20 MUST-KNOW TIPS
BEFORE PLANNING YOUR SAFARI
There are so many decisions to make when planning your safari to the world’s most enticing continent! Aside from the boring travel “must-knows” like checking what visas and shots you need, there are a lot of other crucial tips and insights that you can really only get from people who know Africa intimately!
These are our 20 tips to consider before planning your safari. Even if you follow just a few of them, you’ll be well on your way to having the safari of a lifetime!
1. Seeing Africa’s iconic animals is not guaranteed
Although wildlife documentaries make it appear like leopards and lions are a dime a dozen, that’s not always the case! Your experienced ranger will do their best to find you Africa’s iconic animals, but nothing’s for certain! While you “hunt down” the big creatures, be sure to appreciate the smaller wonders of the African bush.
2. Consider an adventurous “mobile safari”
the epitome of “glamping”! A mobile safari means that you have 2 or 3 nights in a location before your camp is packed up (by a dedicated support team) and moved on to the next location. When you arrive at your new camp there’s crisp linen on your beds, a hot shower waiting for you, and a roaring camp fire! It’s a great way to see many destinations in a short amount of time.
3. Get off the beaten path
Southern Africa has a few popular tourist “hotspots”, which can get over-crowded during their respective peak seasons. With a bit of research and advice from people on the ground, discovering little gems in the way of a secluded lodge, bush camp or boutique hotel, off the well-trodden tourist track, is easy and incredibly rewarding!
4. Going on safari means early mornings
Animals are at their most active when it’s cooler – in the early mornings and late afternoons, so this often means a 5:30am wake-up call! But don’t fear, there’ll be piping-hot coffee ready for you when you’re up, and a whole lot of excitement to shake off the yawns. Use the early afternoons to relax in camp with a book, have a nap, or lounge by the swimming pool.
5. Bring a relaxed attitude to Africa
For all its beauty, unspoiled wilderness and friendly people, most African countries can also be dirty, poor and chaotic; and the phenomenon of “Africa time” is a real thing – everything runs a lot slower here! If you’re planning on self-driving or doing a cheaper trip, expect delays, your vehicle might break down, or there probably won’t be bottled water or cold beer at your next pit-stop… but that’s all part of the adventure!
6. Travel in the “off season”
The African summer (November – March) is when the bush is at its greenest and prettiest, and in destinations like Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, luxury lodges can be 30-40% cheaper than during the busier dry season! Download our free “when to travel” calendar here, for more info.
7. Research your accommodation options
There are literally hundreds of lodges and bush camps to choose from when planning your safari, so it can be quite overwhelming deciding which one to book. Personally, we prefer the less hotel-style lodges; and always opt for smaller, more intimate places that tend to be “tented safari camps”. And this does not mean “camping” – tented safari camps are often incredibly luxurious!
8. Taking children on safari is as easy as 1, 2, 3
Most lodges and bush camps will cater to children above the age of 8 in “family suites” that have inter-leading rooms or extra beds in the main room; some lodges take children of all ages – just be sure to ask your travel consultant. Children under the age of 12 also enjoy accommodation discounts of up to 50%!
9. “Immerse” yourself
For a portion of your trip why not go on a walking safari or a canoe/kayak trail. These activities get you “into” nature where you can enjoy and appreciate your surroundings on a deeper, more intimate level. It also means you can get some exercise in! Unforgettable walking safaris can be found in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia; and some of our favorite, and highly adventurous, canoe trails can be found in Botswana and Zimbabwe.
10. Fear of flying
You may want to check if you’ll be flying in small planes during your safari. 5 to 12-seater Cessna aircraft are commonly used in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia in order to access remote lodges, inaccessible by road. This is a more convenient (and expensive) way to travel, so if you’re on a tighter budget then “self-driving” is also a great option – just make sure you plan to only drive in areas where the road networks are good (and safe)!
11. Africa’s travel currency is U.S. dollars
so it can get very expensive! By far the most affordable safari destination on the continent is South Africa. The travel industry here is based on the local currency (Rand), which means it offers a world-class safari experience, for less. Kruger National Park and the private game reserves surrounding Kruger are among the best places on the continent to see Africa’s iconic animals!
12. Africa isn’t always hot
Depending on when you travel, the mornings, evenings and nights can get really cold in Africa! Make sure that you pack a lightweight jacket, a beanie for the winter months (May-July), and even some gloves and thermal underwear if you’re visiting the Kalahari Game Reserve in the winter.
13. Get a private guide on board
A passionate and experienced guide will take your safari to the next level. They will accompany you on your safari and be on-hand to offer incredible knowledge and insights into the areas you’re visiting. African travel can be stressful and scary, so having a private guide means that you never have to worry – they’ll take control of all the plans and logistics!
14. Pack binoculars
Binoculars are not reserved for only over-enthusiastic nature-lovers! Animals are often spotted deep in the bush, too far to see clearly with the naked eye. To ensure you don’t miss out on what the other safari-goers in your vehicle are seeing, be sure to pack a pair! Affordable, good binoculars can be bought off Amazon.
15. Make sure you know what you’re getting
Different areas, destinations and lodges are good for different things. Some areas are better for seeing elephants, in other areas you’ll have a greater chance of seeing the big cats, and some places like Victoria Falls are not good for wildlife – the focus here is on adrenalin activities! Be sure to ask your travel consultant exactly why they suggest you visit the areas they’ve chosen, or make sure that they know what your safari “wish list” is!
16. Learn about the African bush
If you have the time, doing a multi-day nature course can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience. Spend a few nights in a remote wilderness where you are taught all about the bush’s intricate ecosystem – you’ll learn about fascinating trees, plants and insects, and even discover how to track lions and elephants on foot!
17. Disconnect from your life
Being on safari, or “in the bush”, immersed in true and unspoiled wilderness, is one of modern-day society’s greatest privileges. Put your phone down, leave social media unopened for a few days, and really feel yourself become grounded and connected to something greater. This sounds airy-fairy, but it’s real – being on safari forces you to disconnect from your rat-race life, which is what a true vacation is all about!
18. Include your favorite hobbies
Be sure to tailor-make your safari around the activities that you love. Safaris are not only about searching for wild animals – anything from yoga, birdwatching, photography, cooking, golf, or hiking can be incorporated into most safaris! These days, safaris are multi-faceted and should be tailor-made to suit your exact needs! Do not accept a “standard” itinerary from an agent who has given the same thing to a hundred other people.
19. Less is more
Avoid visiting too many destinations or lodges on your safari. Given the early mornings, being on safari can sometimes be exhausting! Try stay in one place for a minimum of 3 nights before moving on. Our philosophy is to have more nights in fewer places, rather than fewer nights in more places!
20. Give back
To ensure your hard-earned money is actually doing some good in Africa, look for lodges and bush camps that employ and support local communities. You can also contribute to conservation by paying a little extra to partake in activities like rhino tracking. If you’re a keen birder, download the “BirdLasser” app before arriving in Africa – as you log your sightings, this valuable data will be shared among conservation organizations across Africa!
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