A good question to ask yourself when you are planning your first safari is where to go.
There are many answers to that question, but you should decide what kind of experience you would like. If sheer numbers of animals is your main reason for going on safari, go to Kenya, Tanzania or Botswana. If a more secluded experience is what you are after, Botswana, Zambia, and Southern Tanzania fit the bill. If you are looking for a combination of landscapes and wildlife, Namibia, Tanzania and South Africa are great places.
For interactions with African people, Tanzania, Kenya and Namibia are good destinations, just as long as you keep in mind that these encounters will have a commercial aspect to it - villagers earn much needed cash by having you visit.
Rwanda and Uganda are the only places where you can currently visit mountain gorillas, with Rwanda's primates being the most accessible.
Here are the best game reserves and other highlights of South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
Lying in the midst of the Kalahari Desert, this giant marshland is a haven for wildlife from lions and elephant to the elusive sitatunga and myriad birds. Tranquility is king in this other-wordly paradise.
Moremi Game Reserve
The only area of the Okavango that is protected, this reserve has some of the highest density of wildlife in the world. The area is a great mix of marshland and forests, making for great wildlife viewing.
Famed for its large herds of massive elephants, the park consists of three distinct areas. Chobe Riverfront supports the highest density of wildlife. It is where most of the lodges are and where you can do river cruises to spot wildlife. Linyanti Marsh is rich in predators and is far away from civilization - flying in to a luxury safari camp is the best option here. Savuti, with the adjacent channel, rivals the riverfront in animal density, but is much more remote.
Remote luxury lodges
These lodges are situated in privately protected areas. The only people you will see are others staying at the same intimate lodge as you. Sit back and let yourself be pampered with great food and wines, relax by the pool and enjoy all those safari activities on offer, including game drives, walking safaris, boating trip and night drives.
Only a 90 minute drive from the Botswana border, Victoria Falls is a must-see for any visitor to this part of Africa. The 2 kms (1.2 miles) wide falls can be seen from paths or from a helicopter. Adrenaline junkies can bungee jump and raft in this, the adventure capital of Africa.
Greater Kruger Area
The density, diversity and sheer numbers of wildlife in Kruger National Park and the adjacent private game reserves are almost beyond belief. Game drives and guided game activities are the order of the day here and best enjoyed at the private game reserves.
Forest-clad hills rolling down to a spectacular coastline, beautiful lagoons and beaches along with jaw-dropping scenery make this one of the most popular areas in the country.
Well-known for its great wines but less so for its spectacular mountains and vistas, the winelands near Cape Town should be one anyone's itinerary. Pretty towns like Franschhoek and Tulbagh will complement stops at a winery or two.
Known as The Mother City, Cape Town lies hemmed between beautiful beaches and Table Mountain. A true melting pot of Asian, African and European cultures this is the place you'll find great restaurants and bars, a sprinkling of interesting museums and markets, and a vibe all of its own set within beautiful surroundings.
Huge red sand dunes tower above this shallow pan in the Namib Desert. Hike to the top and enjoy the stupendous views.
Etosha National Park
Centred on a series of salt pans, Etosha is Namibia's premier wildlife viewing area. Watch from the safety of your vehicle, or sit at night by a floodlit waterhole.
Dream of Africa and you dream of the Masai Mara, where vast numbers of herbivores and predators inhabit the rolling hills. A must see for any visitor to Kenya.
During the dry season enormous flocks of flamingoes wade along the shore, while rhino and antelopes graze the surrounding grasslands. Nakuru is a great place to see leopard.
Grasslands as far as the eye can see, predators galore and home to that dazzling spectacle of the wildebeest migration. A must see for any visitor to Tanzania.
From the moment you descend into this virtual Noah's Ark of Africa, the caldera of the Ngorongoro and its myriad wildlife will keep you spellbound.
Tree-climbing lions and millions of flamingoes are the stars of this small but rewarding park which supports one of the highest densities of mammals in the world.
Africa's largest wildlife reserve is remote and sees few visitors. Yet wildlife viewing is unparalleled, both from the water, from a vehicle as well as on foot. It is the place to come for a true "Out of Africa" experience.
Get lost in the magical jumble of cobbled alleyways of Stone Town, delight your senses on a tour of the spice plantations or relax on the stunning white-sand, palm-fringed beaches of the Indian Ocean.
Volcanoes National Park
Against the scenic backdrop of bamboo groves, rainforests and steep volcanoes, this is one of the best places in the world to track gorillas. In addition, you can spot endangered golden monkeys here.