lodges, safari vehicles are modified, open-air Land Rovers which also add to the intimacy of the experience.
- On scheduled tours companies use converted 10-Seater Land Cruisers, mini-busses & Overland Trucks
- The most common safari vehicle in East Africa is the minivan with a pop-up roof, allowing passengers to stand up while taking photos and shoot out of the roof or from inside the vehicle.
- More and more companies have made use of the 7-seater Landcruisers or Landrovers with pop-up roofs since Jenman implemented them.
Experience the culture of Southern Africa by visiting different tribes in Southern Africa such as Zulus, Swazis, Himbas and The Bushmen.
The entrance fees of national parks and attractions are more expensive in Tanzania, but overnight accommodation rates are similar to Southern Africa.
In Southern Africa, there is a wide range of accommodation standard on offer to suit any budget.
Park and attraction fees are more expensive but budget accommodation is available for any budget.
Mobile or overland safaris are very popular in both regions and give the price-sensitive traveller an opportunity to experience the bush.