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10 African Safari Planning Tips for Seniors

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Elephants on the savanna at sunset in Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Amboseli National Park, Kenyaa

An African safari is the ultimate in adventure and as you consider your plans, here are some helpful tips to ease logistics and planning for senior travelers.

The perfect safari conjures images of remote regions that offer intriguing and breathtaking landscapes, where classic lodges and luxury tented camps sit, isolated from the busy world around them. Wildlife roams from the plains to the forests and days start early, ending with captivating sunsets. You can engage your senses as you search for wildlife and get to know the local communities and their culture.

Every person’s safari needs are different, and with your unique preferences taken into account, the right, unforgettable itinerary will be created for you.

1. Determine the right length of safari

Zebras and giraffes in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park, South Africa

The time has come to embark on what can only be described as a trip of a lifetime, and one of the first things that comes to mind is how long to spend in a destination. While there are no set rules to how long one should be on a safari or in Africa as a whole for that matter, guidelines do help, as do considerations such as prior commitments or a preference for how long you want to be away. If visiting just one game park or reserve, a shorter safari will suffice, with longer stays better if combining multiple lodges or destinations.

Discover more of what the continent has to offer by adding a beach or city stay before or after your safari to create the trip of a lifetime. If taking it really slow is what you desire, travel by luxury rail, taking your time to discover unique and fulfilling treasures along the way. Perhaps specific events may dictate how long you spend in Africa, so creating your itinerary around these dates may influence the time spent in a destination.

2. Determine whether to travel privately or in a group

Male and female lion lying near safari jeep in Maasai Mara, Kenya

Maasia Mara, Kenya

A safari is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with the choice of going with a group of like-minded and enthusiastic safari-goers or taking the time to step away from it all with an intimate guest list on a private safari. The former offers the opportunity for longer journeys, mostly overland and with the same group of travelers. On a private safari, you will have the option of embarking on an intimate adventure in the bush, with lodges and luxury tented camps with either a handful of rooms or inventory to cater to guests’ individual needs.

Safari vehicles in east Africa seat six guests only, with your driver as your guide, setting the scene for a great, private overland safari experience. In southern Africa the open vehicles used for game drives also only seat half a dozen travelers, ensuring unbroken views of landscape and wildlife. Custom-designed itineraries cater to the clients’ wishes, each day carefully crafted with the desired pace in mind.

3. Learn more about different ways to experience your safari

Woman rests after safari in luxury tent during sunset in African savannah of Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Serengeti, Tanzania

The word safari conjures thoughts of wide-open spaces, animals roaming freely or crouched beside a thriving waterhole, but consider the various types of safari adventures out there. Thought is given to not only the number of people you decide to safari with, but what type of accommodation you choose to stay in. From overland experiences that stretch over a few days, or combine lodge styles within one game reserve or country, to mixing and matching water and land camps divided between two countries, they all deliver a quality safari experience.

A group safari will most likely have you staying in larger lodges ideally located in a national park or a private game reserve, while a private safari experience gives you the chance to spend a few nights in a luxury tented camp and move on to a boutique lodge set deep in a remote safari landscape. Part of a larger itinerary or custom-designed to offer you a unique perspective, it is totally up to you. Some game drives are just a day’s excursion, captivating your soul briefly, while there are options for longer stays to truly embrace the African safari experience.

4. Pick the best destination

Beautiful white sand beach by the blue waters of the Indian Ocean in Zanzibar

Zanzibar, Tanzania

There are many factors to consider when deciding where to safari and looking at the big picture you have created for your African adventure certainly helps. Stand-alone safaris in one game reserve or park, for example, may steer you towards a South African safari, while an experience that encompasses water and land lodges or camps would bring Botswana’s Okavango Delta to mind. If traveling in an enclosed 4x4 vehicle with a pop-up roof is more your style in a variety of parks, then an east African safari is definitely for you.

Extensions such as visiting Victoria Falls or adding a beach getaway to your trip could dictate where you safari. The Indian Ocean is home to a plethora of island paradises, so connecting Zanzibar with Kenya or Tanzania makes sense, while a Seychelles escape ties in well with a southern African safari itinerary. City breaks, desert discoveries or perhaps one more great adventure, such as gorilla trekking, will also determine whether you safari in southern or east Africa.

5. Pack wisely

Early morning mokoro boat safari in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta, Botswana

A standard rule regarding what to wear on a safari or game drive is to avoid bright and bold colours, forget any camouflage and focus on khakis, browns, and beiges to blend in with the natural surroundings. Layering is a great idea to stay comfortable as the temperatures shift from cool early mornings to a warmer start to the day as the sun comes up. Long pants that comfortably convert to shorts and light long-sleeve shirts work perfectly. Consider taking along a scarf and gloves for chilly starts and ends to your day.

It is important to be comfortable and as a safari experience is a low-key adventure, good walking shoes, comfortable clothing and a good sun hat is really all that is required. Forget the hiking boots and large jackets to safari with ease, knowing that what you have is more than enough. Blankets and ponchos are provided on your game drives and other than a good sunscreen and stylish sunglasses, you are set to go out into the bush and explore. When you are in the vehicle, the animals see you as one unit, so blend in with muted tones.

6. Explore your options for how to get to Africa

Lion walking beside the runway with airplane arriving

Botswana

An African safari can seem like a faraway dream, an experience that seems too far out of reach to obtain, both in your mind and in reality, so knowing how to get there and what is involved once on the ground really is important. Africa is far away, but with wonderful airlines and airport connections, the journey there can be seamless and most certainly part of the adventure. Consider spending time in Dubai or Europe, for example, breaking up the trip to your safari destination.

Getting around a destination is simple and operates in a variety of ways. A luxury car, comfortable overland vehicle or a light aircraft to get you from a city to a game reserve airstrip makes connecting Africa’s highlights easy. It will all be pre-arranged and from the moment you arrive, with your name on a signboard, you will feel special and at ease knowing you are in great hands from beginning to end. Depending on where your journey takes you, you could be connecting via luxury rail or tender boat, all part of your great adventure.

7. Consider your travel logistics

Jeep driving on dirt road through nature of Africa with zebras against mountains and clouds, on safari in Ngorongoro Crater national Park, Tanzania

Ngorongoro Crater National Park, Tanzania.

Your journey starts from the moment you board your flight to Africa and the key to handling the long journey ahead is to make sure you are as comfortable as you can be, keeping your eye on the prize, an unforgettable safari. Breaking up your trip with a stop en route, either for a couple of hours or days, will help to make the journey to Africa less exhausting. Once on the ground, spend a night or two unwinding and acclimatizing to your new and exciting reality. Relaxing at the end of your adventure is a great idea too.

Safari circuits span great distances throughout Africa and in some, the only or best means of transport is by road. These roads can be bumpy, dusty, and long, however qualified drivers and high-end 4x4 vehicles ensure comfort and safety for guests. Traveling through Africa is an eye-opener, and the journey can seem to go by quickly as you take it all in. In East Africa, the driving times can be long, but your guide will share stories and ensure frequent stops along the way. There is the option of a light aircraft flight right into your game reserve, as well.

8. Consider medical and travel insurance

Rhino and flamingos at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

When it comes to taking medication or adhering to doctor’s orders on a daily basis, this should not have to change because you are enjoying a safari, and ensuring you have comprehensive travel insurance is key. Some countries require specific medical precautions before allowing entry, such as the yellow fever vaccination required for east African countries and a malaria prophylactic recommended to travelers where malaria may be a concern, especially during the hotter summer months. The information on where and how can be provided by your safari specialist at the time of booking your trip and, one last, gentle reminder - bringing your medication in its original packaging is recommended.

Taking out comprehensive travel insurance is highly recommended and any medical assistance you may require on the ground will be swiftly and carefully provided. Letting lodge personnel, transport teams and guides know of any health concerns allows them to ensure all is in place to accommodate necessary requirements and storage of medications during your safari experience. CPAP machines and other equipment can be arranged beforehand with your total comfort and peace of mind a top priority. Experiencing this once-in-a-lifetime adventure should be fun and health concerns should not be a highlight. Knowing that support is available throughout your stay allows for a huge sigh of relief.

9. Set expectations for comfort and schedule

Leopard stalking prey from a tree in Botwsana

Selinda Reserve in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

From the moment you step foot on or into your safari vehicle, your game-viewing experience begins. Most game drives take place before sunrise and just before sunset, with breaks in the drive at prime or remote spots, usually with captivating views, for coffee in the mornings and a sundowner as the day comes to a close. Savor the opportunity to stand on a hill with a beverage of choice in hand and thank Mother Nature for this incredible opportunity. At each animal sighting, you will have your guide’s full attention and can ask questions and take in his explanations and stories, whilst keeping an eye on the magnificent creature in front of you.

Comfort is key and small touches like blankets and sometimes personal binoculars add to the intimate experience of being on safari. Anticipation and excitement, with undertones of pure relaxation, set the mood. Which magnificent animal will be the first you encounter today, what miracles of nature will you witness, and how many memories will you get to capture with your camera, your memory maker? The pure joy of being out in the African savannah, the rocky outcrops inviting you in, the waterholes taking reservations for all who thirst, perhaps the elusive leopard covering its prey, barely visible under a tree, it is truly thrilling.

10. Learn about safety on safari

Ranger guiding a walking safari, sighting cape buffalo herd

Arusha National Park, Tanzania

From personal safety en route, as well as in destination, to the safety of your belongings, support from your safari designer in the planning process to guidance from the team on the ground, experiencing an African safari is a safe adventure. Keep your luggage securely stowed on airplanes and your qualified drivers and guides will take care of you as you make your way through the safari circuit, adhering to guests’ requirements at all times. Listen to their instructions and feedback, as they will always have your back, at your lodge and out in the bush.

Moving around day to day is effortless, with walkways and lodges, luxury tents, and common areas all well-marked and open, ensuring your safety is a top priority. Assistance is nearby to help get you into and out of your safari vehicle, and guides, both private and local, will be with you on each excursion. They know the landscape and animal behaviors well, ensuring your personal safety on a game drive at all times. It can be easy to forget all the do’s and don'ts when traveling anywhere. However, on your safari, there will always be someone to double-check you when you leave a room or lodge so nothing is lost or left behind.

Plan your Senior African Safari Trip with Experts

Sundowners in South Luanga National Park, Zambia

Sundowners in South Luanga National Park, Zambia

An African safari is an experience of a lifetime. The right safari is all about your preferences and needs, from relaxation to luxury, activity to excitement. As a senior, you have plenty of unique travel possibilities and can find inspiration for other customizable trip options. You can also find tips on the best safari destinations with Zicasso’s Top 6 Destinations for an African Safari. If you are planning an African safari, you can speak with a senior travel specialist free by filling out a Trip Request or by calling 1-888-265-9707.

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