When driving through the scenic savanna landscape, tall grass and pristine acacia trees dot the horizon. Animals sightings are overwhelming. At first glance you will rush to your camera to take a photo of the grazing animals; giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, impala, waterbuck, and oryx. It is incredible to think how many centuries they have roamed these lands. The real hunt while on safari is searching for the Big Five. Find elephants, rhinos, buffalo, leopards and of course lions, all come with time. On some safaris, they may come in one day.

Have you always wanted to go to a safari, but imagined an incredibly high price? If you are looking for a good safari on a budget, some are easily accessible, self-driving is allowed, and entry fees are friendly to the wallet. What about packing for a safari. There are a few essential items not to forget. With our top picks in Africa, you will see all the expected animals, including a good chance at the Big Five.

What Animals Will I See on Safari?

It is normal to see a lot of wildlife and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Expect to see A LOT of wildebeest and antelope. Some parks have a lot of elephants and giraffe. Depending on your luck and patience, seeing Lions is common, but you may only see a few. Seeing Leopards and Rhinos are rare. They are at many parks, but they are elusive. Leopards tend to hide in the trees while Rhino’s stay far from the vehicles.

Can I Go on a Safari on a Budget?

Yes, you absolutely can! Safaris in East Africa cost the most, starting with the Serengeti and Masai Mara. If you are on a tight budget, scratch your plans to visit those parks, because they will rack up a cost of several hundred each day you visit. While they are worth it, they are not budget friendly. Safaris in South Africa and Namibia are great, which have very cheap entry fees and you can self-drive in a small sedan. Renting a car is cheap in those countries, making a safari very affordable. Another way to save money on safari is to bring or rent a tent. National Parks in Namibia and SA have campgrounds and it gets expensive if you do not intend to camp.

Which is the Best Safari in Africa?

Each safari is unique. The landscapes create a different environment for what you are looking at each day. Some make it very difficult to spot animals, while others are wide open and much easier. Some safaris need 4×4 and typically you need to hire a driver, especially those in East Africa. Self-driving is allowed at most safaris in Southern Africa, great for those independent travelers or backpackers on a budget. Finding the best safari in Africa for YOU depends on what you are looking for, but you likely will find it at one of these park:

Best Safaris in Africa:

Masai Mara National Park, Kenya

What to Expect:

This iconic park, when one thinks of safari, rolling savannas filled with animal life unlike any other, the Masai Mara fits the bill. Popular for decades as the premier park in Africa, the action here cannot be beat. Within minutes you can see lions, rhinos, a leopard, and some cheetahs. The big 5 are all in this park and you have a good chance of seeing all of them, possibly even in one day. Come during the Wildebeest migration between July and early September for the most action and the famous river crossing, with the best time to come in early September.

• Self-driving is an option. The park requires 4×4 only.

• Park entry cost is $80 per day.

• Camping is available from $7 – $15 per person outside the park gates.

Norongoro Crater National Park, Tanzania

What to Expect:

The Norongoro Crater is the world’s largest inactive and unfilled caldera, with the floor itself over 100 square miles (260 sq km). The wildlife is impressive. Elephants, buffalo, giraffe and lions graze within the crater. Elephants spend their last days in the Norongoro Crater. They travel hundreds of kilometers just to make it there. Views are stunning with crater walls surrounding the flat plains, and the wildlife is dense considering the size of the crater. It is a common side excursion as a day trip while on safari at Serengeti.

• Self-driving is an option. They require 4×4 only.

• Park entry cost is $60 per day plus 18% VAT and $40 per day for the vehicle.

• Camping costs $30 per night per person.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

What to Expect:

When most think of big game parks and some of the most iconic parks in Africa, Serengeti is often the first to roll off their tongue. This famous park in Tanzania borders Masai Mara to the South and is an enormous park. Hosting over 3,000 lions and 1,000 leopards, Serengeti is home to what most say is the largest population of big cats in Africa. There are also over 2 million wildebeests, of which over 1.5 million annually migrate North into Masai Mara as part of the Great Migration. Come during the migration between July and early September for the most action and the famous river crossings, with the best time to come in early September.

• Self-driving is an option. They require 4×4 only.

• Park entry cost is $60 per day plus 18% VAT and $40 per day for the vehicle.

• Camping costs $30 per night per person.

Etosha National Park, Namibia

What to Expect:

This gem of a park in Namibia, not far from the scenic Namib sand dunes, is one of the top parks in Africa. It is a very large park with a central salt plan that floods during the rainy season. The park has excellent drives along the salt pan and savanna, as well as through the forest. Many natural and artificial watering holes help the animals congregate, especially during dry season. There are three main camping areas with watering holes for night viewing. The park is dense with wildlife. Lions, cheetahs, leopards, rhinos, wildebeests, zebras, giraffes, antelope, and elephants. all call Etosha home. We had several close encounters with lions. A momma cheetah attempted a kill of antelope with her two young cubs. Hundreds of giraffes would congregate for some water. Etosha was one of our favorite safaris, and is an excellent option for those on a budget. For the quality of animals and accessibility, this might be the best budget safari in Africa. The best time to visit is from May through October during the dry season.

• Self-driving is an option and 4×4 is not needed.

• Park entry cost is $6 per day plus $2 per car per day.

• Campsites up to 8 people cost $18 per night.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

What to Expect:

Mountain gorillas can only be found in four National Parks all bordering the Virunga Mountains. You can visit Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in Congo, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has the most mountain gorillas of all the parks, home to nearly 400 of the 900 mountain gorillas alive. Viewings are daily, and you often can track large families with several large male silverbacks as well as young gorillas. This is unique to most African safaris, that you are in search of only one species and it is entirely on foot, but the memories of this may beat all the rest.

• The best time to visit is from May to September when it is not rainy season. Prices are lower during the rainy season, making this a good time for those on a budget.

• Bwindi mountain trekking costs $600 per person during the main season and $450 during the low season (April, May and November).

• Camping is $5 per person in the national park and $7 -$10 at rest camps outside of the park.

Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

What to Expect:

This highly underrated park is possibly the most diverse of these parks. It hosts the Nile Rivers greatest waterfall, Murchison Falls, along with excellent game drives and Nile River scenic boat cruises. The delta here next to Lake Albert provides for excellent hippo and bird viewing. The savanna is stunning with rolling hills. We loved the unique landscape at Murchison which was littered with palm trees, a rare occurrence in the savanna. The park is home to many giraffes, hippos, exotic birds, lions, antelope, buffalo, crocodiles and the occasional leopard. There also are chimpanzee treks available. The best time to visit is from May to September.

• Self-driving is an option and 4×4 is not needed.

• Park entry cost is $40 per day.

• Camping is $8 per person at Red Chili Rest Camp.

Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

What to Expect:

Moremi Game Reserve in northwest Botswana sits next to the Okavango Delta, worth a visit when going to Moremi. This park is one of the best safaris for self-drive enthusiasts. Thick sand roads make for fun but tough driving conditions through forests and smaller open plains. You can drive in for a couple of days, or make the longer trek through Moremi on to Chobe for a 5 to 7-day Safari. Wildlife is very dense with elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, antelope, lions, leopards, hyenas, and the rare wild dogs. The best time to visit is from June through September during dry season but when floodwaters are at its highest in the Okavango River Delta.

• Self-driving is an option. They require 4×4 only.

• Park entry cost is $11 per day plus $5 per day per vehicle.

• Camping ranges in cost from $15 to $50 per person depending on each campsite.

Chobe National Park, Botswana

What to Expect:

Chobe National Park is one of the premier parks in Africa and has some of the densest animal concentrations in Africa. They host the second most elephants in Africa. Animals come for hundreds of miles to make the journey down to the Chobe River. Joined with Moremi, this park is excellent for self-drive enthusiasts. Their game drives are excellent, but the real bonus is the Chobe River. Take a sunset boat cruise and watch as elephants cross the river, hundreds of hippos eating, exotic birds, crocodiles laying out, and many other animals can be spotted. The occasional lion might be found on the banks of the river grabbing a drink. The best time to visit is from May to September.

• Self-driving is an option. They require 4×4 only.

• Park entry cost is $7 per day.

• Camping ranges in cost from $15 to $50 per person depending on each campsite.