Derived from the Arabic word for a long journey, safaris date back to the 19th century and have been glamorized over the years through popular fiction and film. Now in the 21st century, the expeditions to view wildlife in their native habitat first popularized in Africa have extended into the far reaches of the planet, such as in Australia, Greenland, China and even the U.S. But virtually all of the world’s best safaris can be easily traced back to their original source in African countries such as Botswana, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia. The following are five of the best wildlife safaris in the world.
Chiawa Camp
Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia
+260 211 261588

Once named the best safari property in Africa, Chiawa Camp is one of Zambia’s most luxurious safari camps. Situated along the mighty Zambezi River in Lower Zambezi National Park, the multi-award winning property features nine fabulous safari tents with modern conveniences and a full or partial view of the Zambezi River, extraordinary Afro-Euro fusion cuisine and a wealth of activities such as game viewing drives, canoe trips, bush walks, river safaris and fishing. Family-owned and operated by the Cumings family, Chiawa Camp is one of the most eco-friendly safari properties in Africa and also has one of the continent’s best rated guiding teams. The Cumings family also owns and operates another renowned property in Lower Zambezi National Park, Old Mondoro.

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Footsteps Across The Delta
Ker & Downey Botswana
Chobe Holdings Complex
Plot 851, Sir Seretse Khama Road
Maun, Botswana
+267 686 0375

A vital part of what makes an African safari world class is the assistance and support of an experienced and knowledgeable guiding team. One of the most celebrated tour groups on the world’s second largest continent is Footsteps Across The Delta, which specializes in walking safaris in the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana. Owned and operated by Texas-based Ker & Downey, Footsteps Across The Delta was honored by this year’s Safari Awards for having Africa’s Best Safari Team and was the runner up for Best Walking Safari. Highlights of the four-day, three-night walking safari include light aircraft flights, road transfers, all camp meals and fascinating views of wildlife such as hippos, giraffe, lions, zebras and impalas. Footsteps Across The Delta also received two other notable Safari Awards this year, garnering third place nods for Best Family Safari Experience and Best Safari Experience.

Kensington Tours
2207 Concord Pike, Suite 645
Wilmington, DE  19803
(888) 903-2001

Rated among the world’s best by several leading travel publications, Kensington tours offers custom private guided tours to over 90 countries around the world. Among the top rated tours are safari tours to several African countries, including the 18-night Grand African Safari, providing guests with an unforgettable tour through Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa, as well as the thrilling opportunity to view the Big 5 game animals in some of the world’s best wildlife parks. In South Africa alone, the Wilmington-based tour company offers more than 15 other safaris, including a Best of Southern Africa safari with an excursion through the Sabi Sands Private Reserve and a Victoria Falls Luxury safari, with a chance to view one of the world’s most famous waterfalls, Victoria Falls. Each of the safari tours offers upscale accommodations, such as an acclaimed safari lodge, a kasbah or luxury tent camping, meals and expert guides with 24-7 on the ground support for the entire trip. Founded in 1999 by Jeff Willner, Kensington Tours is a multiple award winner of both Travel+Leisure’s World’s Best Awards and National Geographic Traveler’s 50 Tours of a Lifetime.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Micato Safaris
15 W. 26th St.
New York, NY  10010
(212) 545-7111

Founded in 1966 by former Kenyan government official Felix and his multitalented wife Jane Pinto, Micato Safaris is the only nine-time winner of Travel+Leisure’s award for World’s Best Safari Outfitter. Of its large collection of luxury African and bespoke safaris, Micato’s 15-day Grand Safari might be considered the ultimate in luxury safaris, with five star accommodations and air transportation to each of the six legendary destinations. However, of all the extraordinary safaris offered by the Pinto family, the best might be the one suitably named the Travel+Leisure World’s Best Safari, an all encompassing 13-day trip that features only hotels on the Travel+Leisure list of the world’s best, including the One & Only Resort in Cape Town, Singita Kruger National Park in South Africa and the fabulous Royal Livingstone Hotel in Livingstone, Zambia. Other notable luxury safaris offered by Micato include a 16-day Stanley Wing Safari, the 10-day Tanzania Spectacular Safari and Botswana’s Timeless Wilderness. Headquartered just outside of Nairobi, the capital and largest city of Kenya, Micato also offers unique luxury safaris in India.

Norman Carr Safaris
Kapani Lodge
Mfuwe, Eastern Province, Zambia
+260 216 246025

Named last year’s Best Safari Experience by the prestigious Safari Awards, Norman Carr Safaris was established as the first non-hunting safari camp in Luangwa Valley of Zambia in 1950. The award-winning tour company also operates five upscale camps in South Luangnwa National Park and currently offers 12 remarkable safari experiences in addition to a host of tailor-made safaris such as its legendary walking safaris. For the past three consecutive years, Norman Carr was named Best Walking Safari in Africa, including this year, and is one of the nominees for the 2017 Safari Awards. Often described as the “original safari company,” each of Norman Carr’s walking safaris allow guests to walk at a casual pace from camp to camp, while spending a few nights in each camp. One of the featured safaris is the 10-day Classic Luangnwa, which includes two nights accommodations each in four of the five camps, all meals, airport transfers, transfers to and from camps and two guided safaris each day.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Singita Serengeti House
Singita Grumeti Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park 31623, Tanzania
+1 770 947 7049/98

With breathtaking views of the surrounding African countryside, Singita Serengeti House is a repeat winner as Best Family Safari Experience and Best Safari in Africa from the Safari Awards. Located on southeastern slopes of Sasakwa Hill in the 350,000-acre Grumeti Reserves, the house can accommodate up to eight guests and features two suites in the main house, two garden suites on either side of the house, in addition to a stunning 25 meter Infinity swimming pool and a private tennis court and pavilion. The luxury home is supported with onsite staff and management and daily game drives with professional guides to see animal species like cheetah, lions, buffalo and leopards. Singita also manages four other lavish properties in Singita Grumeti, including the Faru Faru Lodge, and collectively was named the 2015 Best Hotel in the World for Service by Condé Nast Traveler.

Zarafa Camp
Unit 19B, Westlake Lifestyle Centre, Westlake Drive
Tokai 7945, South Africa
+27 (0) 87 354 6591

The winner of the Safari Award for Best Safari Property for three of the last four years, Zarafa Camp might be better described as an exotic luxury resort and gourmet restaurant. Located within Selinda Private Reserve in Botswana, the camp is managed by Great Plains Conservation and is member of the illustrious Relais & Chateau collection and National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World. Also acclaimed for its exceptional award winning cuisine, Zarafa Camp features just four elegant safari suites, each with a private plunge pool and splendid views of the adjoining Zibadadianja Lagoon. Among the inclusive activities provided by the friendly and engaging staff are early morning and late afternoon or evening game viewing, guided walks and boat cruises on the lagoon. Encompassing 320,000 stunning acres, Selinda Private Reserve is home to more than 8,000 elephants, in addition to a large collage of crocodile, lions, hippos, birds and other captivating forms of wildlife.

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Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. He may be contacted via Twitter or Linkedin .