POSTED ON 9th September 2015 BY Ollie Blackwell
Each of us probably has a different idea of what makes the perfect safari. For some, it will be about having days combing the bush with a guide to see as many animals as possible whereas for others it will be about staying in luxury safari lodges. Some may want the backup of a guided safari while others are keen to drive their own vehicle so they can get out and explore.
So where do you begin planning? I know from personal experience how daunting it can be to think about making all those arrangements and decisions – that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Believe me, my wife and I debated every last village we would visit before our recent trip to Tanzania…
It needn’t be a huge undertaking. Of course, you want to make sure it’s the trip of a lifetime, but planning your safari trip is quite simple when you break it down correctly. Here’s the way I approach it – absorb, reflect, and things will suddenly seem very clear.
For many of us, though, a great safari is about more than seeing wildlife, it’s about variety. We want to experience solitude in the bush and the fantastic service in a safari lodge. We want to see elephants at a watering hole and birds littering tree branches. When it comes down to it, what we want from our safari is a memorable and exhilarating experience.
We want the smells, sounds and sights of the lands we visit to live with us and form memories that outlive any other traditional holiday. We want to meet the local people, find out how they live and get the chance to talk to them about their country. The safari that is perfect for delivering all of this is a self-drive safari where you drive your own vehicle, to your own itinerary and camp in the bush.
On the other hand, if you want a bit less freedom and bit more luxury, you can combine bush camping with stays in safari lodges or simply travel from lodge to lodge and avoid camping out at night altogether.
If you want to design a safari experience for yourself that includes a wide range of sights and experiences and that offers you the opportunity for adventure and relaxation in equal measure, you need to know more about the options available to you.
There are three key elements to creating the perfect safari:
• The type of safari you want to go on.
• Your safari accommodation.
• What you do when you get on safari.
Once you have those elements worked out, you can begin to work out when to go and how long to go for. Below, we give an overview of the critical elements that you need to consider so you can begin to get a sense of what your perfect safari will include.
The luxury safari option involves you in moving from one lodge to another and going out on guided safaris. You can enjoy guided safaris based around staying in a variety of safari lodges. A guided safari will give you all the benefits of having an experienced and knowledgeable guide to take you where you are most likely to see wildlife.
If you decide to have a more independent safari – say as a group camping in the bush – you can also enjoy the benefits of a guide. Those on self-drive safaris can hire a guide when they stay at a lodge. This may be a good idea if you are new to safari and want some experience and tips before you go off on your self-drive holiday.
A self-drive safari gives you maximum freedom and independence but with that comes responsibility and greater risk. The risks can be minimized by good preparation, knowledge and by observing some simple rules. What you get from opting for greater independence is the opportunity to truly experience the wild and explore Africa on your own terms and in your own way. If you truly want to get away from it all, have an adventure and enjoy a memorable experience, self-drive is for you.
If you want the security of being in a group and the expertise of a guide, why not consider the option of a group safari drive?
With a group drive, you still drive yourself in your own vehicle but you get to enjoy the company of those in up to three other vehicles. At the same time, you have your own experienced guide who will take you to places other travellers never get to. Added to this, you get the benefit of added safety as you can take advantage of your guide’s knowledge of the terrain, weather and wildlife.
Where you stay and how you live when on safari can significantly affect your experience of safari. If camping in the bush is definitely not for you, that’s fine because there are luxury camp sites, houses for rent and safari lodges on offer.
A safari lodge gives you all the advantages of luxury but in unparalleled surroundings where you can see wildlife, experience the atmosphere of the bush but still enjoy a comfortable bed and running water. Safari lodges vary but almost all of them offer great food, beautiful locations, well-appointed rooms and great service. Many also offer facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, spas, gift shops and beautiful gardens, all designed to make your stay truly relaxing and enjoyable.
This is where you get down and dirty and experience Africa in the raw. Camping in the bush has its risks but by observing a few simple rules and being prepared, those risks are more than manageable. The experience of bush camping will far outweigh any trepidation you may feel at being out in the wild.
Camping in the bush allows you to enjoy the scent of plants and the smell of the earth as well as the sounds of insects, animals and the wind so you truly feel close to the land you are in. Added to that, you can enjoy beautiful sunsets as well as stunning bird and plant life.
Of course, when you go on safari you want to see as much wildlife as you can. But remember that wildlife comes in many forms and the birds, insects and invertebrates are often as fascinating as the larger animals. Seeing lions may be a thrill, like in the video below, but a brightly coloured butterfly or the call of a bird may be just as memorable.
On the surface, safari seems to be all about seeing wildlife, but there is more to it than that. The scenery, panoramic views, scents and sounds of a country are as much part of the whole adventure as the wild animals.
It is the people and where they live that enhance and add colour to an experience and Africa is no different. Plan to take time out to visit some small towns and villages on your route so you can visit the local shops and see how people live.
Before planning your safari in detail, you need to think about when is the best time to travel. Of course, each country you visit in Africa (and even different areas within each country) has a slightly different climate, terrain and wildlife to the next.
These climactic differences need to be taken into consideration before you start to plan your safari so you can choose the best possible time to travel.
How long you decide to spend on safari depends to a large extent on your budget, your schedule and what you want to do when you’re there. Inevitably, the longer your safari, the more you will see and the further you can travel. However, if being on the road is not what you want, you might want to book some time in a lodge or rented house by the coast so you can relax and have a complete rest.
There is no particular need to take an extended break unless you want to as you can see a lot and do a lot during a typical two week break. Take a look at some of our itineraries to get an idea of what you can fit in during a typical 14-night self-drive safari.
The weather Namibia is fairly good all year round while Botswana is at its best from June to October while Malawi and Zambia are at their best from July to October.
Check out the weather for each country you want to visit so you know when is the best time to go, and also so you know what to pack!
When you know what the possibilities are for your safari, you can begin to design an itinerary that works for you. Our expert staff can help you choose countries to visit, decide when to travel and select the accommodation you want so call us to get help designing the perfect safari for you.
To get started designing your trip, take a look at some of our popular itineraries to get an idea of what you might want to include.
When planning your own safari, it is sometimes useful to see an itinerary created by experts before getting started. The itineraries below, give a sense of the variety your safari can encompass, from nights spent camping in the bush to nights spent in luxurious lodges. These itineraries show you how to put it all together to create your own perfect safari.
Namibia, Dunes and Falls. Three countries in one trip, this unique itinerary allows you visit Namibia, Botswana and Zambia. You start your journey at the Victoria Falls in Zambia then go through Chobe National Park in Botswana before through some of the best parts of Namibia. This is a unique journey for any self-drive adventurer.
Malawi, Southern Loop. If you want to enjoy the best of Southern Malawi, this self-drive route is perfect. It balances stays at fantastic safari lodges with camping in the bush and takes in the Big Five destination of Majete Wildlife Reserve. Here you stay at Robin Pope Safaris’ property Mkulumadzi before enjoying two days and nights exploring the park and camping out.
You then have two nights at Satemwa Tea Estates before heading off to Liwonde via Zomba Plateau. Your trip is completed with two battery-recharging nights on the exclusive and private Mumbo Island in Lake Malawi.
Botswana, Classic Botswana. This is a 15-day safari that takes in the very best of Botswana. The trip starts with the vast Salt Flats of Nxai Pan, before heading north to Moremi Game Reserve on the edge of the Okavango Delta. You then visit Savuti, the game filled Chobe National Park and finish with 2 nights on the mighty Zambezi River near Victoria Falls.
The best time to do this journey is between June and October. To give you a balance of accommodation, this itinerary includes 6 nights in Lodges and 8 nights in campsites.
Have you been on safari before? What aspects did you find particularly important when planning? Let me know in the comments below.
To discuss your safari ideas and get the benefit of our expertise in helping you design it, get a free safari consultation with one of our team.