If you’ve begun researching and planning an African Safari you know it’s a daunting task. The internet offers hundreds, if not thousands, of different answers for each of your safari queries.
But in the case of traveling to Africa, the best safari experiences absolutely do depend on when, where and how you go. Time your trip correctly, chose the top country, and the best parks and camps within that country, and use an operator who is well versed in Africa and you will have the trip of a lifetime.
I’m Lori Robinson, a safari specialist who has been traveling to Africa for 34 years and designing safaris for families, couples, and celebrities including Jane Goodall, and non-profit organizations since 2004.
Here are my top tips for planning an African Safari.
- Planning an African safari is very different than planning a trip to Europe, or Australia for instance. Unless you’re doing a self-drive, ground-camping excursion (definitely not recommended for foreigners or people who are not experienced Africa travelers) you will need a ‘safari operator’ to put your trip together for you. You can’t get around this. The whole safari industry is based on using safari operators as the go-between the tourist and the lodges and guides. I have used all of the top operators and can recommend which one is right for you.
- Choose an operator who specializes in Africa. Travel agencies who offer trips all over the world are not specialists, and rarely do their agents ever visit Africa. These agencies offer cookie-cutter safari itineraries with little ability to personally design your trip. Skip those in favor of an operator that is intimately familiar with Africa and able to help you sort through all the options to custom design an itinerary that fits your specific needs. There are hundreds of operators to choose from and I have worked with many of them. I’m happy to guide you to the right one for your specific needs.
- Get clear on your dream. Do you want to see as many different animals as possible, or do you want to focus on one species like elephants? Do you want a cultural element like visiting indigenous tribes, or to add an activity or famous landmark into your itinerary – like taking a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls, hiking to see gorillas, going down into the Ngorongoro Crater, or trekking with an organization working to save rhinos? Do you want to include a charitable component? What is it that you picture yourself doing? This is your dream and you need to make sure you fulfill it.
- Accept the fact that this will be an expensive trip. The best places to stay on safari are located in the areas with the most wildlife. These places are exclusive and expensive. The lodgings I recommend are called Tented Camps. These camps host smaller groups and provide first-class amenities, guides, service, and food. These smaller camps are always my client’s favorite. You can hear the lions roaring at night, and have to be escorted back to your tent after dinner because of animals wandering around. It’s definitely an experience that adds to the allure and adventure of your safari.
- The most popular countries for safaris are Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa, and Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa. My first choice for first-time safari travelers is East Africa for the sheer numbers of animals (the wildebeest migration happens there) as well as cultural options such as visiting a traditional Maasai village and being guided by Maasai warriors. Set up a phone call with me to talk you through the differences of going on safari in each country.
- Choosing the right time of year for the country you will visit maximizes your wildlife experiences. If you have to travel within a range of set dates, make sure you choose the Parks that offer the best experience for those dates. If you are flexible with your dates of travel then choose the country and time of year that offers you what you dream of doing.
- Don’t let the excuse that you have always wanted to go to Africa but can’t find anyone to travel with, stop you. If you want to go on safari but don’t want to travel on your own, ask me about the safari’s I personally lead each year for small groups of like-minded travelers.
If you want more tips, email me, [email protected], to set up a time to talk directly to get all your questions answered. I look forward to hearing from you and helping you create a life-changing African safari.
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