There is a whole host of things to consider before you venture off to explore the world’s most thrilling continent. So we sought the perspective of some of our friends in the industry who are known for their knowledge about African travel. Their tips include hidden gems to look out for, how to make the most of your time and what to pack. We hope they will assist you in some way when arranging your next safari.
Credit: Umkumbe Safari Lodge
African Safari Tips from Industry Leaders
When you’re on safari, the most significant moments are those experiences spent on your game drive. You might be tempted to opt for snoozing when the call comes for the morning drive, however, the magic happens in the bush, so up and at ’em! Organize a three-night stay and save your afternoon nap for the heat of the day, like the wildlife itself. Don't think about the hours in the days or the days of the week. Lastly, switch off your mobile phone for some real time out.
Take the time to speak to an expert (email correspondence is not enough) who has spent time in the areas you want to explore and who has vast knowledge about the range of products, so they can guide you to the experience that will best suit you. The web on its own will not give you a balanced view.
Decide what wildlife you want to see (not all parks offer all species), what kind of wilderness experience you want and what sort of camps you are looking for. Most importantly, pick places which get the balance of bush and comfort just right, have a proven conservation ethos and which employ excellent guides who know their craft.
If you need to travel on a budget, there are many options and you should find that perfect package if you chat to an expert company. By saving on certain expenses of private guides and air charters, you’ll have extra to spend at the destinations you’ve travelled so far to see – for example, splurging on a hot-air ballooning excursion or premier accommodation.
Contemplate travelling in the low season. Prices at most safari lodges can be as much as 30-40 percent cheaper over this time frame. This is also arguably the perfect time of year for game viewing in areas like the Kruger National Park as the animals are more reliant on rivers and waterholes, and therefore easier to find and the vegetation is not as thick.
4) Safari Type
Consider whether you want to go as part of a group or travel individually. Group safaris can offer a price advantage; they can also be activity-oriented and therefore attract like-minded travellers (such as specialist birding or photographic groups). Travelling individually provides more flexibility. This will also afford you more luxury and allow for more time on game drive sightings for example.
Don’t forget to pack in the right attitude. Guests who arrive with ‘wide-eyed wonder’ at all the fantastic things (big and small) that nature has to offer end up having a far more enjoyable safari. Soak up the wonders and learn, but most of all enjoy yourself.
Africa offers such a wide variety of not only wildlife but activities and experiences. Uganda has Chimps and you can even get a Chimp & Gorilla combo in Rwanda.
Tanzania’s Arusha National Park is often overlooked, which means that it is not crowded and you will have this beautifully scenic reserve nearly all to yourself. The landscape varies and there are numerous excursions to keep you engaged, like waterfall hikes and canoeing at the foot of Mount Meru, the second-highest peak in Tanzania.
Download the HerdTracker app for the migration, a real-time Google map that shows correct updates of the migrating animals’ locations. Also, think about staying in semi-permanent camps as they move to track the wildebeest.
Pack in your gear in waterproof bags: the ones that you take on boats. This will not only keep your belongings dry in the rains but (because the bags seal) it will also stop insects from getting into your clothes.
7) What to pack
Ladies, bring your sports bra for those bumpy bush tracks used to explore the area on game drives.
Bring a spare pair of glasses, a waterproof bag that covers your camera – it’s useful for all sorts of things, especially in sudden downpours and an all-purpose charger for your camera battery especially (but for any other devices too)
Whether you are a first-timer or an experienced Africa traveller, spend time at each place to soak up the experience. Stay three nights at each of two camps stead of two nights at each of three camps. This will also keep the price down as it cuts down on transport expenses, if this is required.
The variety of wildlife activities on offer is key. Make sure you stay close to the animals and not to other tourists.
Tell your lodge manager in advance what your preferred interests are – whether it be painting, photography, rock art, insects, birding, geology, tracking, reptiles, writing poetry… They love to accommodate you, and this will help them plan for your arrival.
Don't forget to look up and see the stars. The nocturnal element of safari often gets lost along the way, but you’ll see the clearest skies of your life in the African bush. Go on a night drive, cut the engine, switch off the lights and marvel at the infinite glittering heavens.
For those going on a safari for the first time, go game viewing with a guide rather than self-drive as it could result in you missing out on learning and witnessing a lot of wildlife through the eyes of an expert.
It is the safari guide who really makes the whole experience and who will keep you safe. Pick your operator carefully: one who truly knows the guides and who will expertly pick the right one(s) for your individual needs.
When booking a safari trip, there is great initial excitement, but then the reality hits of having to make a choice from the myriads of possibilities, which could become stressful. If you want to make your first or next safari your best, then carefully consider these tips when making your next booking.