Wondering how to choose an African safari that works for you? Here’s a quick guide to help you plan your dream trip
Author: Jemima Forbes
Dreaming of escaping to Africa? With so many enchanting destinations for wonderful wildlife encounters, breathtaking scenery and vibrant culture, it can be tricky to know exactly where to go.
Gaining advice from an expert in African travel is by far the best way to decide the right time and place to book your bucket-list trip. To help you out, we’ve put together some tips on how to plan the best safari into the game reserves of Africa.
Here are a few pointers to consider before you book your trip.
A herd of zebras in Maasai Mara, Kenya
Choose the right time of the year to go
You may already have a specific time in mind for your safari getaway. Nevertheless, certain seasons are better than others for encountering Africa’s diverse wildlife:
March to May
If you’re planning to visit Kenya or Tanzania, it’s worth noting that this period of the year is East Africa’s rainy season. That doesn’t mean you should shy away from booking a trip during these months, though. There will still be lots of great game drives to enjoy, as well as opportunities to see animals birthing their young. What’s more, bright light conditions make it a dream for photographers.
June to October
This season is largely considered the best time for an African safari vacation. Look forward to fairer weather and viewing majestic migrations in places like the Northern Serengeti. This is usually peak season for safaris, so you might find certain reserves are a little busier and prices are pushed higher.
December to March
December through March is Southern Africa’s rainy season. Again, this shouldn’t put you off visiting. Major game reserves such as Southern Kruger will offer plenty of opportunities for spotting the Big Five. The rainy season also offers much better value for money and fewer crowds to contend with.
Note that if you’re visiting a safari destination during the rainy season, you’ll need to be more conscious about what you pack in your suitcase. A waterproof yet lightweight rain jacket is a must and you’ll also want a few layers in case you go on nighttime game drives. Wearing light or neutral tones is recommended as brighter colors tend to attract flies and other unwanted bugs.
Catch the wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
2Decide what you want to see
Africa is the natural habitat of so many wonderful creatures. If you’re determined to tick off the Big Five from your list, you’ll have the best chance in larger safari locations like Kruger National Park or Kenya’s Masai Mara.
Various migrations occur throughout the year and they are spectacular sights to behold. The great zebra and wildebeest migration in the Serengeti typically takes place between May and July, while Botswana’s incredible zebra migration happens from May to November.
Some countries also offer chances to spot rare creatures. For example, Botswana is one of the top places to see African wild dogs in their natural habitat, in addition to huge herds of magnificent elephants. Always wanted to see leopards in the wild? Venture to Zambia’s pristine South Luangwa region that’s brimming with predators.
Decide which part of Africa to explore
Countries across Africa are rife with incredible landscapes, giving you plenty of variety when it comes to stunning scenery and fascinating wildlife.
Botswana is one of the most geographically diverse nations in the region. Spend a couple of weeks exploring huge marshes, swamps teeming with crocodiles, tumbling rivers and expansive deserts in places such as Okavango Delta, Savuti & Linyanti and Chobe National Park.
South Africa’s Kruger National Park is one of the biggest African safari parks, with incredibly diverse topography. As well as safari drives through the savannah to spot lions and zebras, you can head up into the Limpopo mountains in the hopes of glimpsing rare birds and elusive leopards. You will also have the opportunity to spot schools of hippos lounging around in the glistening waters of the Letaba River.
Try spotting the elusive leopard in Kruger National Park, South Africa
List your must-do experiences
There’s so much room for variation on African safari vacations. One of the key things to decide before you book is exactly what kind of experience you’re after. Do you want to go on an exciting water safari? Or maybe it has always been your dream to walk among zebras on foot.
Botswana is a prime destination for mokoro (canoe) excursions in the Okavango Delta or along the Chobe River. If you’d rather get closer to the action on a walking safari, it’s hard to beat those offered in Zambia. Countries such as Tanzania and Kenya also feature beautiful sandy beaches, perfect for some R&R after a week of exciting wildlife spotting.
If you’re looking for a cultural experience in addition to wildlife viewing, the incredible African Serengeti or the Masai Mara are great options. Both locations also give you a chance to embark on once-in-a-lifetime experiences with local cultures.
Go on a mokoro (canoe) safari in Botswana
5Keep in mind who you’re traveling with
Whether you’re visiting Africa solo, as a couple or with the entire family, your chosen travel companions will undoubtedly have an impact on where you decide to go on safari.
South Africa is a great option if you’re planning a safari vacation with younger kids. The country’s game reserves – including Kruger – have fantastic family-friendly accommodation, many of which include kids’ clubs and fun activity programs. You could also divide your trip between staying in a safari park and enjoying some sightseeing and culture in a large, nearby city like Johannesburg or Cape Town.
For a romantic safari trip, be it an anniversary or to celebrate recent nuptials, you can’t go wrong with a vacation in Tanzania or Kenya. Discover lodges with lovely surroundings and luxurious honeymoon suites. There’s also the added benefit of being close to some idyllic beaches, such as those in Zanzibar, if you’d like to combine safari drives with relaxing on the sand.
Zanzibar is an idyllic retreat if you want to combine safari with a beach
Our Africa experts will happily talk all these points through with you in order to provide a perfectly tailored safari itinerary. Simply tell us what matters to you most, and we will provide our recommendations for the best camps, reserves, times to visit and activities based on your travel dreams!