Five Best: Wildlife destinations

Elisabeth Lewis stalks the Big Five - with crocodiles, zebras and hippos thrown in
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The Independent Travel

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi, South Africa

Located near to the sultry coast of KwaZulu-Natal, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi is Africa's oldest game park. It offers the best chance of seeing rhinos, usually one of the hardest of the Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino) to spot. The park spearheaded South Africa's rhino conservation programme and today, has over a quarter of the world's black and white rhino population. There's also a good chance of seeing big cats and elephants. The park's southern stretch is reserved for guided walking safaris.

Park entry costs R70 (£6) per day. KZN Wildlife (00 27 338 451 000; www.kznwildlife.com) runs the park's camps, including the spectacularly located Hilltop, where a two-bed chalet costs from R466 (£39)

Okavanga Delta, Botswana

Seasonal winter floods transform this corner of the Kalahari into a 15,000 sq km maze of lagoons, marshes and islands, which make up the world's largest inland delta. The north-eastern corner is protected as the Moremi Game Reserve, a beautiful area of wetlands and dry forests. The waterways, best experienced from a traditional dugout canoe, are filled with hippos and crocodiles basking among the papyrus; the forests and plains, on the other hand, are home to huge herds of elephant, buffalo, kudu and lions.

Rainbow Tours (020-7226 1004; www.rainbowtours.co.uk) offers a six-night Okavanga safari from £1,825 per person sharing, with full-board accommodation at Little Vumbura, Chitabe Trails and Savuti Camp, including light aircraft flights from Maun, all activities, local drinks and park fees

Etosha National Park, Namibia

At the heart of Namibia's finest park is the Estosha Pan, an extraordinary salt-encrusted dimple measuring over 5,000 sq km. It's an eerie terrain of silvery sand and sun-bleached earth, but winter springs (April to October) draw huge numbers of animals, including large concentrations of elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras and birds. Rough gravel roads trundle between the main water holes allowing visitors plenty of chances for animal-spotting.

Admission costs N$30 (£2.50). There are three government-run camps within the park, including Namatunoni (00 26 461 236 975; www.met.gov.na/resorts). Camping costs N$130 (£11)

Kruger National Park, South Africa

The grande dame of wildlife parks is suitably enormous, covering an area the size of Israel and with an excellent system of roads making this the easiest park to visit independently. You won't have the place to yourself: over one million people visited last year. But the park's size allows visitors to escape the crowds, and offers a comprehensive slice of Southern African landscapes, from rolling savannah to scrubby forests. Wildlife spotting is excellent, thanks to Kruger's healthy population of the Big Five, countless antelope, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles and a staggering 500 bird species.

Entry to the park is R120 (£10). Camping at the park-run sites ( www.sanparks.org; 00 27 124 289 111) costs R100 (£8.20); bungalows cost from R460 (£38). Mala Mala (00 27 114 422 267; www.malamala.com) is rated as one of the finest camps in South Africa, costing from $500 (£277) per person per night, including all meals, drinks and game drives

South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

South Luangwa pioneered one of the finest wilderness experiences in Southern Africa: walking safaris. Relatively few tourists and a basic infrastructure, means visitors can experience a real sense of isolation, and being on foot feels thrillingly exposed after the confines of a vehicle. Here, the emphasis is less on spotting the Big Five and more on absorbing the smaller details of the African bush - following leopard tracks at dawn, walking among grazing zebra or watching a weaver bird building its nest.

Robin Pope Safaris (00 26 06 24 60 90; www.robinpopesafaris.net) offers 10-night mobile safaris from mid-June to September, costing from US$4,550 (£2,530) per person, including accommodation, meals, drinks, park fees and transfers

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