Planning For The Perfect Safari in Africa
Safari Planning Tips
Planning your own safari holiday is easier nowadays with the amount of information available to everyone for free online. Journalists, bloggers, travel companies, and travellers all contribute to the wealth of knowledge on African holidays and put it on the web for anyone to look through. From deciding on which country in Africa to go to, through to which camera is best for safari?; someone somewhere has offered an opinion.
However, there’s a problem. A lot of the information is contradictory; a journalists says one thing in an article, while the latest reports on Trip Advisor say the opposite. So who do you trust and what should you believe? Here’s some safari myths busted with insiders’ advice from safari industry experts:
1. Don’t get too set on a particular country
“Lots of people know of Botswana and South Africa, but are surprised by what Zambia and Namibia can offer – trust your tour operator; they’ve travelled a lot and do this for a living!” (Roberto Viviani – Business Manager at Wilderness Safaris)
2. Don’t get put off if your time off is in low season
“It does not stop to amaze me how some people are set in their opinions based on hearsay. I live in Zambia and Malawi and what we call rainy season here, Europeans would call a pleasant cooling shower. Granted a very heavy shower but normally very brief. This part of the year though is absolutely mind blowing; Africa comes back to live, the scenery is lush and the skies dramatic. Most people living in our part of the world would say that April and May are their favourite time of the year, but it is still our low season. Go figure.” (Ton de Rooy – Managing Director at Robin Pope Safaris)
3. Don’t necessarily book the cheapest option
A big percentage of your safari is spent in the company of your guide or ranger. An outstanding guide will not only ensure that you have an unforgettable journey but has the potential to change your life through the way they share the safari experience. When planning your trip, it is worth taking the time to research your options and choose a company that is renowned for the standard of their rangers and guides. (Joss Kent – CEO at &Beyond)
4. Don’t try to do too much
“Pole pole, take it slowly. A safari in Africa is not a sprint from one place to another but rather a journey of discovery. Too often travellers try and fit too much in; as a result they not only spend all their time in transit but also miss the essence of Africa. Try and spend at least three nights per camp; using one place as a base to explore the area and give yourself time to connect with your surroundings. Slow down, nothing moves quickly in Africa apart from ill-informed tourists.” (Suzanne Bayly-Couple – Managing Director at Classic Portfolio)
5. Don’t think Africa is just about the animals
“Living and running a lodge on the beautiful remote sandy shores of Lake Malawi delivers new sights, sounds and experiences on a daily basis. Today it may be the crystal clear flat waters perfect for diving and spying the cichlids muster their young into their mouth for protection or watching the paradise flycatchers flit through our office swishing their incredible tail feathers.” (James Lightfoot – Managing Director of Kaya Mawa Lodge)
6. Don’t be put off sleeping in a tent
“Most of us were intrepid backpackers or went camping once and it is those out of the ordinary, unexpected experiences and surprises that people remember. Despite all the luxurious camps and lodges in Africa, the modern traveller harkens back to those adventures from when they first discovered travel, yet without the unpleasant comfort levels that they may have endured then. So mobile camping along the Selinda Spillway, walking and canoeing, not knowing what’s around the next bend in the river delivers this exactly, as does riding on horseback or mountain biking in the bush, camping under the stars with Mount Kilimanjaro barely illuminated in the unpolluted, cloudless, moonlit skies. It’s okay to combine adventure with some luxury, even for the most discerning of guests” (Alex Walters – Sales & Marketing Manager at Great Plains Conservation)
7. Don’t over pack
“We have warm sun in Africa and many willing hands, so don’t go overboard on your packing, but let our camp laundry collect it from you in the morning and we’ll have it back washed, dried and ironed for the evening” (Stefano Cheli – CEO of Cheli & Peacock Safaris)
8. Don’t forget to look
“We always suggest tracking gorillas twice. It’s such a life changing experience you want to get it right. The first day you are usually too full of adrenaline so you don’t take in anything, just puff up the hill and just go crazy with your camera. The second day you relax, use your eyes and really take in the forest, the smells, the gorilla group and the cuddly infant playing with its older siblings – it becomes a much more enriching and memorable experience.” (Praveen Moman – Managing Director at Volcanoes Safaris)
9. Don’t try to do too much when you’re there
“The best game drive I’ve ever had was one of the first: an epic 16 hour effort on the Masai Mara’s Paradise Plains in 1998. We’d met a hunting cheetah – hungry and hollow-bellied – shortly after sunrise. We followed her as she locked onto a herd of Thomson’s gazelles, expecting the hunt to be over in minutes. But she wanted to be certain, and she made us wait. All day. Other vehicles whizzed by but we stayed put. The temperature rose. We sweated. wildebeest wandered past. A hyena sniffed us. Zebras fought and rollers hunted. I watched an agama lizard for way too long while the Thomson’s grazed and the cheetah bided her sweet time. In the late afternoon a lion wandered through, oblivious of the cheetah. Later still, a young bataleur lost a battle over a dead puff adder with a band of mongoose. At last, just before sunset, the cheetah made her move. And totally stuffed it up. Sunburned and dehydrated, we drove back to camp having learned our lesson. That lesson? Stay put, become part of the landscape, and Africa will come to you.” (Chris Haslam – Award winning travel journalist at the Sunday Times)
10. Don’t forget to drink and perhaps wear a hat
“There is good reason animals seek to avoid the midday heat and we can learn from them. There are few quicker ways to ruin the day than over exposure. Easy to overlook in the excitement but super important that one does not.” (Gordie Owles – Marketing Manager at Asilia Africa)
11. Don’t be afraid to tell your guide
“We encourage our guides to ask guests what they are particularly interested in, it helps them to connect with each person that they are with, even the quietest ones. What you’ve seen before is also useful background for the guide to give you the most meaningful experience that he can but don’t forget, being on safari is all about drinking in the entire experience, through every one of your senses, it isn’t just an exercise in ticking off species lists.” (John Corse – Development Manager at Nomad Tanzania)
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Got any more safari planning tips you can share? – feel free to comment below. Or if all this has put you off, and you’d rather leave the details to our team of experts, all you need to do is send us an email or give us a call and we’ll start with some ideas and then refine them until we have the perfect safari holiday in Africa for you.
Let us know in the comments of you’ve read this far and not found an answer you were looking for, or this blog has prompted a question. We will do our best to let you know the answer and maybe even update the article.
We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.