For many adventurers in Africa, the idea of a safari is to be in South Africa or East Africa. However, these are the hidden safaris in West Africa.
These wildlife reserves may not be as famous but the wildlife is just as diverse, the safaris cost a fraction of those in eastern and southern Africa and crowds are quite unlikely.
1. Pendjari National Park
The Pendjari National Park is probably the best park in West Africa. Wildlife in Pendjari ranges from lions to elephants to cheetahs to baboons – and plenty more for those with the patience to seek it. Surrounded by breathtaking Atakora mountains, the park has great infrastructure, sensational guides and accommodation right at the heart of the park to enjoy drives at sunrise and sunset, when wildlife is at its best.
2. Yankari Game Reserve
Yankari Game Reserve is a large wildlife park located in the south-central part of Bauchi State, Nigeria. It covers an area of about 2,244 square kilometres (866 sq mi) and is home to several natural warm water springs, as well as a wide variety of flora and fauna. The reserve is also a vast village to animals such as primates, waterbucks, bushbucks, oribi, crocodiles, hippopotamus, roan gazelle, wild ox and countless species of monkeys and baboons.
3. Réserve de Nazinga, Burkina Faso
Though not a national park, Nazinga is home to elephants, monkeys, antelope, crocodiles and a profusion of birds. The star attractions are the elephants which one can see all year-round — they love roaming through Ranch de Nazinga, the reserve’s main hotel, and wallowing in the nearby lake or swimming in the deep lake.
4. Mole National Park, Ghana
At this park, admission fees are under US$10 and walking safaris are standard but jeeps are for hire if you want to go on a game drive, the park has a 4x4 for hire. Animals such as elephants, warthogs, baboons, antelope, birds roam the park. There is even a swimming pool for a refreshing dip in between outings. Mole is known for how cheap and accessible it is.
5. Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Sierra Leone
This small island on the Moa River in Sierra Leone is home to over 11 species of primate. It is one of the very few places in West Africa where you are 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.