Choosing the RIGHT African Safari for your visit is a very important part of how your overall experience will turn out. This is an even steeper decision for the people who are visiting Africa from all around the world for the very first time.
Paying for a holiday is expensive and every care should be taken to ensure that your experience is above and beyond the money you paid to facilitate the trip. The experience should leave you willing to do it all over again.
In this article, we will try to give you some insights on how you can go about the whole process of choosing a safari that is exactly right for you. While we do mention some places and activities, they are simply examples of things to consider and not really things for you to consider. They are amazing places and activities but we actually want you to make your choices.
These are some thoughts on what you should consider. After you have answered the following questions to yourself, then you can get into the granular details.
Let's get into it. We hope you enjoy this and find it helpful.
How To Choose An African Safari
1. Safari Interests
There is so much to see, do and enjoy on an African Safari but you have to choose. Africa is a huge continent with so many options for what you can do on holiday and unless you choose, you might never actually go for that safari you are thinking of.
Most people choose the 'classic' game drives but there are many options from mountain climbing, surfing, diving, gorilla tracking, hiking and so much more in culture and history. You really have to choose.
So, What would you like to see or do on your African Safari?
You might get faced with a problem where you want to 'see everything'. Just remember that you can start with a few things and then visit again, and again. The truth is that even if you had a whole year, you would still want more.
2. Safari Destination
After you have narrowed down what you would like to see and do on your African safari, the next step is choosing a destination. This should be easy because you can utilize social media or answer platforms to ask people for recommendations.
As with picking your interests, we recommend that you should always follow up any advice with a bit of your own research - to avoid falling for a bad lie.
A sample question could be phrased as "Which African country is best for seeing lions, elephants, rhinos, and cheetahs?"
Your final decision on the destination should be after comparing all the other factors below. At this stage, we advise you to keep all the options open.
You can easily explore all the info we have on several African Destinations on the website.
3. Safari Budget
After you have figured out what you would like to do, and where you will go, the next stage is your budget. This is the total amount of money you have for the trip. Most itineraries might not include your air travel, so make sure it is also budgeted here.
If the activities you want to take part in can be done in several countries - with comparable quality of experience, you might even be able to go with a cheaper destination.
As with any travel, it is advised to carry some extra cash for things like tips, souvenirs, gratuities, or drinks. Include this in your overall budget as well.
The question here is, what is your overall budget for your African Safari.
4. Travel Schedule
With your interests, a destination, and a budget, the next big item is the schedule for your safari. Your schedule for the safari should be when you have a convenient time. Many people usually align this with their vacation time from work.
If your trip is with a big work or family group, you will have to take the extra time to make that everyone's schedules are properly aligned.
Romantic getaways and honeymoons could rely on other preceding events, so careful planning is needed. Planning when you still have time is always a helpful thing to do.
The question here is, What Schedule/Time frame works best for you to go on Safari?
Once you have figured out most of the above points, your next concern is safety.
As with any new country you visit, it is good to know that it is safe for you to travel and stay during your scheduled time. This peace of mind makes it easy for you to focus on your experience and interests - to be in the moment.
If at this stage you still have more than one destination to choose from, this is where you narrow it down to the final country or region.
Check out our extensive article on the Safest African Countries to visit - that is based on Global Peace Index research. The article also briefly touches on the tourism possibilities you can have in each country.
Your health is always something to consider. That is why you should consult with your doctor and make sure that you have all the necessary advice.
If you do take regular medication or might require emergency medical care, make sure to disclose this to the tour Operator/organizer such that there are no undesired surprises.
Some activities might require some physical exertion for a prolonged time, for example, mountain climbing. Depending on what your doctor says, these activities might be off the list for you.
Related article: How to stay healthy on an African safari
7. Visas & Vaccinations
After deciding on your destination country or region, your next move is to look at the visas and vaccination requirements. Some countries will have visa-free entry for your country while others will not.
Each country will have different visa procedures but the good thing is you can apply for a visa online and have the whole process finished beforehand.
Vaccinations are a requirement for some countries. The most common vaccine is usually the yellow fever vaccine. For any vaccines or preventative medicine, you should follow the advice of your doctor.
Check out all our articles about visas for individual African countries.
8. Extra Requirements
Extra requirements for your African Safari will vary depending on so many factors. Such factors include location, activity, climate season, length of your stay, and much more.
Some things will be similar but savannah wildlife viewing has different needs than mountain climbing adventures. When you have already narrowed it down, these requirements - mostly packing list items are easy to figure out.
If you happen to be using a tour operator experienced in the local area, the company will advise you on these. We have many articles that address some of these extras, but you should feel free to talk to us for some assistance and clarification.
9. Self Drive / Guided Safari
The next concern is whether you want to travel with a Safari Tour Operator (Company) or you want to do it on your own by Self Drive.
If you have always had a great time traveling on your own with no tour operators and handling everything, Self Drive might be the option for you. Handling all the details can be exciting, as it allows you to travel in your own unique way.
If you would like someone to handle every detail on your behalf, then a tour operator is the choice to go with. You benefit from their specific experience in the area and local activities too.
Sometimes, this choice is made on the basis of price. The extra price for the services of the company shouldn't be a huge problem since they are providing a service to you. This price becomes high when you book with a company that is not local to the area you are going to. So you end up paying service fees for two companies instead of one.
Our advice on this is that you should focus on the experience because that is what will stay with you for your lifetime.
If you think a recommendation from us can be helpful, talk to us and we'll link you up with some of our friends.
So, What do you prefer between a Self Drive and a Guided Safari?
10. Group Preference
What would you prefer in terms of the group to travel with? Are you more of a Solo traveler or can you join up with other people?
If you like traveling solo or just with your own company from home, that is okay. Most people choose this way and have a great time. You can still meet new people and make friends in various places and activities so the human connections are still as abundant.
If you have no problem joining up with other people you don't know for a safari, this can equally work. This is mostly done for scheduled tours. Being able to join a group of fellow travelers is great especially when the scheduling becomes a challenge to include family and friends due to various commitments of their end.
The right question here is, Are you open to joining other travelers for the same safari? or would you rather be in a group of people close to you?
Just remember that a tour where you join other people might not fully get customized to your personal specific interests since the tour is taking care of everyone. You could still get a huge percentage of your interests, so this shouldn't stop you. Just be aware of the fact.
Traveling with children does quite fall in the above concern about group preference. The reason for making this a separate point is because children cannot undertake some activities which have age limits.
Things like gorilla trekking, Chimpanzee tracking, mountain climbing, white water rafting, and others do have a minimum age limit. If some of the activities you have planned don't permit the children you traveled with, you will need a way of engaging them differently. As you are booking, make sure to ask about this.
So, Are you travelling with Children?
As you can tell, these considerations do mish-mash together and influence the other. It is hard to get complete clarity but that is not the goal at this stage of your planning.
The goal here is to narrow down your choice to a set of interests, schedules, and budgets among others. When you have figured out what you would like to do, when, with how much, and with whom, then the next stage is getting into the finer details.
We hope this article has given you an idea of how to approach choosing an African safari that works well for you. The goal should be going on the kind of safari that offers you the most rewarding and fulfilling experience.