Africa Safari expert Jeffrey Ward shares his Insider Tips
It’s on everyone’s travel list – the African safari. But with so many options, destinations, and general information overload, many travelers have simply no idea where to begin. Here’s a quick and easy checklist of 5 tips to get the ball rolling.
1. What’s the trip goal?
Honeymoon? Family trip? Is the purpose of the trip to only see animals in the wild? What about cultural activities, a beach visit, or visiting multiple destinations and safari camps? The #1 factor in planning a successful African safari is knowing why you want to go. Don’t try to cram everything into your first trip. Africa is huge and there’s a lot to see and do. Once you know this, the “how” and “where” planning is a lot easier. The continent is easy to fall in love with, so make the most of your trip but know that you can return to do even more.
2. Where? East Africa or Southern Africa?
Now that you’ve decided on why you want to go, it’s important to know what each region offers. For an African safari, the top options are East Africa and Southern Africa. In East Africa the best Safari spots are the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and the “Northern Circuit” of Tanzania, which includes Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. For strictly a wildlife-viewing trip East Africa is the best option. Plus, if you want to relax for a few days at the beach, the island of Zanzibar is nearby. If you want to mix some culture and adventure to your safari, Southern Africa is the way to go. Start your trip in Cape Town, sampling the city’s food and wine, followed by a safari in Kruger National Park. Afterward, stay a few nights in in the luxurious Royal Chundu lodge in Victoria Falls.
You can go on an African safari pretty much any time during the year. If headed to East Africa, the Great Migration and River Crossings are the most popular. The key to seeing those events is to be in the right place at the right time. The migration actually occurs all year round in a circular pattern (see below map). The most popular months are June, July, and August, and the Christmas holidays. The pricing reflects this, of course, with peak seasons always being more expensive.
4. How long?
Most North American travelers are only willing to take a 2-week vacation, which means 10-12 nights on the ground in Africa. In my opinion, this is the minimum amount of time to do an African safari properly. Of course, if you have more time for a longer trip, you will have more time to see more! For your first trip, however, plan on being gone for 3 weekends; leaving Friday or Saturday on the first weekend, flying overnight to your Africa arrival city, then 10-12 nights on the ground, and back home on Saturday or Sunday of the third weekend.
Ready to plan your own amazing Africa vacation? Book your trip with Safaris Africa (www.SafarisAfrica.com). The first person to book will receive a free 2-night stay at the Royal Chundu Lodge, the first Relais and Chateaux property at Victoria Falls.
5. How much am I willing to spend?
I have to be honest here, an African safari, done properly, does not come cheap. Two things to keep in mind – a) the cost of international flights from home to Africa, and then b) the cost of land package. International flights from the east coast in the off-season can be as low as $1000, and as high as $2200 in peak season from the west coast. For the cost of the actual safari, I’ve seen 7-day budget group trips leaving from Nairobi for $1800 per person, all-inclusive. I’ve also planned 5-star trips for Wall Street honeymooners with a limitless budget. What’s a good starting point? I’d say $500 per person/per day for an intimate game viewing experience ($5000-$6000 per person). Remember, the higher the budget, the more exclusive the game viewing experience, with a private game reserve or concession within a national park, or a vehicle with no more than 6 guests on board.
About the Author:Jeff Ward is our resident African Safari expert. Having traveled extensively throughout East Africa and Southern Africa, no one here in the USA knows more about African Safaris than Jeff. He recently sold his safari agency and now specializes in helping travelers select the perfect safari experience. You can find him at www.SafarisAfrica.com, his new venture. Want help planning your Africa safari? Contact Jeff here!