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Before you go, African safari guide
Africa Safari Guide
This guide covers the basics for any safari trip, including the best times to travel, transportation and the various accommodation options available to you. The information is impartial but aims to serve as a helpful guide to help you choose the right safari for you.
Every second of your vacation is important, including your journey times – the majority of our safaris comprise a combination of air and road transfers between the world-famous game parks of Africa. Air transfers give you the chance to fly to some of the most spectacular wildlife areas in a short time period, so you can spend longer in your chosen destination. The flights are in small, light aircrafts for a chance to see this amazing continent from a different angle.
Once you arrive in the park, you’ll be met at the airstrip in a 4x4 vehicle then transferred to your accommodation. If you’d prefer, there is also the option of a road safari in a comfortable vehicle, usually to the closest national parks to your departure destination. The roads in Africa aren’t like those you’re used to – many are rough terrain without tarmac, so your journey is likely to be hot, dusty and bumpy in such areas. However, we only use experienced drivers who are used to the area, so your journey will be as comfortable as possible.
We’re committed to ensuring that your safari is of top quality and that you have the most amazing experience possible. To ensure the utmost comfort and safety, we only work with safari camps and lodges who use 4x4 vehicles. These have a roof hatch for game watching and are spacious for complete comfort. Conservancies may have adapted vehicles, such as those with customised open sides, to give the best possible viewing experience. All of the vehicles used are managed by an experience driver guide who can enhance your bush experience.
A 4x4 vehicle is vital in the majority of the game parks, particularly in rainy season. Because of the rough terrain of the African bushland, a minibus-style mode of transport isn’t suitable – both for safety and comfort. You’ll be offered a better safari experience in our vehicles, and although a minibus may be cheaper, your experience will be compromised as a result. Transfers from the airport or your base hotel to a safari destination may be in a minibus-style vehicle, however, as these are along existing roads.
We aim to provide as broad a range as possible for your safari experience, to enable you to choose the best option for your needs.
Guest tents are spacious and comfortable, offering double beds, wardrobe space and a relaxing area outside. The bathrooms have flushing toilets, running water and hot safari showers – water is usually heated twice a day for bucket showers. The electricity is often restricted as it runs off a generator or solar power, but it will be available early in the morning and at night. Bush camps are slightly different in that they offer the ultimate ‘bush experience’ without compromising your safety or security. They’re usually eco-aware with solar power and restricted water supply.
Lodges are permanent structures which are open throughout the year. The accommodation itself is usually in the form of self-contained rooms or bungalows, and most lodges have a swimming pool so you can relax between game drives and excursions. The lodges are usually situated within national parks.
Tented lodges are a blend of canvas tents combined with a permanent structure, offering the perfect combination of lodge facilities with a classic camping experience. They are usually larger than bush camps and are open throughout the year. Tented lodges are a great choice is you want to experience a different form of accommodation but don’t want to miss out on the facilities of a lodge – they’re usually situated in the national parks.
Bush camps are becoming increasingly popular with safari visitors. They can be either permanent or seasonal, depending on the location, and usually offer a more intimate experience than with a lodge. Some of the more exclusive camps offer accommodation for just six couples.
National Parks & Game Reserves
There are a vast number of national parks and private conservancies within Africa, which have been set aside for the conservation of the native wildlife and natural habitat. We advise staying in a conservancy to enjoy a real safari experience. You’ll have exclusive use of the conservancy land, the chance to take part in a number of activities, and learn about the local wildlife.
National parks are usually run by the government and, as such, they comply with strict regulations. This includes rules such as being back at your lodge or camp in the evening, and not leaving the vehicle once it’s within the park. They’re usually well established with regular maintenance, and have good roads and signage. Game wardens patrol the parks to ensure that visitors remain safe at all times, as well as ensuring the safety of the animals.
The wildlife in these parks is abundant, and you’re almost guaranteed to see the famous Big Five (Lions, Elephants, Buffalo, Leopards and Rhinos). You’ll see a number of other vehicles on your safari as tourists are plentiful in the national parks – however, our expert driver guides will direct you to less populated areas.
Conservancy/Private Wildlife Reserves
Conservancy areas and private wildlife reserves are areas of land which are owned privately or are leased from the local community. They usually work in partnership with the local community and are committed to eco-awareness and education. Stays in the conservancies are much more secluded and offer a true ‘wild’ experience. The number of other visitors you’ll encounter is restricted, usually to just guests staying within the reserve.
The animals are also usually wilder than those found in the larger national parks, as they aren’t as accustomed to seeing humans and vehicles. Thanks to the added advantage of night game drives and other activities, you’ll have an extra opportunity to see animals you wouldn’t normally see. Conservancies often involve the local community by employing local people as staff or wardens, as well as running community projects such as installing bore holes for water supplies or building schools. There is greater flexibility to conservancy safaris as you’ll be able to take part in a wider range of activities, from walking and game drives, to bush camping and sundowners, depending on your interests.
Safari Packing List
This is a comprehensive list of the basic amenities required on your safari trip. We recommend soft bags which are lockable, rather than rectangular suitcases, as the weight of the luggage which can be taken onto the small aircrafts is limited to 25-53 pounds (depending on the size of the plane).
Passports (with visa entries)
Health cards (vaccination certificate)
Cash and Travelers’ Cheques
Separate record of T/Cheque numbers
Credit Cards (VISA, Mastercard and/or American Express)
Photo copy of passport/visas/Insurance papers
We recommend that you bring khaki and green-colored clothing. Bright colors should be avoided while on safari. Please be advised that camouflage clothes are illegal because they are worn by local soldiers.
2 pc. safari trousers (or chinos)
2 pc. safari shorts
4 pair sport socks
3 short sleeve shirts
1 long sleeve shirt
1 pair casual slacks (men) or an evening outfit (women) - for evening meals
Bras (sports type) - women
6 sets underwear
Toiletries & Medicine
Prescription drugs (Also bring the generic names for these drugs. It’s a good idea to pack two separate lots)
Motion sickness pills
Insect repellent (containing DEET for mosquitos)
Sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher)
Feminine hygiene supplies
Wear sunscreen at all times during the day, and cover up during the hottest time of day – between 11am and 3pm
Where to see African wildlife
Maasai Mara – Big Cats and migration
Amboseli – Elephants
Samburu – Gerenuk and elephants
Tsavo – Elephants
Nakuru – Flamingos, rhinos and leopards
Serengeti – Big Cats and plains game
Kruger – Big Five
Etosha – Rare desert elephant and Great Oryx
Okavango Delta – Birds, elephants and hippos
Chobe National Park – Elephants and giraffes
Moremi Game Reserve – Birds, hippos and crocodiles
Central Kalahari Game Reserve – Wild dogs, leopards, lions, wildebeest and antelopes
African Travel Calendar
South Africa – Heart of the summer
Botswana – Green season with rain around; excellent time for bird watching
Kenya – Dry season
Tanzania – Prime time for the migration
Namibia- Not too hot but still sunny
South Africa – The end of summer with cooler weather
South Africa – Good time for safaris but the Western Cape can be damp and quite cold; perfect whale watching season in Hermanus
Botswana – Prime game viewing in the Okavango Delta
Kenya – Prime time for the migration
Namibia – Not too hot and dry
Indian Ocean – Hot and sunny
South Africa – Spring season with rising temperatures in the Western Cape; great time for game viewing
Kenya – Migration season; short rainy periods in November
Indian Ocean – Sunny and hot