Deciding to go on safari is a much easier decision than navigating through endless information about them. Information on the internet is mind boggling. Safari destinations, tour companies they sponsor, locations, accommodations and prices are as varied and vast as the land and wildlife.
After weeks of scouring internet sites, brochures, travel books and guides, here’s practical information and tips for selecting and preparing for an African safari:
Choosing a safari destination Africa is a huge continent and there are many safari spots in Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, etc. Kruger National Park, located in South Africa is the largest game park. Surrounded by many private game reserves, it promises visitors the “Big Five” – elephants, lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, Cape Buffalo – and is a good choice for a first safari destination.
Safari Tour Operators: Find an established tour operator. Check them out by reputation, rating, etc. Find out if they operate out of the US, Africa or offices in both countries. It is advantageous to have offices or employees in the country. Keep a budget in mind; safari prices and accommodations vary widely. Safaris can be all inclusive or you can opt for ala carte. It is often easier and cheaper to do all inclusive, air transport, accommodation transport, meals etc and if something goes wrong they are on hand to fix it,
Accommodations: Decide if you prefer more lavish accommodations or if you’re really looking for an authentic, rustic safari experience. There are tents, lodge-style accommodations, hiking, river and land safaris. Some routes allow you to experience different locations and types of safaris.
Passports and visas: inform yourself about the region(s) you plan to visit. Read the fine print regarding visas, passports, inoculations, and other legal requirements in the country that are commonly available on the State Department and CDC websites. South Africa has strict passport laws. Be careful and make sure you have enough blank Visa pages. (Amendment and approval pages in the back of the passport cannot be used for Visa stamps). Keep copies of your passport, credit cards, driver’s license etc. in a safe place at home and with you.
Vaccinations: Most insurance companies do not pay for travel vaccinations, but they will recommend or refer you to travel clinics. Some doctors’ offices will provide immunizations, but may not need vaccines on hand and must order them. Travel clinics, specializing in travel vaccinations, also offer advice on all aspects of a safe travel experience. Vaccines vary depending on your travel schedule. Over-the-counter medications for sleep, nausea, diarrhea, insect bites, etc. may be recommended. Sunscreen is a must.
Weather: Depending on the time of year, the weather can vary considerably from one part of the country to another, so check it out and pack accordingly. There are huge climate differences from one part of the country to another. Our game reserve was arid and dry and the temperature fluctuated dramatically from warm to cold. It is wise to bring clothing that can be layered for warmth or removed when the days are warm. A fleece is a staple in winter and spring. The key is to pack lightly but efficiently. There are restrictions on the weight of luggage on the game reserve’s transport aircraft.
Safety: Caution is always recommended and while there are many precautions regarding the political, racial and health issues of the country, it is wise to pay attention, but don’t let the bad press put you off the adventure. Be practically careful in city centers and use common sense in the wilderness.
Travel Insurance: Most banks and credit cards offer travel insurance that covers everything from missed connections to medical emergencies. It is recommended and be sure to get a copy of the plan’s coverage.
Pre-planning and preparation will help make an otherwise enjoyable experience, absolutely unforgettable!