Google “Africa Safari” and one becomes completely overwhelmed by the hundreds of 1,000’s of selections presented, page after page of safaris on provide by many tour operators. It is no easy task but with just a tiny preparation, searching for the ideal Africa safari can be an achievement.
Here are several essential points to consider ensuring you opt for the right Africa safari;
1. Where to Go
If it is animals you are following on from the obvious alternatives are Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia or South Africa. If it is Gorilla trekking and African wildlife choose Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. If it is culture try Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana; if you are really expecting to get off the beaten track try Cameroon and Gabon in Central Africa.
East Africa: Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania supply an increasingly “romantic” African safari; the roads, services and cultures are more authentic than the Southern African options.
The most famous parks of the Serengeti, Ngorogoro Crater, Masai Mara and Queen Elizabeth are in this part of Africa. The tropical African coastline of Kenya and the world famous Spice Island of Zanzibar. Anybody after animals, culture and a few days of relaxation on tropical seashores; East Africa is the obvious alternative.
Southern Africa: Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa are much more western and comfortable than East African countries yet they tend to lack the “real Africa” flair that we’re accustomed.
The most famous parks in the field are Chobe, Etosha, South Luangwa, Okavango Delta and Kruger; the famous Namib desert and Fish River Canyon to the wine region of Stellenbosch. Southern Africa offers a very different experience to East Africa.
West Africa: Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana if you are after culture and not bothered about wildlife. Mali is famous for Djenne, Timbuktu and Dogan Country; Burkina Faso is famous for its music scene and Ghana offers historical sites from the old slave trade years, tropical seashores and a few game parks with only a couple of animals.
Central Africa: Cameroon and Gabon is for the real adventure traveller. A safari through these countries will take you into a different world of tropical beaches, pygmies, bush meat markets, surfing hippos and thousands of low land gorillas. This part is much less travelled by the normal tourist and can be awkward to find an English speaking tour.
2. Level of Luxury
5 star luxury accommodation to camping are all on supply in East Africa, Southern Africa and West Africa. Central Africa expect a minimum of 3-5 star accommodation.
Upmarket accommodation options are endless nevertheless expect to pay hefty prices for 3-5 star accommodation. Facilities are excellent offering well stocked bar/ eating house, often swimming pools, hot showers, flushing toilets as well as the romantic African colonial style most tourist lodges and hotels have adopted.
Campgrounds have changed immensely in recent times. Gone are the days when there was no grass to pitch tents, cold showers (if water at all) and warm drinks in the fridge. Most camping areas in East and Southern Africa are very well serviced and equipped boasting hot showers, flushing toilets, broad bars and restaurants and good clean room accommodation to upgrade if camping does not take your fancy each night. Obviously there is invariably the chance the power may blast off and hot water may not last but overall camping areas provide excellent value for money and all the creature comforts the typical traveller desires.
Transport through Africa varies from Fly-in safaris, 4×4 Land Cruiser/Mini Van to custom built Overland Safari Trucks.
The most expensive but possibly practical way for those with a large budget and not much time is to fly from destination to destination. Most parks and major tourist attractions have air strips to cater for the fly-in safari traveller. Don’t expect to camp on these safaris; companies offering fly-in in addition provide 5 star lodge accommodation. The negative aspects to fly-in safaris are that you neglect the local sites, sounds, smells and culture of a country. Not really exposing to the real Africa. These tours offer full luxury.
Selecting 4×4 Land Cruiser or mini van is far cheaper than Fly-ins and offer anything from 5 star accommodation to camping safaris. Often group size is bound to 8-12 people per tour admitting a small group feel without it being too overwhelming. These are popular safaris since they suit most budgets. These tours mostly stop in hotel/lodge accommodation with hardly any camping.
Overland custom built safari trucks are the least expensive alternative. Most tours provided in safari trucks are camping with the exception of a couple who supply hotel/lodge accommodation. Travelling in a huge safari truck gives you the best viewpoint enhancing your Africa experience. The vehicles are totally self-sufficient complete with camping equipment and encompassing kitchen. Travelling as a group, anything from 13-25 people offers communal style living and is particularly popular with single travellers or older couples wanting the extra safety and security. These safaris often blend animal viewing, community projects with adventure activities, appealing to, but not limited, the 20-40 year old traveller. These tours are becoming more and more favorite with the over 50s searching for the more adventurous style of travel. There is nothing like cooking on fire, shopping at local markets and socialising with locals.
4. Private or Group Safaris
A number of firms supply custom-built private safaris. For a price you might have your own personal vehicle, own custom-made itinerary developed to your exact requirements and personal driver/guide. The options are not limited to lodge or camping but to what you desire. These options are popular with couples, honeymoon couples and business owners with limited time and restricted travel dates.
Group safaris can be challenging. Itineraries are developed to include the key highlights of each region/area and are less expensive than private custom-built safaris. The greatest concern with travelling in a group is whether all parties will get along, in most cases all are like minded who want to see and experience Africa. Where things do go wrong is when customers are traded a safari which does not meet their expectations.
5. Expectations and Level of Participation
It is critical to book a safari which meets expectations. If you are after the full pampering luxury safari than book the pampering luxury safari. Do not expect a luxury safari but book a participatory camping safari. Although it might be less costly you won’t be pleased with the product and therefore will damper your African experience. The truly amazing thing about Africa is it suits all expectations and budgets. Know what you want and expect; then search for a Company who provides that level of safari and service. At the end of the day you get what you buy.
Different safaris offer different levels of participation. The most expensive luxury safaris are hand-holding and pampering through to budget overland truck safari where it is expected that clients be of assistance to with the commonplace running of the safari.
If you want to take part in the commonplace running of the safari, help cook and shop for fresh foods for the group then book an Overland Truck safari. Most businesses offer the assistance of a cook so customer participation is fixed to helping prepare meals in place of assume responsibility for the final product. These safaris work on a customer rota system so it may be that over a 3 week period you have to help only 3-5 times; enough time to chance upon bartering for fresh fruit and vegetables in local markets and how to cook on open fire. With the aid of an experienced safari cook the meals are frequently much better than what the normal person eats at home!
There are a couple of Overland Truck Safari Operators where the shopping and cooking are entirely the groups’ responsibility. This may be a great way to fully make use of the Africa experience. Although rewarding, this can likewise be rather stressful particularly if you have never cooked for 20 people before in addition tonot to mention cook on open fire. Expect the meals to be a random mix from excellent to barely resembling edible.
How much you want to commit to your African safari will also dictate the kind of safari you book. There are beliefs that as most African countries are developing, they’re inexpensive like Thailand. You would be wrong, Africa is a lot more high priced than most realise. Ultimately the key places most safari operators visit does not differ between luxury fly-ins and overland truck safaris. Most operators supply itineraries which include the major parks and attractions; what differs is mode of transport, time spent in places and type of accommodation.
How much time you also have relies on the safari you will opt for. Still, the itinerary that includes the most may not be the foremost safari; consider and ask the operator/agent how much time is spent travelling versus time in positions. Time and time again clients compare itineraries from one Company to another and select the Company that include the most highlights only to realise on day 2 that as a way to see all the highlights means breakfast at 5am daily and not arriving at the final destination until 8pm at the hours of darkness. Defeats the purpose of a holiday! Be realistic about what is possible, the safari industry is very competitive hence operators cram as much into the itinerary as possible to make their product more attractive and saleable to possible customers.
Look at a atlas of the nations you want to travel, Africa is a huge continent. Assume the road conditions are under Western standards hence don’t anticipate to cover 500kms stopping at several tourist sites in one day.
8. All Inclusive Versus Pay-As-You-Go
Selecting an all-inclusive versus pay-as-you-go has many good and bad. Benefits of the all-inclusive means you only have to take enough money to purchase your visas and personal spending. The disadvantage is you may be paying for pursuits you have no interest i.e. forest walk or canoeing down the Zambezi.
Pay-as-you-go offers flexibility in paying only for the activities you are curious about leading to better value for money. The disadvantage is deciding ahead of embarking on your safari what pursuits you do and don’t want to partake. It is invariably best to overestimate what you may do while on safari ensuring you are not left short of cash.
10. Catalogue Versus Booking Over the world wide web
Over earlier times 2-3 years there has been a trend clear of brochures as more and larger numbers of people are confident to book trips over the net. Furthermore, as a society we are more aware of wasting precious resources such as paper. Most internet sites have broad facts about safaris getting rid of the need for brochures. Further, responsible tour operators are leaning faraway from catalogues as it is seen as contradictory to offer safaris that are focussed on saving the surroundings only to print 1,000’s of brochures.
11. Ask the Right Questions
Before booking a safari first enquire of yourself (and be truthful) about what sort of safari you would care to do.
Where do I wish to go?
What do I want to see and experience?
How much time do I have?
What do I expect?
Do I want Private or group safari?
How much do I must spend?
Do I want all inclusive or pay-as-you-go?
What sort of transport do I want?
As soon as you have asked and answered these questions you can start the look for a proper operator which meets you expectations.
Once you have discovered several feasible operators ask questions that relate to what you would like from your safari. Hopefully this will identify the correct operator for the Right Africa Safari.
Selecting a safari in Africa can be daunting even so if you understand what you would like, not only will you center on Operators offering these requirements, your Africa safari will truly be an unbelievable amazing something that will change your life experience.