If you love nature and wildlife then you shouldn’t be a stranger in the world of natural parks and game reserves in Africa. They are also fun places you should consider when planning your vacation and visit. We are going to be exploring the very best nature and wildlife reserves in Africa. Starting with West Africa, we going to explore various and top best national parks and game reserves in North, East and South Africa.
The West African coast from Dakar Senegal to Yaounde Cameroon have a lot to offer when it comes to natural parks and game reserves. Have you heard of Mole, Pendjari and Waza? These wildlife reserves are some of the finest in West Africa – they may not be as famous but the wildlife is just as diverse, safaris cost a fraction of those in eastern and southern Africa and you’re unlikely to be bothered by crowds. Here are our top blissfully low-key West African wildlife parks.
Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Sierra Leone
This small island on the Moa River in Sierra Leone is unlike any other reserve or park in West Africa: with 11 species of primate present in the sanctuary (www.tiwaiisland.org ). It’s one of the very few places in West Africa where you are virtually guaranteed to see chimpanzees and other endangered primates such as the beautiful Colobus and Diana monkeys. There are other rare species such as the endemic pygmy hippopotamus, river otters and more than 130 species of bird. There are guided excursions on the islands and nearby villages, and you can stay the night on a simple, covered platform. The sanctuary is easily reached by taxi from Bo or Kenema but do stay the night in Tiwai if you are using public transport.
Mole National Park, Ghana
The most amazing thing about Mole (www.molemotelgh.com ) is how cheap and accessible it is: independent travellers can easily get here by public transport from Tamale. Entry fees are under US$10 and walking safaris are standard (although if you did want to go on a game drive, the park has a 4×4 for hire). And then of course there is the Mole Motel, in an unbeatable location overlooking the park plains, with premium views of what the animals – elephants, warthogs, baboons, antelope and birds – are up to. There is even a swimming pool for a refreshing dip in between outings.
Cross River National Park, Nigeria.
The largest rain forest in Nigeria and the oldest surviving one in Africa is located in Cross River National Park. Sharing its name with the state, Cross River, it has the highest tropical biodiversity in Africa. Twenty percent of the world’s total known species of butterflies reside in Cross River. This wildlife park is a top tourist attraction. It’s known for its naturally preserved inhabitants that offers so many activities to get the visitors engaged. The park has many localised species of plants and animals such as gorilla, drill chimpanzee, Gwantibo or golden potto forest elephant, Saleginella etc.
Parc National de la Pendjari, Benin
Surrounded by the beautiful Atakora Mountains, the Pendjari (www.pendjari.net ) is probably the best park in West Africa. It has ‘big-ticket’ wildlife – lions, elephants, cheetahs, baboons – and plenty more for those with the patience to seek it. The infrastructure is fantastic too, with sensational guides and accommodation right at the heart of the park to enjoy drives at sunrise and sunset, when wildlife is at its best. Stay at the lovely eco-lodge Pendjari Lodge (www.pendjari-lodge.com), or the more old-fashioned Hôtel de la Pendjari.
Kakum National Park, Ghana.
Located just 20 kilometres from Cape Coast, the Kakum National Park is home to elephants, monkeys and elusive bongo antelopes which roam among over 800 rare species of birds, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians. But beside its vast natural endowment of plant and animal species, the presence at Kakum Park of world class receptive facilities for visitors such as the 333 metre long tree-top walkway and a multi-purpose visitor centre, have accounted for the park’s status as an irresistible destination for eco-tourism.
Niokolo Koba Park, Senegal.
Niokolo-Koba, at 900 sq km, is Senegal’s largest national park. Principally covered by dry forests and savannahs littered with limber and bush, the National park of Niokolo Park, counts nearly 1500 different sorts of vegetation. This allows it to home 30 different species of mammals, 36 different reptiles, 20 different amphibians and 60 sorts of fish. Of the more than 830 different species of birds recorded in the park, 109 are protected by the Bonn convention and Bern convention.
W National Park; Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso.
The W National Park is one park with three sections and each of the three sections is in a different country. The three countries of Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso each governed their respective part of this national park. The wildlife found in the W National Park, includes the lion, the leopard, the serval, the caracal, the cheetah, the Cape buffalo, the African elephant, the hippopotamus, the roan antelope, the aardvark, and the warthog. The W National Park contains a small population (less than 30 individuals) of the rare Northwest African cheetah and more than 350 species of bird.
Boucle du Baoule Park, Mali.
Boucle du Baoule National Park is located near the town of Bamako in the western region of Mali, Africa. The park is largely covered in West African savannah although the vegetation is divided into two bio-geographic regions of Sudan Guinea in the south and Sahelian zone for the north. Other parts of the park are combretum shrub, savannah woodlands and a dense rain forest on the banks of Baoule River. Pristine rock art, ancient tombs and varied wildlife make this Boucle du Baoule National Park, an attractive place of visit for the tourists of Mali.
Yankari Game Reserves, Nigeria.
The Yankari Game Reserve located in Bauchi State is arguably West Africa’s best known wildlife area… Its prominence as a wildlife destination of choice dates back to the 60s, and since then Yankari has gained global recognition as a great destination for classic West African wildlife (www.yankarigamereserves.com). Yankari is the premier reserve and it is a top destination for wildlife and eco-tourism. It boasts the largest population of elephants in West Africa as well as several endangered species like the leopard. In addition to the wildlife, there are several crystal-clear and infection-free natural warm springs at Yankari, most prominent of which is the Wikki Warm springs. The Wikki Warm Spring is very popular amongst visitors, and is a good place to relax after a long safari. Yankari is an ideal place for bird watchers, because the variety of birds here is astounding.
Waza National Park, Cameroon.
The Waza National Park covers an area of 170,000 hectares. It is the most famous park in Cameroon and one of the most spectacular in French-speaking Africa. The Waza National Park in Cameroon is one of the most visited places in this far north side of Africa. The animal population is so great that it also houses endangered species with the likes of the giraffe family, antelopes, bird species and jackals among others. It’s the most important wildlife park in the city of Cameroon and one of the most significant in the country of Africa. This is the only park where you can see animals in danger of extinction. This park is an absolute must to discover.
The best time to see wildlife in West Africa is December to April, when the grass has been burnt (which improves visibility) and the dry season forces animals to congregate around water holes. Tracks are generally impassable in the rainy season (July-September) and parks are often close.