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How to Plan an African Safari

With the idea of going on a safari, you may already be flooding your mind with adventures to take and places to see. However, safari planning can be overwhelming, especially for first-time travelers. We're sharing a step-by-step guide on planning an African safari trip to get you started.


How to Plan an African Safari

When planning an African safari, you must consider who you book with, including the service provider and airlines. Additionally, it's crucial you choose the best time to travel and for how long, so you'll know how advanced you should book. You should also determine your travel preferences, where you want to go, and your budget.


Unlike other trips, a safari tour isn't an easy do-it-yourself destination because there are lots of things you need to prepare. It helps to learn how to plan African safaris so you'll know what you want when you book an African safari tour specialist like Find Your Africa.


Zebras enjoying the golden grass field in a safari

Decide Where You Want to Go

The African continent has vast lands for safari drives and cultural experiences. Deciding where you want to go can be intimidating at first. When planning an African safari, you can narrow your choices by knowing what you want to do and see.


Southern Africa Countries vs Eastern Africa Countries

Choosing which part of Africa you'll go to can significantly affect the kinds of safari activities you can do.

  • Eastern Africa: This part of Africa covers Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. East Africa is notable for its native tribes and wildlife encounters, especially the Great Migration and gorilla trekking.

  • Southern Africa: The southern part includes Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The southern countries are famed for their well-rounded safari experiences, from wildlife encounters to exposure to different cultures.

National Parks vs Conservancies

National parks, like the Tarangire National Park and Hwange National Park, are government-run parks with more rules and regulations. Here, you'll likely need to stick to driving on the road and avoid night drives. Additionally, national parks are likely to be more crowded, especially during the peak season.


On the other hand, conservancies such as the Masai Mara Conservancy and Mara Naboisho Conservancy tend to function as private reserves since they focus on wildlife conservation. While there are rules as well, you get to experience night drives, walking safaris, and off-road sunset game drives.


Know What You Want to Do and See on a Safari

What comes to your mind when dreaming of the perfect African safari adventure? Is it climbing the ancient sand dune of the Namib Desert along the coast of Namibia? Maybe it's going on a seasonal water-based safari at the Okavango Delta in Botswana?


Going on an African safari is more than looking for wildlife. There are several activities you can do that can give you a holistic safari experience. These are among the highly recommendable activities and which countries offer them.

  • Beach: Kenya, Tanzania

  • Gorilla trekking: Rwanda, Uganda

  • Hot air balloon: Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa

  • Mountain hike: Drakensberg Mountains (South Africa), Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Rwenzori Mountains (Uganda)

  • Skydiving: South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Kenya, and Botswana

  • Swimming with penguins: South Africa

  • White water rafting: Rufiji River (Tanzania), Sagana River (Kenya), The Nile (Uganda)

  • River cruising: Botswana, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania

  • Food tours and wine tasting: Cape Town (South Africa)

Set Your Budget

Your budget is a vital factor in any vacation, particularly when planning an African safari. To give you an idea, our luxury safari tour costs $15,000 per head. This upfront payment covers the accommodation, arrival and departure airport transfers, food, guide, park fees, and safari activities.


Safari vehicle with an observer parked in a grass field while waiting for animals to roam by

You still have to prepare a separate budget for roundtrip plane tickets, visa requirements, travel insurance, medical insurance, and gratuities. You may also need to spend on souvenirs, additional drinks, and optional services such as laundry.


Determine How Long You'll Stay in Africa

Knowing how long you can visit Africa can help you decide how many countries and how many stops you can make without feeling rushed.


We highly recommend spending at least 10 days on an Africa safari. This is why our luxury safari tour has a well-rounded itinerary lasting 10 days and nine nights.


Safari Seasons

Timing is another crucial factor when planning an African safari expedition. The season may affect your safari destinations, primarily if you want to witness certain happenings in the wild.


For example, July to November is the best time to witness the Great Migration. General game viewing is perfect during the dry season because this is when animals huddle around water sources. Meanwhile, bird watching is ideal during the wetter months because bird nesting and breeding happen.


However, traveling during the off–peak season can let you find cheaper flights with less crowd. The disadvantage is that you may miss significant events.


Know How Many People Will Go on the Safari Trip

Are you planning a trip for two? Perhaps you're going with some family members or a big group of friends. Regardless, the number of guests directly influences your activities, schedule, and budget.


Be sure to consider the age group when traveling, as some activities may not be ideal for children. Some camps don't allow children aged seven and below for safety reasons. Meanwhile, some older travelers may prefer a more laid back vacation than an action-packed safari tour.


Our luxury safari group tours have a maximum of 11 guests. This guarantees that every passenger gets a window seat during safari game drives, and you won't feel crammed in the lodging.


Hire a Guide

Having an expert guide is essential when planning an African safari tour, particularly for first-time visitors. Safari guides go beyond facts and figures. They are excellent storytellers who have real-life local knowledge.


They can guide you to the best areas to see the Great Migration. Guides will help you spot the Big 5, namely the African lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino. They have exceptional animal-tracking skills that can help you locate other animals, such as antelopes, hippos, cheetahs, and crocodiles.


Two elephants playing in their natural habitat

More than that, guides can keep you safe in a safari's most remote areas. Civilians won't know how to interpret animal signs in the wild. From trails to escape routes, your guide is the best person that can keep you at a safe distance.


Choose Your Preferred Type of Accommodation

Ask yourself — what amenities do you need to be comfortable? When you think of safaris, some people think every accommodation is a back-to-basic safari life experience. While some areas have basic tents and cold showers, others offer lush bedding and rooms with electricity.


The type of accommodation is another crucial thing you need to consider when planning an African safari trip. African safaris offer a variety of accommodations that suit different kinds of travelers.

  • Camp tents: Safari camping sites can feature small dome tents that accommodate a maximum of two people. This is ideal for travelers looking for budget-friendly accommodation. However, note that this type often comes with field beds and shared bathrooms.

  • Luxury lodges: Safari luxury lodges are perfect for travelers looking for better privacy and amenities. Here you can find structured rooms, hot showers, and pools. For instance, our luxury safari tour lets you have exclusive use of a five-star safari lodge in the private game reserve of Sabi Sands.

Get Vaccinated

As responsible travelers, it's vital that you remain aware of the current health issues in the country you'll be visiting. Your plans and preparations will go to waste if you won't be able to enter the African continent due to a lack of vaccination.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that most African safari destinations require some vaccines, especially the yellow fever vaccine. Make sure you have routine shots, including chickenpox, flu, measles, and polio. In addition, get a malaria shot if you plan to go to a malaria zone.


What to Do if I'm Struggling in Planning a Safari Trip?

If you're struggling in planning your African safari adventure, the best thing to do is book a safari tour operator. You can still discuss your needs and preferences with a planning specialist. The process will be significantly faster since you won't have to worry about the nitty-gritty details.


Game drives are the heart of every safari trip. From sunrise to sundown, you'll spend most of your time driving through the African bush to see the stunning beauty of mother nature.


An expert safari tour operator can provide a comprehensive itinerary. This can make your game drive experience the adventure of a lifetime.


Should I Get an All-Inclusive Tour?

Getting an all-inclusive tour is the best way to ensure seamless planning. An all-inclusive tour lets you see the diverse wildlife of Africa with little planning.


Most tours already come with a curated itinerary. However, there are optional activities you can request.


Should I Self-Drive?

Some people opt to self-drive, especially when they're staying in a private game reserve. Other travelers also see this as a more budget-friendly way to observe wildlife.


Woman standing inside an African safari vehicle

Pros

  • You get to travel at your own pace and linger at certain places

  • You get to experience the thrill of driving in the wilderness

Cons

  • You'll usually have to pay daily rent for the vehicle

  • African safari roads can be tough to drive at, so you need more focus than usual. Hence, you may not be able to observe wildlife and scenery as you should.

  • Most safaris are in remote places, so you're prone to getting lost and driving around trying to find your way back to camp

  • There's the issue of safety if your vehicle breaks down and you come unprepared in the middle of nowhere

Should I Get a Tour Operator for Safari Game Drives?

Considering the pros and cons of self-driving, we recommend that you choose group game drives so you get to enjoy the scenery.

Pros

  • You can save a lot of time because professional game drivers have access to the best routes

  • Safari operators come equipped with the necessary tools for emergencies. Getting help is also easier because of their local network connections.

  • Expert guides can quickly locate the position of wildlife due to their tracks. You'll come home with lots of knowledge and background stories about nature.

Cons

  • Safari tours can be more costly with an operator than self-driving, although you won't have to prepare anything. You simply have to sit and enjoy the ride.

Do I Need Flight Assistance?

Most safari tour packages don't include international flights. This is because some travelers prefer economy seats. Meanwhile, other travelers want premium flights.


Even though we can assist you in scoring the best routes and tickets, the final decision is up to you.


How Long Should I Plan Ahead?

Booking a few months before your target date should suffice unless you're eyeing in-demand lodging or have non-negotiables. This is also ideal if you have a huge group and want to secure several rooms in your accommodation.


Booking early is crucial for flights when planning an African safari because you can score cheaper tickets. When you book during the peak season, your chosen airline may only have a few options for flights to Africa.


You also need to plan early because some citizens may need visas to enter Africa. Americans and British nationals can enter Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa visa-free for 90 days.


Related Questions

How Should I Plan My Clothes for African Safaris?

The key is to plan clothes you can layer for an African safari. Garments such as sleeved shirts, well-fitting trousers, and jackets are versatile pieces for sun protection.


Should I Bring Pocket WiFi on a Safari?

You can bring pocket WiFi to a safari, although the connection is only guaranteed in some remote areas. Most African safari lodges offer internet connectivity. Besides, part of the African bush experience is going offline for a few days.


What Is a Daily Routine on a Safari?

A daily safari routine typically involves waking up early and spending at least three hours on morning safari activities. There's free time after lunch, and then there's more time for game viewing for the rest of the afternoon. After dinner, you'll have extra time to explore a private game reserve or relax in your luxury lodging.


Conclusion

Safari planning involves choosing the right tour operator and airlines to bring you to Africa. From here, you can discuss your travel, activity, and lodging preferences for the best trip. Find Your Africa can take care of every detail from start to finish, letting you embark on a seamless and worry-free safari adventure.

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