An ‘African safari’ so readily evokes strong images of lion, giraffe, elephants, grand wilderness landscapes and fascinating cultures. For so many though, connecting the desire to experience an African safari and the where and how to make it happen presents a dizzying array of choices.
Having grown up in Africa and spent many years living, traveling and working on the continent (over 50 years between the two of us) we’ve had the privilege of assisting guests in building hundreds of African safari itineraries. So let’s look at the basic questions that help us to create the best African safari tour for you.
Over the course of 4 blogs, we’ll explore the 4 most important questions.
1. What do you want to experience?
2. Where’s the best place to go?
3. What’s a reasonable budget for a safari?
4. Why use an African safari specialist?
Blog 1 of 4: What do you want to experience?
For a limited number of travelers, there is a very clear and specific understanding of what it is they want to experience when they visit Africa. For these lucky few it may be to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, visit the gorillas in Rwanda, experience the magic of the great migration or taste their way through as many of the Capes amazing wineries as possible.
For most of our guests, the number one and overwhelming purpose of their visit to Africa is to go on safari and experience Africa’s wildlife for themselves. But what to do?
- What kind of a wildlife viewing experience do you want to have? Consider how much of your time do you want to spend viewing wildlife? Are you interested in quickly being able to tick off the “Big 5” (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard) from your bucket list or do you want to immerse yourself in the experience and enjoy as many different ecosystems and species as possible? We want to find the balance that suits your interest in wildlife with other experiences such as culture, adventure and scenery.
- How important is being in wilderness versus the need to be near civilization? To us there is something magical about being in vast wilderness areas that are not heavily impacted by man, yet with most of the comforts of home. This however is not everyone’s cup of tea and wouldn’t suit the person uncomfortable of being in a remote area away from email and internet.
- How active do you want your safari to be? A number of safari destinations offer great activities such as 3 – 8 day walking, canoeing or cycling experiences for the more adventurous. Though the majority of safaris are focused on game drives in an open vehicle, most camps offer short bush walks on request. Some of the higher end camps we use also offer gym facilities for the fitness enthusiast. Some locations such as Cape Town and Victoria Falls offer exciting activities such as shark cage diving, helicopter flights, white water rafting and bungee jumping. Beach options are a great way to end any wildlife safari.
- Do you have a special interest? Do you want to improve your photography or do you have a special love for birds, anthropology or geology? Please mention your special interest to us as some places are better suited than others. Photographic safaris with a professional, specialist guides, private vehicles and privately guided tours are available to further enhance your safari.
- How do you want to travel? There are two considerations to take into account.
Accommodation options. Safari camps offer a spectacular array of chalets or tents that range from the basic dome to the 5 star super luxurious. We utilize properties that always include en-suite facilities from eco-toilets and hot bucket showers to lavish bathrooms with his and hers outdoor showers. If you’re traveling with family, considerations of child friendly properties and activities will also need to be taken into account.
Independent or escorted. Africa can be too overwhelming to consider traveling on your own so maybe a fully escorted safari, with a maximum of 10 guests, is best suited to you. We travel with you and take care of all the details such as border crossings, flights, transfers and luggage. Escorted safaris are fun and the addition of someone who knows Africa intimately can be very reassuring and surprisingly cost effective. For independent travelers, we arrange all the details and ensure that you’re met at every airport. Though traveling on your own, a local support network is always available if any questions arise.
Hopefully we have given you something to think about. Next time we’ll look at the options of ‘Where to go on safari’.
Dan & Antoinette