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How to Choose a Safari Destination for Your Trip

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Elephants walking through water during sunset at the Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Little compares to the excitement of planning a much-desired vacation, but before you pull down your favorite suitcase and double-check that your passport is valid, these five safari considerations can help you enjoy the embodiment of quintessential safari experiences.

The time of year, the amount of time away, must-see sites and experiences, as well as digging for the real reason a spot on the map jumps out at you, all play a part in picking your next adventure destination.

Below are our five considerations to make when choosing your safari destination to help you narrow down the options, so you can start packing your bags to enjoy an experience tailored to your preferences.

  1. 1. Consider Who You Are Traveling With
  2. 2. Decide What You Would Like to See Most
  3. 3. Determine the Best Time for Your Safari
  4. 4. Establish How Many Days You Can Spend on Safari
  5. 5. Choose Adventure, Down Time, or a Combination of Both
  6. Plan with a Safari Specialist for Our Top Destinations

1. Consider Who You Are Traveling With

Family on walking safari in Kenya observing rhinos

Family on walking safari in Kenya observing rhinos

A key element to planning your safari getaway is considering the reason behind this trip of a lifetime, who will be traveling with you, and how to design your experience with everyone in mind. Whether it is a safari-focused journey or a longer, multi-country adventure, different itineraries will appeal to different people.

Sitting side by side on the deck of your luxury tented camp conjures up the perfect picture of romantic luxury, a honeymooner’s dream on safari. Consider the contrasting setting of a mobile tented camp set deep in the African bush, where one adventure after another awaits those seeking a more down-to-earth and adrenaline-packed experience.

Taking it slow and savoring every moment at your own pace would suit senior travelers. Planning your ideal safari is not only about the style or pace of travel you wish to have, but also the time spent in destinations and the overall experience.

Some may prefer traversing vast landscapes in East Africa, while others may wish to absorb as much culture and local cuisine as possible to truly immerse themselves in their destination. Family adventures might require a little more planning and careful thought when it comes to a safari, with malaria-free locations and shorter travel times just two key points to consider.

2. Decide What You Would Like to See Most

Young leopards climbing a tree in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Some people start planning their safari with a specific goal in mind, definite locations, or animals they simply have to see, perhaps requesting a private experience rather than a group, overland adventure. Word of mouth goes a long way or perhaps you have read about a specific safari experience you would love to imitate. If open spaces and game traversing savannas to gather at waterholes is what you are looking for, exploring the Serengeti, Maasai Mara, or Sabi Sands in the Kruger National Park is perfect. If your idea of a dream safari is an overall wildlife extravaganza in several parks and reserves, a multi-destination safari will afford you safari bliss.

We all have a favorite animal we hope to spot on a game drive, which makes choosing your safari destination a little easier. Visit Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana to watch massive herds of elephants or set yourself up in the perfect corner of the Masai Mara to witness the great wildebeest migration.

Bird lovers will want to ensure they travel to the lush, tropical regions of East and Southern Africa to marvel at the natural aviary. Salt pans attract herds of elegant oryx, Namibia’s desert plays host to the funny and fascinating meerkat, while searching for a pride of tree-climbing lions will require a safari in specific Kenyan and Tanzanian parks. Having these must-see ideas in mind goes a long way in ensuring your ideal experience is achieved.

Learn more: Animals of KenyaAnimals of South AfricaAnimals of Tanzania

3. Determine the Best Time for Your Safari

Aerial safari observing antelopes running across flooded grasslands in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta, Botswana

May to September in East and Southern Africa see visitors from all over the world embark on adventures in game parks and reserves in search of the Big Five and more. Mild days, cooler nights, and an abundance of wildlife make this the ultimate safari season.

Africa’s safari circuit can be experienced year-round, with certain wildlife events and prime viewing seasons dictating what would be the ideal time for your adventure. When planned properly, March and April offer quality game viewing in certain parks, such as the Serengeti or Zambezi national parks.

There are other times of the year when the safari experience is all about the unique, once-a-year occurrence. The Great Migration is a wildlife extravaganza, with wildebeest and zebra first crossing in July into Kenya and returning to Tanzania in October.

The short rains fall at the end of November, creating a lush setting over the next few months, with January and February ideal for bird lovers to marvel at the abundant life surrounding them daily. Nothing is as cute as a newborn impala trying its best to stand and embrace its green surroundings, and being privy to this is a treat when visiting in February and early March.

Learn more: Best Time to Go on an African Safari

4. Establish How Many Days You Can Spend on Safari

Laikipia National Park, Kenya

Laikipia National Park, Kenya

Vacation time varies for most and the number of days you have to spend in destination may determine your safari location, style of adventure, and what you can realistically fit in. Choosing one specific country, national park, or reserve may be just what you are looking for, with time spent at a single or perhaps two lodges or camps to focus on seeing all the wilderness around you has to offer.

If taking in landscapes and a variety of wildlife experiences is your goal, traversing local villages and diversifying your experience, then you can combine various escapes. You can also add a city or combine your African safari with beach escapes, but this may reduce your time on safari.

Logistics play a big role in any journey and knowing how long it will take to get to either East or Southern Africa, as well as what is involved once on the ground, is important. Travel time to Africa can be broken up with stops in Europe or North Africa, and once in destination, proximity to cities and parks plays a key role in how to design your safari itinerary.

Some parks and reserves require small flights or lodge hops to connect you to your wildlife adventure, while other parts of Africa can have you sipping a sundowner within a few hours’ drive. The time required between experiences is a must to correctly outline how many days are enough for you.

5. Choose Adventure, Down Time, or a Combination of Both

The Great Migration in Tanzania

The Great Migration in Tanzania

Having an idea of what is important when you travel to a specific destination helps to ensure you do not miss out on anything truly fulfilling and aids in avoiding allocating time to an activity or experience that may not be what you are looking for.

It is true that when planning a safari the wildlife experiences and types of safari adventures are first and foremost, so attention to planning an enriching game-filled adventure, piecing together the perfect action plan, desired accommodation, and activities for your time in Africa are important. Some travelers look to expand their adventure and include side visits such as bungee jumping in view of Victoria Falls or hiking Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

For other visitors to Africa, the focus may be on a vast contrast in experiences. In this case, spending time on safari for several days to take in landscapes that merge from savannah to forest, delta channels to mountainous outcrops, followed by time in a concrete jungle with waterfronts and winelands is sure to whet most appetites.

A sandy white beach on one of the islands in the Indian Ocean beckons travelers looking to simply sit and relax for the majority of their time in destination, the safari making up just a small part of the overall experience. Strike a perfect balance between the two and you will be immersed in an unforgettable safari adventure.

Learn more: What to Expect From a Day on Safari

Plan with a Safari Specialist for Our Top Destinations

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park, South Africa

With so many options to consider, from country to region to park or reserve, right down to the tiniest details of your day-to-day activities, choosing your safari destination may require some homework. Over and above keeping in mind these tips for choosing your safari destination, here are our top safari countries in Africa to help inspire your plans.

  • Kenya: Whether watching the Great Migration unfold across the Masai Mara or learning about Swahili culture between game drives, Kenya offers incredible encounters in the East African bush.
  • Botswana: In Botswana, you can cross the Okavango Delta by boat to see African animals from a unique vantage point or escape to the dry Makgadikgadi salt pans to capture a truly unique African landscape.
  • Tanzania: Whether chasing opportunities to see the Great Migration or standing beneath the peak of Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is home to some of the most breathtaking experiences in Africa.
  • South Africa: South Africa hosts some of the continent’s top game reserves and national parks, where the Big Five wander freely and the local culture intertwines with daily life.

For more top travel advice, explore our African safari tips or discover our reasons to plan with a safari specialist. Your time is precious and making the most of your experience is what counts, so work with a safari expert to ensure that happens on your African safari, or explore more inspiration in our African safari travel guide.

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