There are few experiences as exhilarating and life changing as going on safari to Africa. It is not just a vacation; it is a magical and unforgettable experience. You will take something with you when you leave, and some part of you will stay behind. I often get questions about safety, and I can assure you, if you follow the suggestions and instructions of a professional guide, you will be more than safe. Be sure to read up on our tips to prepare for your first trip to Africa, for best practices on Visas, insurance and money handling.
A bucket list destination
There is a plethora of reasons a trip to Africa should be not just on your bucket list but number one on that list. There is no shortage of breathtaking moments, tons of adventures to participate in and unrivaled natural beauty. Africa is a huge continent with 54 countries, nine of which are renowned for the best safaris.
Additionally, the landscapes of Africa are vastly different from one country to another. From the untouched pristine land of Southern Africa with rich vegetation to the miles and miles of swirling sands and granite rocks of Namibia, or the great plains of Tanzania; you will find each more beautiful than the last. The savannas, woodlands, awe-inspiring mountains, as well as crystal-clear waters are beyond the imagination. Which of these you choose to see (or see first), will depend on your specific interests and taste. Africa will leave you with unforgettable memories of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, surrounded by unique landscapes and spectacular wildlife. We will explore them all in this three-part series so that you can make an informed decision when you book your first safari.
All safaris are not created equal
Each country, and even game lodge or tented camp, has a unique appeal and each has its own features and attractions. Many say that The Great Migration in Masai Mara is THE best experience ever and make no mistake, it IS incredible. You will see the largest and most spectacular movement of animals spanning an impressive circular and scenic trek as every year, over a million wildebeest and thousands of gazelles and zebras make their way between Masai Mara and Serengeti National Park.
Others will suggest that you should spend time trekking with the gorillas in Rwanda, and that too is a profound experience as is the Okavango Delta, the diversity of South Africa; each absolutely unique.
Wherever you decide to go, you will have a choice of accommodations and activities. You have the option of a self-drive stay in a national public park or a guided experience in a private reserve with a knowledgeable tour guide.
Before you go, you should decide if you want to disconnect and unwind by a pool with an incredible view surrounded by nature and go on the occasional game drive or whether you want a more adventurous journey with guided walks and sleepouts in the bush or to spend a romantic night in a treehouse. While this type of lodging isn’t for everyone, there really is nothing quite as magical as sleeping under the stars while listening to lions roaring in the distance. It’s almost like living in your own Out of Africa movie scene!
You could also choose to spend time with the local communities or have a hands-on experience with conservation. Accommodation options vary from luxury game lodges or tented camps and even these vary from utilitarian to luxury. I have stayed in tented camps that are as luxurious as a 5-star hotel and while both have their charms, your choice will depend on your preferences and budget. However, the ultimate experience would be to try both.
Are safaris family-friendly?
Many safari lodges have kid-friendly options but there are some that don’t allow kids under six years old. Some game drives can take up to three or four hours, so if you want to go on a family safari, be sure to take that into consideration. Taking your children with you on safari where they have many learning opportunities about conservation and how other cultures live, will be priceless. The guide’s experience ensures that you and your children get a wealth of knowledge about the animals and a chance to spot them.
Talk to our travel advisors about the best countries and lodges for a family-friendly safari, where you can fully customize your experience to ensure that everybody has a great time. Consider properties that offer family-friendly activities and animal encounters.
If you decide to go on a guided safari to a private game lodge, choose wisely. Your lodge should promote conservation and sustainable tourism and follow sensitive and ethical wildlife practices and your guide should be fully trained and experienced. Watch for the next article where I discuss the different safari areas and share my experiences of the lodges and guides that follow all these guidelines.