Complete Guide To Planning Safari Trip To Africa

Complete Guide To Planning Safari Trip To Africa

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and go on an African safari for your dream vacation. Congratulations! Africa is an amazing continent filled with diverse cultures, stunning landscapes, and unparalleled wildlife experiences. But before you can book your flight and start counting down the days until takeoff, there are a few things you need to do to make sure your safari is perfect. This is a complete guide to planning the perfect safari trip to Africa.
There are many different African safari options to choose from, so you can pick one that fits your travel style and preferences. For example, a typical first-time safari trip might be a half-or full-day game drive. Still, it’s also possible to include activities like a walking safari, a canoe safari, or a river safari. It’s also worth considering a luxury safari. These are pricier than a regular safari, but they usually offer a more luxurious experience – more private safari vehicles, for instance, or higher-end accommodation. And finally, there’s the “ultimate safari.” This is a wildlife and conservation-themed safari that also includes some cultural activities.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to plan your perfect dream safari trip.

How to plan your first African Safari trip

African safaris are a dream holiday for many people. There is something about being in the wild, surrounded by exotic and exciting animals. But planning a safari can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time. This is because there are many things to think about – where to go, what to pack, how to find an excellent local guide, etc. In this article, I’ll take you through the entire process of planning your dream African safari trip, step by step.

How to get started on your African safari planning

There are many ways to start planning your African safari dream vacation. You can do it through an African tour company or independently. For your first trip to Africa, I think it’s a good idea to start with the company that will be organizing your entire vacation. They will save you a lot of time and effort, but mainly, they will help you avoid mistakes that could make or break your trip. However, if you prefer to do it on your own, here are a few things to help you get started.

Determine The Basics

Travel Style

Travel style is the first thing you should decide on before booking any accommodation or tours. For example, are you looking for a relaxing holiday, or do you want to explore the wild and do a bit of hiking and wildlife spotting? Some people just want to relax on their African safari, while others look for adventure and excitement.

Who Will You Travel With

Are you traveling solo? With your family? With Friends? Or maybe with a group.

Vacation Duration

How many days do you have for this vacation?

When Will You Go?

What dates are you able to go? The time of year affects the weather, the places you could visit, the types of tours you could take, how crowded it will be, and the trip’s costs.
Africa has many countries to explore, each with its own charms and attractions. In general, the weather in Africa is warm and sunny throughout the year. But, some countries, and even regions within those countries, have different climates and weather conditions. For safari trips, the best time to travel depends on the destination you’ve chosen. Generally, it’s best to go from May to October, during the dry season. That’s when the weather is colder, the vegetation thins out, and wildlife gathers around remaining water sources. It’s also easier to find accommodation, and the dirt roads are easier to drive in. But, as this is the high season, prices are accordingly.

Set The Budget

Setting a budget is a must in order to decide what kind of accommodation and trip type you can afford and whether you can afford certain tour companies. You can book accommodation through an African tour company or book it independently. It’s up to you, but if it’s your first time in Africa, get help from a travel company specializing in Africa or work with a recommended local tour guide.

Select the destination and destination region

It’s time to decide where you want to go on your African safari trip. The region is the first thing that you should pick. It will determine how many places you can choose from, what kind of accommodation and tour companies you can use, and what you can expect on your trip. For example, if you want to go to South Africa, you can pick from Northern Cape, Western Cape, or KwaZulu-Natal.

Some basic guidelines for choosing your destination

Select the safari destination and safari region that you prefer. For example, if you love the wild and the African bush and want a bit of adventure, you should go to the South West, East, or Central safari zone. The different regions:

  • Southern Africa – This is the perfect place to start planning your safari. It’s a great region to get to know before moving on. There’s a massive variety of animals to spot and stunning locations. It’s also a great choice if you are looking for more comfort or want to relax and see some wildlife.
  • East Africa  This is an excellent destination if you’re traveling with kids, as there are plenty of places and activities that kids would love. You’ll find stunning locations and a good range of animals to spot.
  • Northern Africa – This part of the world is home to some fabulous animals – including the famous baobab tree.

Use our Trip Planner tool to find the best destination based on the factors listed above. It will give you a list of options based on your preferences and excellent travel guides for each one.

Here are five African safari destinations worth considering for first-timers:

  1. Kruger National Park, South Africa – the oldest and most popular park in Africa. Learn More
  2. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania – an opportunity to see the great Wildebeest migration. Learn More
  3. Gorilla Trekking, Rwanda – enjoy the incredible natural beauty and one of the best places to see gorillas in the wild. Learn More
  4. The Okavango Delta, Botswana – a World Heritage Site with untouched freshwater and animals you won’t see anywhere else. Learn More
  5. Victoria Falls, on The border between Zambia and Zimbabwe – is classified as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Learn More

Local Guides

A good local guide can make or break your safari trip. It’s not easy finding a good guide, but some basic principles will help you find the right one.

  • A good guide is responsible, familiar with the surrounding animals, has extensive knowledge of the area, and has grown up in the environment they guide in.
  • They should be recommended by other travelers and have positive feedback online. I like working with TourHQ when looking for local guides. There’s always someone to talk with, and you can read other travelers’ reviews.
  • Guides should be able to answer your questions clearly and honestly. They should be a good communicator and be able to explain the situation and provide details about what you see, where to travel, etc.
  • They should make you feel safe and ensure you’re not taking risks.
  • They’ll probably also drive you around. Feel free to ask about the type of vehicle they have. Make sure it’s comfortable to be in it for many hours, and make sure it’s safe and provides a good view of the landscape.
  • They should also help you find food or cook food when you’re in nature.

I advise tipping your guide. Yes, they do make a salary, but it’s not enough, and they do rely on tips. It’s not mandatory, but it’s expected and appreciated. Remember that they work very hard to ensure you’ll have a great trip. Bring this into account when doing your budget estimate for this vacation. Guidelines for tipping on African Safari trips are:

  • For your guide – $10 – $15 per person, per day
  • For general employees – $5 – $15 per person, per day

How To Stay Safe & Have Fun On Your Safari

Be Prepared

There are some basic things that you should consider when planning your African safari. It’s essential to make sure that you are prepared for what might happen on your trip. If you plan on hiking or climbing, you should ensure that you are fit and healthy before you travel. If you are not, you might not be able to enjoy your trip, as you’ll find it hard to keep up with the pace. Get ready to get vaccinated way ahead of time, as some vaccinations take several weeks to take full effect. Consult your doctor, as you might need to get some vaccines before going to Africa. You’ll probably need vaccinations for yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, and typhoid.

Make sure that you have the right equipment for the trip

This includes good t-shirts or light sweaters for the chilly mornings and evenings, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and a first-aid kit containing antimalarial medicine and your subscriptions.

When picking clothing items, avoid bright colors. Instead, blend with the surrounding by wearing green and brown clothes. If you plan on walking or tracking, make sure you have long pants and boots. If you have a pool on the reservation, don’t forget your swimsuit.

Make sure you bring a good camera with extra batteries and an SD card with plenty of space. Also, make sure you have a telephoto lens to capture those unforgettable moments. You will probably get close to the different animals more than ever before. Yet, to get those memorable photos, you love to see requires a telephoto lens. Safari adventure is an excellent opportunity to become the photographer you always wanted to be. A lens around 200mm plus should do the job and help you capture unforgettable memories. Want to learn how to get amazing photos on your safari vacation? Read this guide on safari photography. If you want to know more about photography before your trip, check out these great online courses by UDEMY.

Lilac-breasted roller - Rwanda Africa
Photo by Shaked Levy

A good set of binoculars would make your trip much more enjoyable. Many animals hide, and some would be far away. A good pair of binoculars will help you spot birds and other animals at a distance and enrich your experience. I recommend you pick up a decent one to get the most out of your safari trip. Here is my list of top binoculars:

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Nikon monarch m5 10×42 binoculars

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Weight: 22.6 ounces (640 gr)

Nikon 7576 Monarch 5

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Weight: 20.8 oz (590 gr)

Vortex Optics Diamondback HD

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Weight: 21.3 oz (604 gr)

Celestron – Nature DX

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Weight: 28.7 oz (816 gr)

Bushnell H2O Roof Prism Binoculars

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Weight: 25 oz (709 gr)

Get Travel Insurance

I recommend having travel insurance for any trip, but it’s even more important on safari trips. There is no doubt that an African safari is a dream holiday, but you should always make sure that you’re covered for whatever could go wrong. Even an inexpensive safari is still expensive, so make sure you’re covered if anything goes wrong, including having to cancel your plans because of events, arrival delays, and medical emergencies. I love to work with EKTA, which offers travel insurance worldwide. Remember to check with your credit card or medical insurance providers. They might offer free or discounted insurance.

Staying healthy on the trip

  • Drink plenty of water. It’s generally safe to drink tap water in urban regions but to stay on the safe side, consult with your local guide to make sure it’s ok. Make sure to pack some good-quality water bottles. Click here for the Top Travel Water bottles review.
  • Avoid mosquitos – bring and use mosquito repellent, cover up at night, use a mosquito net, and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Go to sleep early – On a safari trip, you will wake up very early.
  • Take it easy on your stomach – it might take some time to get used to the local food, so try to watch out for fruits and veggies skins, don’t eat a lot of meat, and avoid spicy food. Also, make sure the tap water is ok before drinking them, and check where the ice is coming from.
  • Keep yourself covered from the sun. Brink sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat!

Enjoy being disconnected

Many safari lodges are located in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Don’t expect a good internet connection or WiFi. Even if there is WiFi, it will probably be incredibly slow. Don’t waste your precious Africa time trying to send an email or uploading images to social media. Try to enjoy this opportunity of being disconnected. I personally enjoy being in the bush and knowing that I cannot get on the internet to check things. Use the free time to read, think, meet people, and learn about a new culture.

Relaxing in the afternoon
Complete Guide To Planning Safari Trip To Africa 13

Wake Up Early & Enjoy Sundowner Time

The animals are most active at first light and again around dusk since midday is too hot for them to be active. This is why most safari days consist of two parts, a morning one and an evening one. The morning typically means waking up at sunrise to grab your coffee and a few biscuits to start your day. You’ll have breakfast when you return to camp after your drive. The evening is more relaxed, offering a different vibe as the light is different and the animals behave differently. To end your safari day perfectly, find a sport you love, grab a drink and enjoy the sunset.
Between your morning and afternoon trips, there is plenty of downtimes. Use it to soak up your surrounding, relax, read, take a nap, draw the landscape, and meet new people.

Sundown in Africa
Photo by Damian Patkowski on Unsplash

Check Your Visa Requirements

Africa is a large continent, so it’s essential to think about your visa requirements. In some countries, you can get a visa on arrival, but others require you to have one ahead of time. Check the VISA requirements and if you need to make VISA, go to iVisa and do it online. Apply at least 60 days before your travel date to avoid unnecessary problems.

Ready To Go?

You’ve set your travel goal, enriched your vacation wish list, worked out your budget range and preferred dates, and found a great local guide. Now it’s time to get ready for the holiday of a lifetime…

Still need help planning or finetuning your trip, click here to find local guides that would be happy to assist you.

What Are the Most Popular Destinations For a Safari Trip?

There are a lot of different safari destinations to choose from, and the trick to picking one is to take into account what you want to do on your trip and where you want to go. These are the most common places travelers go for a Safari Trip:
– Kruger National Park, South Africa
– Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
– Gorilla Trekking, Rwanda
– The Okavango Delta, Botswana
– Victoria Falls, on The border between Zambia and Zimbabwe
– Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
– Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
– Etosha National Park, Namibia
– Chobe National Park, Botswana
– Samburu National Reserve, Kenya

What is the best month to go on an African safari?

The best to go on safari in Africa is between May to October, during the dry season. You’ll have better weather, wildlife gathers around the remaining water sources, and it’s easier to find accommodation, but the prices are higher.

Are African safaris safe?

If you travel to a known resort with a well-rated guide and follow the rules, safari trips in Africa are safe.

What is the average cost of an African safari trip?

Depending on where you want to go and how luxurious the park you chose is, an African safari costs anywhere between $150 for a budget trip and all the way up to $2,500 per person per night for a top luxury safari.

Last update: January 2023

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