So, at last, you’ve decided to give in to the temptation of embarking on an African safari vacation. That’s a great choice, but where do you start?
It’s not as simple as picking a hotel off the internet and away you go.
Did you know there are over 5,000 beds in the Masai Mara National Park alone? What’s more, it’s not possible to reserve many of them on your nearest booking engine.
No, planning a trip to Africa takes know-how and time. Here are some tips for making sure you get it right.
1. Don’t Go it Alone on Your African Safari Vacation
For first time travelers, Africa is a daunting destination. It’s vast and untamed in parts with none of the usual modern conveniences that you’re used to.
Sure, in the cities, you’ll find everything you need, but where you’re going that isn’t the case. That’s the point of safari trips in Africa after all.
Hiring a professional tour operator to curate your trip takes a lot of the guesswork out of African travel. Tour companies like Penwell Safaris, Always Africa, or Southern Destinations can help you plan the ultimate trip without the uncertainty.
They’ll put together the ultimate safari according to your wish list and ensure you enjoy only the best accommodation and activities available.
With an experienced tour planner on your side, you have no worries about the finer details, your only concern is enjoying every moment.
2. Expect the Unexpected
You won’t be on the continent long before you discover the charms of ‘Africa time’. In this part of the world, things don’t always run to a clockwork schedule.
There will most likely be delays. Hold-ups caused by things beyond anyone’s control e.g a herd of elephants taking their sweet time to cross the road.
Prepare to let go of your clock-watching ways and go with the flow.
3. Think ”Small”
To make the most of your safari trip, it pays to focus on just one country at a time. Africa is bigger than the USA, China, and Europe combined. You can’t do ten countries in one trip.
Plan to spend about 10 days in one destination e.g East Africa. You’ll still get the different experiences available in various reserves without rushing from border post to border post.
4. Make Provision for Children
Children love the great outdoors experiences that Africa offers but some wildlife experiences do have age limits.
For example, it’s not safe to include small children on walking safaris. They can also become bored with long game drives.
If you have little ones in tow, always choose a safari camp that has specialized activities for children.
Your kids will stay busy with supervised activities throughout the day, learn a ton in the process, and leave you in peace to hit the spa.
5. Take Nothing for Granted When Planning
On the topic of spas, speak to your travel expert about all your expectations.
If the following are important to you, bring them up in advance:
- Whether you’d like a swimming pool
- If you require a bathtub
- Would you like extras like a spa onsite
- Is running water and flush toilets a deal-breaker for you?
- Wi-Fi? – probably not going to happen
Don’t assume that you’ll have all the luxuries you’ll usually find at a 5-star hotel. Many of these camps are mobile, so they simply can’t offer facilities like these.
Many East African safari camps pride themselves in their rustic luxury. That means you’ll enjoy a supremely comfortable stay but shouldn’t expect all the mod cons.
Bear in mind that almost all safari camps are extremely eco-conscious, and prefer to keep the intrusion on their environment to a minimum.
Making sure your tour planner knows what you want will avoid disappointment on arrival.
Never let the absence of modern conveniences put you off. Your hosts will make sure you’re comfortable, no matter what.
6. Consider Avoiding the Peak Safari Seasons
Most of East Africa has only two seasons – wet and dry. Peak times for African safari trips are always during the dry season.
Yet, there are those few months where you may experience only sporadic rainy weather, leaving you with plenty of time to enjoy yourself.
The problem with peak safari season is the crowds. Areas like the Mara and Serengeti can become overcrowded to the point of unpleasantness.
When you travel in the shoulder seasons, you’ll have more space to yourself.
It’s true that game species are more dispersed at this time, but that problem’s easily remedied. An experienced tracker and guide will lead you to some amazing sightings nonetheless.
It’s also important to remember that the Great Migration never stops. The big herds move in a circular motion through Tanzania and Kenya all year.
It’s still possible to see them without braving the crowds at the gruesome Grumeti river crossing.
7. Pack Light
Bringing your whole wardrobe along on a safari is going to cause you more pain than pleasure.
For the most part, you’ll be traveling by light aircraft with severe baggage restrictions for starters.
You don’t need any high heel shoes and evening dresses on your safari trip. What you do need is:
- a pair of sturdy walking shoes
- 2 or 3 sets of comfortable neutral-colored clothing
- long pants for hiking
- a wide-brimmed hat
- plenty of insect repellant and sunscreen
One pair of binoculars per person is essential. Life-altering arguments can break out over whose turn it is to use the binoculars! A camera with a memory card is another must-have.
The best way to make the most of your African safari vacation is to just do it. When you’re sipping sundowners while watching the sunset over the savannah, you’ll forget all your trepidations.
No safari trip is ever the same, and an element of unpredictability is part of Africa’s charm. Let go of your preconceptions and lap up what this beautiful continent has to offer.
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