Whether you want to tick the Big Five off your African safari bucket list or seek out specific species, a new website from Expert Africa is making it easier than ever to decide which country and even which lodges offer the best chances for wildlife sightings. The data, sourced from more than 700 traveler surveys compiled by the tour operator over two years, has morphed into a huge ‘citizen science’ project and represents nearly 30,000 observations of 26 animal species.

"A great safari can be an amazing, life-changing holiday," Chris McIntyre, Expert Africa’s Managing Director, said. "Choosing the right one is critical and so helping our guests with the best possible insights when planning was a big part of our vision behind our new website."

Young lions at Kenya's Maasai Mara National Reserve
Young lions resting, Maasai Mara National Reserve © Elsen Karstad/500px

On the Wildlife tab, Expert Africa’s website lists the 26 species, which range from lions, giraffes and hippos to the more shy and obscure pangolins and aardvarks. Based on the surveys, there’s an average of just 2% of spotting a pangolin, but a more than 90% chance of seeing chimpanzees, mountain gorillas and elephants. Even wildlife researchers are mining the data to better understand the distribution of animals across eastern and southern Africa.

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"Our travellers' data has already helped hyena researchers to pinpoint new areas for three species of hyena, beyond their previously known ranges", McIntyre said. "Our hope is to use these wildlife insights to produce more tangible contributions to wildlife research and conservation awareness across many species and areas."

New website allows users to pinpoint best wildlife spots
Spotted Hyena hunting flamingo on in Kenya. ©Andrew Molinaro/Shutterstock

Reviews from travellers have always had a strong sway and influenced other visitors on where to go and stay, but Expert Africa’s methodical approach is elevating the online comment into actual science. "We are really delighted to be able to put this on an evidence-based basis," McIntyre told Lonely Planet. "It’s a revolutionary step change for us and a real evolution in learning from our past travellers to help our future ones." See the website here

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