There is no exact science to planning the perfect safari adventure – as each traveler and experience is unique and should treated with different insight and advice – BUT there are definitely points to consider when looking to plan a truly successful, bespoke African trip. Tamsyn Fricker shares a few thoughts:
1. Get your timing and location right – different times of the year / seasons can mean very different weather and animal patterns depending on where you travel. For example: Wildebeest Migration in Kenya / Tanzania or Zebra Migration in Botswana / Namibia… timing can be everything!
2. Pack light – you only need 1 duffel bag and a back pack; firstly as there will be luggage limitations for the smaller charter flights, secondly you really don’t need all that clothing as the safari properties offer laundry (90% include laundry in their rate) and thirdly, you’ll be able to use most of your safari clothing in cities like Nairobi / Kigali / Cape Town… plus you do not need heavy hiking boots unless you are specifically in mountainous / tough terrain on a walking / hiking trip, rather stick to good walking shoes with thick socks (takes up less space / weight as well).
3. Make sure you discuss / understand what type of safari you want – in terms of accommodation: luxury lodge / bricks & mortar, tented, mobile camp, budget camping etc. and experience: walking safari in Zambia, canoeing safari in Botswana, family focused with kid friendly activities and accommodations (villa / inter-leading rooms), cultural encounters as the highlight e.g. the Himba in Namibia, Hadza in Tanzania.
4. Consider a Bush / Beach experience – breaking-up your trip with the opportunity for some down-time / very different experience leaves you wanting more. If you are the type looking to have all the adventure upfront and then chill at the end… Bush followed by Beach. If you are looking for a lengthy safari adventure then consider breaking-up the adventure with Beach in the middle. Destinations like Mauritius and Mozambique pair well with Southern Africa while Zanzibar and Seychelles pair well with East Africa
5. Have patience on safari and look beyond the “Big Five” – Appreciate the adventure, the chase… finding those incredible animal sightings! Also know to look beyond the Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino “Big Five” sightings and appreciate the local bird life, flowers, elusive sightings of pangolin, honey badger, aardvark etc. and other “Small Five” sightings… Elephant Shrew, Buffalo Weaver, Leopard Tortoise, AntLion, Rhino Beetle. Especially on a safari with younger travelers, you will find that their delight is found in many of the overlooked animals and experiences.
6. If you’re an eager photographer – take a few lessons prior to travel, invest in a good SLR camera (I love my Canon EOS Rebel) and consider renting any lenses you may need (vs. purchasing expensive lenses) and taking along a bean bag for camera stability on the vehicles. If you’re a serious photographer be sure to request a photography vehicle as some lodges have specially adapted vehicles (typically at extra cost). Be sure to pack in an extra camera battery and memory cards. And in many African cities you can hook-up with a local photographer for the day and see the city from such a different angle (or lense, really!).
7. Know the tricks to easier travel logistics – be sure to have intel regarding easier travel in Africa. For example: when combining Mauritius & South Africa there are direct commercial flights and likewise combining gorilla trekking and Serengeti safari there are direct flights from Kigali, Rwanda to Mwanza, Tanzania etc. Or look to charter flights that allow you to bypass forced overnights etc. And know ahead of time what visas (and number of blank visa passport pages) & vaccinations are required per African country visited, as this can make or break a trip!
8. Think practical – For example, pack in a pack or two of baby wipes, these are wonderful when on a hot and / or dusty game drive and likewise if you find yourself in a smaller African airport that might have fewer facilities. Be sure to have a pair of sandals / flip flops for around camp as your toes will appreciate the freedom after a day in closed shoes. Sunscreen is imperative and most people prefer to use a brand they know & like so consider packing-in your own. A pashmina / shawl is great as it’s really versatile throughout your travels. Pre-load your iPad / Kindle with books & articles for those down-time stages.
9. Work with an Africa specialist – Working with an Africa travel specialist allows you to “go deeper” and “achieve much more”. For even the most independent of travelers there are unique insights, important travel logistics, local connections & relationships that a quality Africa specialist will bring to the trip design and ultimate experience.
The Travel Artistry Africa Team with offices on 3 continents – Cape Town, Copenhagen, New Jersey – are ready to listen, share and design your bespoke African experience.