Going on safari is exciting enough, but did you know that there are a few idyllic spots in Africa where you can actually take an “island safari“? We’ve researched the entire continent to come up with the 5 top African islands that allow you to take in the island vibe whilst doing the occasional game drive or walking safari to check out the local wildlife. Have a read of our list of Africa’s top island safari destinations and let us know what you think – are any missing?
Bioko Island, Guinea
Bioko Island is a large island 20 miles off the coast of Cameroon, renown as one of the most biologically significant places in Africa and home to two national parks – Pico Basile National Park and Grand Caldera Southern Highlands Scientific Reserve. The undisturbed virgin rainforest and mountainous terrain is a haven for rare primates whilst the black sandy shoreline provides a nesting ground for endangered sea turtles. In the island’s southwestern corner is the Gran Caldera – a volcanic crater whose high walls have created a natural refuge for eleven species of primates and fifty endemic plant species.
Chief’s Island, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Safaris don’t come much better than when you’re spotting wildlife in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Big game (and the big five) abound in the Okavango Delta, along with luxury safari lodges where you can foret about the rest of the world and truly indulge yourself. Chief’s Island is the largest island in the delta, and was formed by a fault line which lifted an area of over 70 km long and 15 km wide. Until fairly recently it was an area reserved for VIP hunting, but since this was abolished the wildlife population has gone from strength to strength – particularly during wet season when water levels rise, the island shrinks and the wildlife is easy to spot!
Jozani Forest National Park, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Zanzibar is perhaps the ultimate African island getaway with some of the best beaches on the continent. But as it’s also home to the 50 km2 Jozani Forest National Park Zanzibar can be far more than just a great destination to chill out on the beach. The park is situated in the largest area of mature forest on the island in a shallow trough in the fossil coral bed where seasonal flooding and a high water table, have given rise to a unique groundwater forest.
Lying on the tourist trail you’ll do well to visit towards the start or end of the day to make sure you avoid unwanted crowds and give yourself the best chance to see wildlife.
With a little luck you might see one of the many species of African monkeys, including Kirk’s red colobus monkey (adopted as the flagship species for conservation in Zanzibar) and Sykes monkey. Other wildlife includes lesser bushbabies, tree hyrax, more than 50 species of butterfly and 40 species of birds. And if you’re super-lucky you could spot the Zanzibar Leopard – last reported in 1999 but rumored to be alive and well by the locals!
Orango Islands National Park, Guinea-Bissau
The Bissagos Islands are a group of 88 islands and islets located in the Atlantic Ocean about 60 kilometres off the coast of Guinea-Bissau. Orango is one of the Bissagos Islands and is the centre of the Orango Islands National Park which stretches across a number of the surrounding islands covered in mangrove, swamps, forests and high grass savannah.
The big draw here are the rare species of saltwater hippo and Nile crocodile – two mean beasts! There are also a selection of monkeys and smaller primates that make themselves at home in the islands’ thick jungle canopy, along with bird-life including bright pink flamingos, African spatulas, pelicans and thousands of waders.
Rubondo Island, Lake Victoria, Tanzania
Nestled in the southwest corner of the mighty Lake Victoria is the little-visited Rubondo Island National Park. Walking safaris are the order of the day here as you try to track the local chimpanzee families that you can hear barking from miles away.
If you have no luck spotting the chimpanzees you’re almost guaranteed watching the hippos leave the lake when night falls to start their grazing on shore, so be sure you’re somewhere safe with a torch come dusk! The island is not particularly out of the way, but it’s off the main tourist route enough to ensure that only a handful of people per night ever stay – making for a super relaxing stay.
That’s our five of the best island safaris – what do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.