5 Extraordinary National Parks in Africa That You Should Visit During Your Gap Year
The second largest continent in the world, it is rightly said that “There is something special about Africa that touches the soul.” Whether you've experienced the thrill of wildlife safaris before or a first-time wide-eyed enthusiast, the aura of the African national parks will surely get under your skin. The thrilling mix of wildlife encounters and the breathtaking beauty of the scenery will surely knit wonderful tales to present you with experiences that would last a lifetime. No matter whether you are a solo backpacker, an amateur explorer or a traveler on your gap year, you'll have a great time exploring these 5 extraordinary national parks in Africa.
1. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Located in the northern part of Tanzania, extending up to southwestern Kenyan region, the Serengeti National Park covers an area of about 30,000 square kilometers. The word 'Serengeti' in the Maasai language means 'endless plains', and you'll realize how true the meaning is once you are there! The park is famous for an astounding amount of wildlife that includes everything from buffaloes and hyenas to rhinos and leopards, and of course, the lions. But one of the unique things about Serengeti (that you'll find nowhere else in the world) is the annual Wildebeest Migration, where approximately 6 million of these animals cover a stretch of 40 km and it's a sight to behold! If you are traveling to Tanzania, then you just can't afford to miss the Serengeti safari and who knows, you can just be lucky to witness a predator catch its prey.
2. Kruger National Park, South Africa
“In terms of wildlife, Kruger is one of the world’s greatest national parks. The diversity, density and sheer numbers of animals is almost unparalleled, and all of Africa’s iconic safari species — elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, rhino, buffalo, giraffe, hippo and zebra — live out their dramatic days here, along with a supporting cast of 137 other mammals and over 500 varieties of bird.” — That’s exactly how the Lonely Planet puts it while describing this gorgeous safari destination. Stretching over an area of approximately 20,000 square km, the Kruger is one of the world’s great national parks and the oldest in South Africa. And it's also counted as the best place for spotting leopards. If you are a wildlife enthusiast or a photographer who wants to keenly observe the animals and birds in this region, then you can spend a considerable amount of time in Kruger being a volunteer, and explore the place, unlike other tourists. You can get in touch with the efficient team which caters the needs of the animals and looks after them. Quite evidently, your experience in Kruger will be much more enriching if you choose to contribute towards nature's well being than just enjoying the safaris.
3. Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa
Around 600 African Elephants are sheltered in this national park of South Africa, along with 48 endangered black rhinos as well as a variety of antelope species, buffaloes, lions, leopards, whales and different species of birds. And to add to that, the Port Elizabeth region where Addo is located is equally famous for the huge African penguin population, and also for being the largest Cape Gannetry in the world and Bottlenose Dolphin capital of the world. As per data, the park receives about 120,000 visitors annually. Spend some time amidst the pristine natural beauty and explore the Eastern Cape Region. You can also volunteer for the elephants' welfare if you are interested in doing something worthy of them.
4. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
As the name goes, the 'Bwindi Impenetrable Forest' is one of the world's most biologically diverse areas and one of Africa’s most ancient habitats which has thrived right through the last phase of the Ice Age when most of Africa’s other forests disappeared. And to add to your surprise, this national park is home to more than half of the world's total population of Mountain Gorillas, which is one of the critically endangered species. Uganda has quite a few other popular national parks as well, but Bwindi surely is the most popular of them all. Nowhere else in the world will you get to experience the thrill of a Gorilla Trek through steep mountain rainforest. Apart from the gorillas, you can also spot 11 different species of primate, duiker, bushbuck, African golden cats, and the rare giant forest hog.
5. Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda
While Bwindi is famous for mountain gorillas, Kibale is known for the chimpanzees! This lush tropical rainforest in southern Uganda has the highest density of primates in Africa including the rare black-and-white colobus and the blue monkeys. The Kibale National Park forms a continuous forest with Queen Elizabeth National Park and herds of African elephants roam freely between both sanctuaries through the wildlife corridor. If you are a bird watcher, then more than 325 avian species in this national park will keep you occupied enough, and that's not all! Kibale is also home to nearly 250 varieties of butterflies. And when you return back to the camp after a day full of adventures, just relax and have a sip of coffee made from the park’s wild Robusta coffee tree. It'll completely refresh you with its flavors.
The natural habitat and the wildlife have both undergone severe changes in the last century due to effects of global warming and other issues. In spite of all the adversities, Africa continues to offer magnificent landscapes and diverse flora & fauna.
Traversing through these national parks will show you a world that perhaps you've just seen on the screens, and coming closer to nature will surely help you in understanding its value deeply.
So, when are you planning your trip to Africa?