Big-Game Spotting in Africa (South Africa & Botswana)
Credit: Luis Davilla / Getty Images

Big-Game Spotting in Africa (South Africa & Botswana)

There are few thrills like the first yellow flash of a lion's mane or its guttural roar, which makes the whole veldt shudder. And there are few places you are more likely to experience such things than South Africa's Kruger National Park, one of the oldest wildlife reserves in Africa. Within its 5 million acres almost every major species of African animal thrives, including 1,500 lions and 8,000 elephants. Explore puts travelers up at luxe bush camps, such as Royal Malewame, a six-room lodge built on stilts and connected by aerial walkways. How you view the game is up to you. Guides lead dawn and dusk trips – when you have the best chance to see a kill – either in an open-topped Land Rover or on foot, when encounters with animals take on a more intimate quality. Either way, go in July or August, when the grass is low, and you're virtually guaranteed to see the Big Five – leopard, lion, buffalo, elephant, and rhino. For the ultimate two-week safari (custom trips include air transfers, meals, and luxury accommodations), combine Kruger and a smaller park in South Africa (such as Madikwe Hills, known for its rare wild dogs and boulder-strewn landscape) with Botswana's Okavango Delta, a 6,000-square-mile maze of channels that empty into the vast Kalahari Desert. Accessible only by plane or boat, the Okavango is best explored from Stanley's Camp, a handful of tents overlooking the Boro River in the most wildlife-dense part of the delta. Guides lead game-paddles in canoes, silently approaching elephants, black rhinos, and water buffalos. And, if you're lucky, more lions.