Christine, Digital Nomad, Travel Expert
Ultimate safari guide
Ultimate Safari Guide
There are a thousand reasons why everyone should go on a safari at least once in their lifetime. But only the bravest embark on a journey to explore faraway locales, in the middle of savannah and surrounded by wild beasts.
Whether you’re eager to get up close with the finest wildlife, want to reconnect with nature, or simply to support wildlife conservation efforts, a safari is certainly one of the best ways to take a break from your normal routine.
If you’re one of the plucky individuals, here is an ultimate guide that will help you plan an epic African safari adventure;
The Best Time to Go on a Safari
Africa is expansive and wildly varied in terms of landscape and climate. But typically, the climate is mild and sunny.
Most African safari destinations have two seasons - dry and wet season. The two seasons affect the accessibility of the parks/reserves and also a factor that affects wildlife concentration.
For instance, during the dry season, a lot of animals will congregate near water bodies to quench their thirst and cool off their bodies.
May and October across many sub-Saharan Africa are considered the peak season and the best time for a safari. During this time of the year, the weather is dry and hot especially towards October.
East Africa enjoys a short dry period in December and January so you can book your safari around this time if you want to travel to Kenya or Tanzania.
Best safari destinations
· South Africa – the country has the highest concentration of white rhinos
· Kenya – the Great Wildebeest Migration
· Tanzania – Tanzania has the most diverse wildlife in Africa
What to Expect on the Safari
Hot and dusty conditions
The dry season is the best time to marvel at the wildlife but it also means the weather can be unforgiving. The scorching African sun can be super uncomfortable so be sure to dress light, bring a hat, and apply sunscreen to your body generously.
Also, the roads winding through the wilderness are dirt roads. Expect to get dusty but you can pack wet wipes in case you need to freshen up.
Up to 4 hours of bouncing and bumping on a four-wheel safari vehicle
As mentioned above, most safari roads are dirt which means they’re bumpy and potholed. Nothing too crazy but it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll be in a ‘real’ wilderness.
This means a possibility of getting stuck in muddy terrains. But worry not, safari drivers are highly experienced and can safely navigate insane trails.
You might need to do your ‘business’ in the bush
When you’re out on those long drives, you might have to swallow your pride and have your ‘break’ in the bush – if you really need to go.
There are no latrines, no toilets, and flushing toilets are unheard of. However, it’s possible to stop in the nearest camp – that is if you can wait.
If not, you’ll have to help yourself in the bush, as embarrassing as that might sound. So, pack some tissue!
Flies – lots of flies
Flies are probably the worst part of any safari but you can always use a good bug spray. This is important because tsetse, wasps, and mosquito bites can be dangerous.
How to Plan a Safari
1. Figure out the experience you want to get out of a safari
If you want to have a memorable safari, it’s crucial to brainstorm and be clear of what you want to get out of your adventure.
For instance, some people might only enjoy the tranquility, and solitude of the wilderness while spotting animals from afar.
On the other hand, others prefer capturing spectacular images while getting as close as possible to the animals.
Most people choose their ideal safari experience based on these results which can mean choosing between sharing a safari vehicle with other tourists or going on a private safari.
So, the first step of planning a safari is figuring out the element of safari that’s a priority to you. You can choose wilderness, wildlife, or a sweet balance between the two.
2. Come up with a budget that you’re comfortable with
Contrary to what most people believe, you can go on a safari without milking your wallet dry. But that’s only possible if you have a clear budget right off the bat.
If you’re on a shoestring budget you can settle for the less trodden paths in lesser-known safari destinations.
For example, if Kenya is your dream safari destination you can opt to go to Tsavo National Park which has astonishing diverse wildlife more or less like Maasai Mara but at a real bargain.
Park entrance fee is significantly lower and it’s easy to find breath-taking lodges at really affordable rates.
Also, if you want to retreat to the wilderness without losing the convenience of modernity, you can settle for a luxury safari where you can be pampered with, sundowners, spa treatment, and massage after every game drive.
3. Type of accommodation
Although you’ll spend a significant amount of your time out on game drives, accommodation can make or break your safari experience.
You want to make sure you settle for an accommodation that aligns with your goals. Do you prefer a luxury lodge, tented accommodation, or light mobile camping?
4. How many days do you want to spend on a safari
The duration of your safari will highly depend on what you want to achieve. If all you want is to spot and tick the BIG Fives off your list, a duration of 3 – 5 days should suffice.
But if you’re on a mission such as wildlife photography, you might need to hang around for around 5 – 7 days just to make sure you’ll have captured those flawless shots.
5. When would you like to go on a safari
Although most safari destinations are open throughout the year, you might want to plan your trip around the dry season.
6. What activities would you like to do while on your safari
Safari is a once-in-a-lifetime pursuit so it’s important to maximize that opportunity and add every little detail that can make your vacation extraordinary.
After all, safari destinations are usually packed to the brim with activities that can tickle everyone’s wildest fantasies.
Instead of a morning game drive, you can choose to have a hot air balloon and have an eagle view over the landscape as wells as the wildlife.
Other activities include a walking safari, helicopter/plane safari, and a photographic safari.
7. Where to Go on Safari and what to see on a safari
Lastly, yet importantly, you want to be clear on what you want to see and this, in turn, will dictate the perfect safari destination for you.
Do you have a specific species or event you’d like to experience? If for instance, you want to see lots of wildlife roaming freely(not in a reserve) you might want to head to Zambia, but if you’re specific about an event such as the Great Wildebeest Migration, then Tanzania or Kenya is obviously the place to be.