Going an African safari is surely near the top of most people’s bucket lists. The vast plains of the Serengeti. Stunning views of snow-capped mountains, sparklingly pure lakes and thick jungle. Early morning game drives or hot-air balloon flights as the sun rises. The chance to see the Big Five. A safari in Africa will surely yield many moments you’ll always treasure, but they don’t come cheap. For that reason it’s essential to plan as far ahead as you can to ensure that your money goes as far as possible and so that you can do everything you want, see everything you want to see. Here’s our Tinggly top tips for going on safari.
Where and when to go
When planning your safari, decide in advance what wildlife you want to see, as different African countries have different animals within their borders – rhino and lion are often seen on South Africa safaris, whereas if you want to see elephants or giraffes you might look at Namibia. You’ll also want to be sure you’re visiting at the right time of year – the famous Serengeti migration, for instance, usually happens from January to March and November to December.Note that the rainy and dry seasons are becoming less and less predictable, so travelling off-peak to save money and encounter lower tourist density doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t see much wildlife.
How to travel
Group, or individual travel? If you go on safari as part of a group then it can be less expensive, and most packages are activity-oriented, so photographers travel together, ecotourists together… Whereas if you travel alone then you have that extra degree of flexibility. It’s worth researching several safari companies as some may offer combinations of the two options. Some people choose to self-drive, in which case it’s vital to keep plenty of water in your vehicle, some form of shade, and to always let someone reliable know your route and when you expect to return. Understand that when driving in Africa, even short distances can take several hours, and bad weather can stop you in your tracks. If you do run into trouble, it’s always safest to stay with your vehicle.
Where to stay and what to bring
Understand the level of comfort you want – not every safari involves luxurious tented camps out in the bush. You can seek out less expensive accommodation and transport arrangements but be prepared to rough it a little.
Bring comfortable, lightweight clothing that you can layer, but most importantly, even if you barely know one end of a camera from the other, you’ll still want to take plenty of photos. Bring the best camera and lens that you can afford to buy or borrow. An African safari offers incredible opportunities for wildlife photography, but much of it will be from a distance. Ty not to spend all your time glued to the viewfinder on your game drives though – it’s good to live in the moment a little.If you are bringing lots of kit with you, and you’re travelling as part of a group, then it might be worth sharing the cost of an extra seat on flights and in vehicles so you have somewhere to stow your gear.
You’ll usually have the option of either early morning or late evening game drives, as these are the best time to see some animals. That means you’ll need to catch up on sleep in the middle of the day, which is convenient as that’s when most animals are dozing too. Bring along an eye mask and a portable fan to help you sleep in the heat. Disconnect as much as possible. You’re out in the heart of nature, you can’t expect great Wifi or phone signal, so turn your laptop, phone and tablets off. Instead spend the evenings enjoying the sunsets, getting to know your fellow guests or simply listening to the sounds of the safari.
Remember that many African countries can be seen as multi-destination. That means as well as a safari, you can easily have a short yet dreamy beach holiday, a city break in Nairobi or Cape Town perhaps, or a spa experience to cleanse your body from all the dust and exhaustion you’ll have accrued.Travel responsibly. Tip for good service but don’t overtip, spend time with the locals, and see if there are any community projects in the area that you can visit or contribute towards. And remember that the fight against illegal poaching is a tough one, but one that can still be won. If you’re taking a safari and would like future generations to be able to do the same, you can donate to the cause.