The Swahili word safari, meaning long journey, was first introduced into the English language in the nineteenth century. Fast forward to 2015 and the term has come to represent a whole raft of bucket list experiences, from walking safaris to canoeing, horse riding and even flying. Discovering wildlife from giraffe to lion, lemur to leopard and everything in between. While a safari holiday may represent a significant investment, it is a truly once in a lifetime opportunity to see nature in its rawest and most beautiful form; never failing to impress even the most hardened travel nut. Speaking of travel nuts the Original Travel Africa team have compiled their own ultimate safari experiences, from their favourite parks and reserves to the very best guides, lodges, activities and beaches to combine with, just to whet your appetite…

Botswana

Ra says: The Okavango Delta is Africa's biggest oasis, and quite honestly the most beautiful wildlife stronghold I have ever been to. Elephant, lion, leopard, hippos - they're all there. Combine this with the fascinating lunar landscape of the Kalahari & Makgadikgadi Pans, home to the Zu'hoasi Bushmen, some of the only people on earth who can survive in a land without permanent water. A day or even a morning discovering how they have adapted will be, without question, some of the most compelling hours you will spend. Ever.

Where to Stay: Pom Pom Camp and Camp Kalahari

When to Go: June to October

South Africa

Issy says: Not only does South Africa tick every other holiday box (city break, gastro-getaway or beach flop anyone?) its safari options are boundless, whether you're honeymooners, first-time safari goers or old hands. Start in Madikwe and the Waterberg, both easily accessible by road or light aircraft and also malaria free (perfect for families). Then there's Sabi Sands; with no fences between here and the Kruger National Park animals traverse two vast stretches of land, as they have done for centuries. It is totally different to the savannahs of the Mara or the Serengeti but just as worthy of exploration.

Where to Stay: Ant's Nest and Singita Boulders

When to Go: Year-round

Zimbabwe

Louise says: Zimbabwe stands out for me because of the quality of the guiding. It is, bold statement alert, the best in Africa and anyone who has been on safari will tell you that it is the guide that really makes the safari. Highlights include Hwange National Park, famous for its huge numbers of elephant, and Mana Pools, a beautiful and unspoilt corner of Zimbabwe sitting on the mighty Zambezi River where you can do both walking and canoeing safaris. Round your trip off nicely with some time at Victoria Falls to experience all manner of adrenaline-filled adventures, or simply stare in wonder at their sheer magnificence.

Where to Stay: Somalisa Camp and Zambezi Lifestyles

When to Go: May to October

Zambia

Eleanor says: Zambia is very close to my heart having lived out there running a small bush camp in the South Luangwa. It's a beautiful, diverse country with incredibly friendly people who take great pride in their country and what it has to offer. The guides are phenomenal and walking safaris were pioneered here. I also love the Lower Zambezi, which offers not only game drives and walking, but boat safaris, canoeing and fishing too. Zambia also makes for the perfect 'bush and beach' destination as a Zambian safari combines brilliantly with a few days relaxing on the shores of Lake Malawi.

Where to Stay: Bilimungwe Bush Camp and Royal Zambezi Lodge

When to Go: June to October, but it's also beautifully vibrant and lush in April and May after the rains.

Tanzania

Fiona says: Tanzania has so much to offer, from the vast plains of the Serengeti in the north, to the contrasting landscape of savannah and river in the southern Selous Game Reserve, to the remote western parks of Ruaha, Mahale and Katavi. There is no other country in Africa where you can combine the great migration of the wildebeest in the Serengeti with tracking beasts of another kind - the magnificent Chimpanzee in Mahale! Combining the two is an incredible experience and without doubt, must rate as one of the top wildlife experiences in the world.

Where to Stay: Greystoke Mahale and Lamai Serengeti Lodge

When to Go: July to October