To help plan a successful safari, Frans Lanting offers insights into a number of popular African destinations the first-time traveler should consider.
KENYA: "Even though it's very popular and you run into crowded situations, Kenya is still the easiest place to go and in a way still the most wonderful all-in-one experience. Because there are parks that are really accessible, there's lots of expertise with supporting photographers both in groups and as individuals, and there's an amazing range of places and subjects. I would say it gets more visitors than probably all of the other countries combined. It can be an amazing experience."
ZAMBIA: Far less visited than Kenya, Lanting says things here are "more like Kenya used to be 30 years ago, and reasonably priced Luangwa Valley is a great destination."
NAMIBIA: "Namibia is far less visited, and there's an escape component that's really very precious. Namibia is very sparsely populated so there are many places there where you're going to find you're the only person and the only thing you hear is the blood in your ears. And then it becomes a totally different experience. It's more wilderness punctuated by wildlife, except for some hot spots."
BOTSWANA: "Botswana is fantastic. I helped blaze trails there that are now very well trodden, and it has become really expensive because they really try to cater to fewer people and give them all a high-quality experience. That means the price for lodging and guides is all kept pretty high."
ZIMBABWE: "Because of the political upheaval, Zimbabwe attracts very few visitors. But the parks are still there, the animals are still there—you're just going to have to cope with more unpredictable situations."
RWANDA: Lanting says Rwanda is a destination to be added to a Kenyan trip rather than the singular focus of a first-timer's visit. Photographing Rwandan mountain gorillas can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
CONGO: "If Kenya is the best traveled path, I would say the opposite is to go to the Congo. But I wouldn't recommend that to someone who has never been to Africa before."
SOUTH AFRICA: "South Africa is a great destination. It's extremely diverse—both for landscapes and wildlife—not to mention there are some pretty sweet beach destinations and wine-tasting opportunities. If your once-in-a-lifetime safari needs to please your partner in life as well, and you want to make it more than just a hardcore photographic or wildlife opportunity, South Africa is a great destination. You can go from urban delights in Cape Town to great wildlife experiences and everything in between."
Adds Lanting, "We haven't even talked about the 25 other potential destinations, ranging from Ethiopia to Morocco to Mozambique, but if I had never been to Africa before, I would consider one of the countries above."