Planning a Safari
Choosing an African safari holiday can be daunting, even if you are an experienced traveller. Which country should I visit and when is the best time to travel? How long should I spend on safari? Where is the best game-viewing and which are the better camps to consider?
If you have not been on safari in Africa before, then we would urge you to read this page thoroughly and also look at our ‘Accommodation on Safari’ and ‘Special Interest and Safari Activities’ pages (links below). Between them, these pages give you the background information required to have a good understanding of what you can expect on safari, and to a large extent, what your options are when choosing your ideal safari experience. In addition, if you are researching a family holiday, or perhaps a honeymoon, there are dedicated pages dealing with those subjects too. We all love awe-inspiring pictures, of which there are plenty on this website, but a little time invested reading this should really help you in your quest for a wonderful safari experience. If you would prefer to talk through everything on the phone, we would love to hear from you on 01787 888590. One of our specialists will not only answer all your questions but also be able to quickly put forward ideas for you to consider.
The first and most important step is having a good idea of what kind of holiday you are looking for. We specialise in tailor-made holidays, starting each enquiry with a completely ‘blank canvas’ and building an itinerary to suit your interests, requirements and budget. This gives you amazing flexibility, but does mean that we need input from you from the start – a very different mentality to choosing a set tour out of a brochure. There are several factors which you will need to consider early on in your planning, and which we would choose to discuss with you prior to making specific suggestions.
Basic Logistical Requirements
Key information will always be when you wish to travel, how many of you are travelling (ages can be relevant) and how long you wish to travel for. If you have set times of travel, then where you could/should visit on safari may be limited depending on local seasons, whilst if you are flexible on when you travel, then you can focus first on what you wish to do and where you wish to visit, and then plan the timing according to relevant seasons. Detailed information on seasons throughout Africa can be found in our general ‘When to Travel & Wildlife Calendar’ section off our home page, or through each individual country.
You do not need to know exactly what your schedule should be, but having an idea of the priorities for your trip is important. Many of our customers choose to spend all their time in Africa on safari, prioritising wilderness regions and wildlife sanctuaries. Our knowledge and experience allows them to enjoy very diverse itineraries combining different landscapes, habitats, activities and wildlife viewing opportunities (often within one country, sometimes combining more than one country). If this sounds like you, there will be many safari options for you to consider and discuss with us. As a general rule, we normally recommend staying a minimum of three nights in any one safari area (although this is totally flexible and varies according to the location and your requirements).
At the other end of the scale, we have customers that prioritise relaxation, good food and sunshine ahead of everything else, perhaps not even including a safari experience. Beach holidays are widely available along the east coast of Africa and within the Indian Ocean Islands, often booked in combination with a wildlife safari. However, there are many other ways to bring diversity to your trip, including self-drive exploration, cultural experiences, specialist activities, or simply visiting iconic destinations such as Victoria Falls or Cape Town. You will need to consider how busy / relaxed you wish your holiday to be, how much safari you wish to include and which ‘non-safari’ attractions/activities appeal to you (if any). If your principal reason for travelling to Africa is to see the wildlife, then we would recommend a minimum of a week on safari.
Regardless of how long you choose to spend on safari, you will also need to consider whether you have any priorities in terms of safari activities or wildlife species. Specific interests and requirements (anything from horse-riding to wild flowers and botany) can make it easier to determine what you should do. Detailed information on the different activities available across Africa can be found on our ‘Safari Activities and Special Interest’ section accessed from our home page.
Whether you spend three days or three weeks on safari, you will need to consider what style and level of safari accommodation you would feel comfortable with and enjoy. Comfort levels vary from adventurous mobile tented camps to sophisticated luxury lodges, and whilst we would always encourage you to get as ‘close to nature’ as you feel comfortable with, everyone needs to enjoy their safari and sleep well at night!
In addition to thinking about comfort levels, you may also wish to consider what style of safari property would suit you. Camps and lodges vary greatly in terms of overall quality, size, exclusivity, management style, atmosphere and ethos. How exclusive do you wish to be when game-viewing, how social do you wish to be at meal times and how important are aspects such as guiding, food and service? Please visit our ‘Accommodation on Safari’ section, off our home page, for detailed descriptions on all styles of safari accommodation.
Africa is generally expensive and whilst you may not know exactly how much you are prepared to spend, it is crucial that you have a rough idea of what is, or isn’t, possible. A very approximate price range for a two week safari, including economy flights from the UK, is between £3,500 and £10,000 per person. Shorter safari holidays or ‘non-safari’ holidays can cost less. We appreciate budgets can change, just as interests and requirements develop, but in order to give relevant advice and make appropriate suggestions, we definitely need to have a rough idea of what you are happy to spend.
Whilst a tailor-made African safari is an expensive holiday, we would strongly argue that you do tend to get what you pay for. It is also worth mentioning that safari holidays are often ‘inclusive’, with all meals, activities, house drinks, laundry, park fees and local transfers included, and there is, therefore, very little ‘local expenditure’ required.
When considering the above factors, and your safari options in general, you may also wish to bear the following in mind:
- The tourism industry in the more popular areas of Africa is very developed and the standards are high. You will probably be pleasantly surprised by the general quality of hosting, guiding, food and service that can be enjoyed in the middle of the African bush. Value for money is a key component of any holiday, but we would advise you not to try and visit Africa ‘on the cheap’. Even if you spend more money than you would normally consider for a holiday, provided you organise it through someone who offers great advice and really listens and cares about your requirements, then it should be one of the best holidays you will ever take, with money extremely well spent.
- Where five star accommodation is preferred, it can usually be provided (but not always with an international standard of ‘sophistication’). However, where more traditional tented camps are used, we often find guests feel more comfortable than they expected to. It is crucial that you feel comfortable and secure on safari, but you may surprise yourself in terms of how adventurous you can be. Once you leave your ‘home comforts’ behind and spend a few nights in the wilderness, it becomes quite normal to sit around the camp fire in the evening, sleep under canvas, use a traditional ‘bucket’ shower and perhaps even wear the same ‘dusty’ safari trousers two or three days in a row! Many of us actually revel in the chance to get ‘back to nature’ and the more authentic safari camps offer a better chance to do this than ‘luxury lodges’. Our specialists can discuss different options with you in detail, but in general we would advise you to prioritise the overall safari experience ahead of pure comfort.
- We genuinely tailor-make all our holidays for our customers, calling on a very wide range of safari products. It is therefore possible to build the perfect holiday for you based around your interests and requirements. You do not need to choose from a catalogue, or choose from a very limited number of safari options. You can travel for any duration of time, spend as long as you like on safari, be as active or adventurous as you choose, specify particular species you are keen on seeing, vary your accommodation options and combine a wildlife safari with a variety of other activities or attractions. If you are able to communicate your key ideas, interests and concerns to us, we can work with you to create your perfect safari experience.
A word of warning
If you are looking for help from a tailor-made specialist then you need to find one that not only really knows their stuff, but also offers a genuinely bespoke service, listening to your requirements in detail, discussing options with you and really caring about the success of your trip, as if it were their own. Such specialists are much harder to find than the internet may suggest. Many companies flatter to deceive with impressive marketing but churn out the same suggestions to everyone as they have a limited product range and/or a very commercial mindset.