Southern Africa and East Africa are two very popular and well-visited areas for holidays & safaris. However, the question that we normally have to answer is; “If I had to choose… Which is better, East Africa or Southern Africa?” Now, both areas are amazing, and it’s hard to compare and, of course, we think you should go to both, but if you have to choose then hopefully this article will help you decide.  You will find a comparison between Southern & East Africa showing you the highlights and the fantastic gems that each area holds.  We hope that this helps, and please let us know which area you would choose when you have read this!

1. Countries included in the regions:

Southern Africa East Africa
  • South Africa
  • Botswana
  • Namibia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Zambia
  • Mozambique
  • Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Rwanda

2. Landscapes, Scenery and Attractions:

In terms of landscapes and attractions, the regions are quite different.

Southern Africa East Africa
  • Okavango Delta wetland (Botswana)
  • Skeleton Coast and Namib desert (Namibia)
  • Kruger National Park (South Africa)
  • Kalahari Desert (Botswana & northern South Africa)
  • Victoria Falls (Zambia and Zimbabwe)
  • Mount Kilimanjaro
  • Serengeti Plains / Maasai Mara ecosystem
  • Ngorongoro Crater

3. Wildlife:

The wildlife species found in the two areas are essentially the same; most of the predators and plains game can be seen in both regions and only some birds and a few mammals and reptiles are distinct between the regions. The major differentiation is in the numbers of certain species and the general experience a visitor will have when viewing them.

Southern Africa East Africa
  • Botswana and Zimbabwe are home to 80% of Southern Africa’s 300,000 elephants and huge herds are a common sight along their northern borders.
  • East Africa offers herds of zebras and wildebeests in the hundreds of thousands. The annual migration between the Maasai Mara in the north and Tanzania’s Serengeti in the south is a spectacle unequaled anywhere on earth today.

4. Weather:

The weather also varies between the regions.

Southern Africa East Africa
  • In Southern Africa, while each country varies, the rains generally fall between November and March with the rest of the year being mostly rain-free.
  • Most of the camps stay open year-round.
  • The rainy or “green” safari season in Southern Africa offers benefits such as herbivores having their babies, lush green landscapes and dramatic skies, all of which combine to create superb photographic opportunities.
  • In East Africa, October marks the beginning of the “short rains” while April brings “long rains.”
  • Some of the safari camps close during the long rains due to difficult driving conditions.

The major differences between East Africa and Southern Africa for safaris are the density of tourists, the safari accommodations and the safari vehicles.

5. Density of Tourists & Accommodation

Southern Africa East Africa
  • Southern Africa is known for its luxury tented safari camps and huge tracts of wilderness areas with very low tourist densities, making for a private safari experience.
  • For the most part, Southern Africa is dominated by huge land concessions, which are owned or leased by luxury safari camp operators, and these concessions are for the sole use of the individual camp and its guests. With an average camp size of only 10-16 guests and only one or two vehicles for the entire concession, one can drive all day and not encounter anything but wilderness and wildlife.
  • East Africa, in general, has earned a reputation for a high density of tourists staying in hotel-styled lodges.
  • However, there are a growing number of luxury lodges cropping up in East Africa, particularly in Tanzania and these lodges offer a far more exclusive experience than the large safari lodges which may have typified Kenya and Tanzania.

6. Vehicles

Southern Africa East Africa
  • In the private safari lodges, the safari vehicles used here are modified, open-air Land Rovers which also add to the intimacy of the experience.
  • On scheduled tours companies use converted 10-Seater Land Cruisers, Mini-buses & Overland Trucks.
  • The most common safari vehicle in East Africa is the mini-van with its pop-up roof, whereby passengers stand up to take pictures while peering out of the roof or sit in the enclosed vans.
  • More and more companies also make use of 7-seater Land-Cruisers or Land-Rovers with pop-up roofs.

7. Cultural Tourism

Southern Africa East Africa
  • Different tribes can be visited in Southern Africa such as Zulus, Swazis, Himbas & the Bushmen.
  • Opportunities to witness Maasai or Samburu tribal living are common.

8. Budget

Southern Africa East Africa
  • With the South African Rand getting stronger, Southern Africa is getting more expensive than last year, but a wide range of accommodation standard is on offer that can suit anyone’s budget.
  • Park entrance fees are generally more expensive in East Africa – overnight rates are similar to Southern Africa.

The key is do your research and count on our expertise in matching the right experience to the right region and safari for you.  As we said, we hope you travel to Africa more than once and get the opportunity to experience both regions, but if your dream trip is a one-off experience, understanding which experience is best for you will ensure a great safari!