An African safari is a trip like no other. On safari you come face to face with creation in all its glory, with nature at its most untouched. Few people come away from a safari the same as they first arrived. A safari is an opportunity to travel off of the beaten path, creating memories that last a lifetime. Like any specialized trip, the key to a successful safari is education, preparation and planning.
You will enjoy a safari if you:
- Are passionate about nature
- Enjoy wildlife
- Can handle modest discomfort
- Enjoy traveling to uncommon, undeveloped, or unique locations
- Enjoy an active vacation
You'll have several options when choosing a guide, as well as the degree of comfort on your safari. A guided safari is best for most travelers, particularly if this is your first safari. You can arrange an independent, self-drive, safari through a tour operator, however, who can provide a vehicle, maps, itineraries, provisions, tents and park passes.
Tented safaris are camping excursions with tents and mobile locations, usually in well-defined tent areas where the parks allow it. Tour operators sometimes offer varied luxury in tents, from bare canvas tenting to deluxe, permanent tent structures. Camping is part of the traditional 'mobile' safari, where travelers cross the countryside in a four wheel drive vehicle supplied by a safari operator.
Lodge safaris offer several accommodations throughout the itinerary that can range from rustic to the ultimate in luxury. If you are looking for luxury, it is possible to arrange Fly In safaris where the tour operator uses small aircraft to airlift travelers to vehicles in game parks for a day or more of animal viewing.
The first step to planning a safari is to make sure you are prepared for the physical demands of the trip. Because most game viewing is done from a vehicle, travelers are not limited by physical impairment or infirmity. However, some camping locations or the demands of trekking in mountain ranges may prohibit some from the rigors of the experience, as can the need to spend several hours at a time in a vehicle.
In addition to considering the physical demands of a safari, travelers should be aware of the necessity to protect against indigenous disease such as malaria. As early as possible in the planning stage, consult a physician to determine what shots and other precautions you need, prior to travel.
Travelers are well advised to book as far in advance as possible. This allows plenty of time to get the best possible airfares and rates on guides, as well as to make appropriate preparations for shots and medications. Some safaris actually sell out, so booking in advance makes for good sense.
All African countries require passports and most, but not all, require visas from most foreign visitors. While travelers can often obtain a visa upon arrival, we recommend purchasing the visa as preparation for the trip.
When you start to think about packing - it's best to pack as lightly as possible. A good, comfortable pair of boots, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, and loose, layered clothing are a must. Long sleeve shirts and light jackets for cool evenings also protect against mosquitoes, while neutral colors blend in and are less likely to attract insects. 'Convertible' shirts and pants are popular because of their versatility. Your tour operator will provide a complete list of recommended clothing and gear, and you can ask your local outdoor shop for even more advice.