Are you a traveller yearning for an exhilarating journey through untamed landscapes and close encounters with majestic wildlife? Look no further as we share our 6 Tips for Booking a Safari, which will assist you with planning the perfect safari experience. Whether you’re a seasoned explorer or embarking on your first safari, we have curated hundreds of safari itineraries that will immerse you in the wonders of nature and create memories to last a lifetime.
First and foremost, if you want somebody to walk you through all the top tips on how to book an african safari, contact an African Safari Travel Specialist. As safari specialists, I cannot even begin to list the number of times our travellers have had mediocre safari experiences from travel agencies offering off-the-shelves safari bookings based upon price-driven bulk travel packages aimed at group travellers wishing to the safari box.
If you’re looking for an immersive experience offering adequate levels of comfort and service that one would expect, then a little safari know-how on the where, when and why is crucial. Only then are you guaranteed safari holiday success, and you’ll have the photos to prove it!
Take it from a safari professional; one size does not fit all in the safari world, as with over a thousand safari camps across East and Southern Africa, ranging from $300 per person per night to over $3,000 per person per night, the options are endless. Throw into the mix a plethora of activities hugely based upon wildlife movements and natural phenomena, which will significantly impact animals, including prey species, predators and birdlife in your chosen safari destination at the time of your travel. Choosing the best safari destination for optimal results can be challenging!
An excellent example is Botswana’s Okavango Delta, which floods during the opposite months to the rainy season and is favoured by many as the best time to travel. This flooding period is considered high-season and priced accordingly. Perhaps, not what one would expect! The drawcard is the sheer beauty of the expansive waterways and the myriad of animals attracted to the precious liquid of the otherwise barren Kalahari.
Another example that springs to mind is the Great Migration of the Serengeti, offering not only a million plus wildebeest and zebra, but also a whopping 350,000 plus visitors each year. While this is great for tourism, it can create masses of safari vehicles and crowds at certain times of the year when the animals congregate at specific natural barriers, such as the Mara River. This, in turn, can make life difficult for wildlife photography enthusiasts, often leading to anxiety and eventually missing the money shot!
If a relaxing safari experience is your thing, consider a private area, such as the Grumeti Game Reserve, but bear in mind there is only a two-month travel window to see the most significant animal migration on earth pass through their pristine plains and across the Grumeti River.
These are only two examples of hundreds of phenomena that will affect your safari, so choose carefully or engage with a professional; it’s what we do every day. Our knowledge and advice often come for free.
So, back to our 6 Tips for Booking a Safari
Step 1: Choose Your Safari Destination
Africa is a continent blessed with diverse safari destinations, but for an extraordinary experience, one should decide what type of experience is most important to you. Are you looking for cultural interactions, perhaps with authentic Maasai dancers, enchanting landscapes and natural beauty such as Victoria Falls, or do you seek exhilarating wildlife encounters up close and personal without the crowds, and only a few safari vehicles in sight?
Or do you seek a variety of experiences? If so, consider a combination journey, such as the classic Cape Town, Kruger National Park, and Victoria Falls itinerary. By combining the destinations, you can tick several boxes while seeing different parts of Southern Africa in a convenient circuit. Cape Town offers a captivating mix of cosmopolitan charm and natural beauty, while Kruger National Park is renowned for its abundant wildlife, including the iconic Big Five. Lastly, the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls will leave you breathless with its thundering waters and stunning rainbows, and these can combine seamlessly into a single holiday of twelve to thirteen nights.
Step 2: Determine the Duration
Decide how much time you can dedicate to your safari adventure. Ideally, we recommended a minimum of ten days to fully immerse yourself in the wilderness and explore the highlights of each destination. A ten to twelve night safari itinerary will allow you to soak up the unique experiences, from vibrant city life to the untamed wilderness. Bear in mind, the longer on safari the bigger the budget required. If wildlife is your passion, for a first-timer, I would say a week on safari is sufficient. Focus on the 2 or 3 main areas within a destination renowned for abundant game viewing, and I recommend at least three nights per camp to maximise your time!
Step 3: Plan Your Activities
Each destination offers a plethora of activities to suit every adventurer’s taste. In Cape Town, hike up Table Mountain for breathtaking views, embark on a wine-tasting tour in the renowned Cape Winelands, or even better, book a few nights to stay at a working wine farm; there are many to choose from. One of our preferred areas is, without a doubt, the beautiful village of Franschhoek.
In Kruger National Park, go on guided game drives, where expert rangers will unveil the secrets of the bush, or experience the thrill of a walking safari, where you can track animals on foot.
And in Victoria Falls, prepare for an adrenaline rush with activities like bungee jumping or unwind with a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. The Victoria Falls is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. With a width of 1.7 km and a height of 108 meters, the falls are truly awe-inspiring and offer an excellent opportunity to explore by land, boat and air with helicopter and microlight excursions.
If your preference is East Africa, to experience the wide open savannah of the Maasai Mara National Park, be sure to add in a visit to the Sheldrick Wildlife Sanctuary during your spare time as you pass through Nairobi – the add-ons are endless, and without a doubt, broaden the experience, while making good use of your time.
Step 4: Accommodation Options
Choosing the most suitable accommodation is crucial for a comfortable and immersive safari experience. From the city to the bush to the beach, there is a range of luxury lodges, authentic safari camps, hotels and boutique guesthouses, each offering unique amenities, breathtaking views and world-class service (well, not always). In Kruger National Park, opt for smaller private reserves that offer exclusive access to wildlife-rich areas and top-notch safari experiences. Avoid the often ill-disciplined self-drive safari goers, which block sightings and jostle for position, much like Great Migration masses in the more popular and easily accessible areas.
When visiting the beach, or an island safari, opt for something without the masses and pristine turquoise waters with stunning vistas as far as the eye can see. After all, nothing is worse than experiencing a beach in a tropical climate, and the shores are too treacherous to enter!
Step 5: Seek Professional Guidance
A knowledgeable guide can enhance your experience by providing insights into the local culture, wildlife behaviour, and conservation efforts. Ensure your safari destinations have high standards and fully qualified safari guides, and they uphold meticulous safety protocols and equipment. There is no compromise when it comes to your safety when in the wilds of Africa. There should be no language barriers, cultural animosity, and definitely no cowboys – they will get you into trouble, not out of trouble!
Travellers can also seek the services of a private safari guide, which is a positive way to ensure engagement and professionalism are maintained throughout the journey, from start to finish. They offer experience, knowledge, charisma, fun, and are discreetly attentive, and ensure that your individually curated journey is not monotonous and your experiences will be varied. This is particularly perfect for families, where a guide will engage your little ones in the wilderness and keep them entertained.
Step 6: What Do I Need To Know About Travelling To Africa: Visa, Vaccinations, Insurance, Etc.
Most countries require visas (a stamp in your passport to show you have been pre-cleared to enter the country). In practice, and when available, it’s usually easiest to get these on arrival. Every country is different, but if advised to get a visa in advance from an online portal, be sure to use the country’s official website, not a commercial site charging extra while offering no benefit to you.
It is also essential to know about medical insurance before planning your first safari trip and to understand what is offered in the country versus your cover, such as AMREF, the flying doctors’ organisation based in Nairobi. There are a few things to consider when purchasing travel insurance, and we discuss that in a separate blog – Travel Insurance Questions.
Take anti-malaria tablets—and other travel vaccinations—when advised. Check if you need a yellow fever vaccination, and if so, you may need to present the certificate when arriving (this applies to some countries and some border and air crossings)
To ensure a seamless and stress-free safari experience, consider enlisting the services of a reputable tour operator who will gladly offer up-to-date travel information on each aspect listed above. They will also handle all the logistics, including transfers, accommodation bookings, and expert guides, allowing you to focus solely on enjoying your adventure.
With your safari itinerary meticulously planned, prepare to embark on a journey that will ignite your spirit of adventure. Prepare to witness mesmerising wildlife in their natural habitat, be captivated by stunning landscapes, and immerse yourself in the rich cultures of Africa. The perfect safari awaits you, so seize the opportunity to create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.
Lastly, as you prepare for your journey, don’t forget to carefully plan your safari packing, including essentials such as lightweight and breathable clothing, sturdy walking shoes, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a good pair of binoculars for wildlife viewing. It’s also advisable to bring a camera to capture those once-in-a-lifetime moments. And remember, the light-aircrafts used by safari organisations require your baggage to adhere to their specifications, making packing all the more challenging.