Embarking on an African Safari is unlike any other trip you will ever take and knowing what is involved from the planning process to getting there to finally being out on safari, is helpful for knowing the experiences you want to have and the destinations you want to visit.
The word “safari” comes from the Swahili word meaning “journey” and it certainly is an adventure like no other from start to finish. No two safari experiences are the same, yet one common signature takeaway from any safari is that every adventure leaves you with a sense of awakening and the yearning to return and do it all again.
Whether looking for an adventure away from the famous national parks or interested in finding the right lodge for you, learn what to expect during your personalized safari.
A safari is a journey of exploration through Africa’s wild and wonderful contrasting landscapes in search of viewing wildlife, emphasized by the thrills of unpredictability through your interactions with the untamed environment. Expert guides provide a personal touch to every excursion by narrating your surroundings and suddenly the sounds of giraffes grazing on the acacia trees overtake the loud noises of rush hour traffic left behind at home. Instead of hordes of tourists rushing to see a dozen highlights in a single day, a safari offers old-world charm and luxurious ease, as you search for spotted hyenas or circling vultures.
A safari can come in a range of flexible activities, with some offering more structure than others such as a 4x4 open vehicle drive while other options are thrilling such as a hot air balloon ride over the scenic landscape, or captivating as with a river cruise. Each offer a distinct perspective of the African wilderness while a nighttime game drive will introduce you to the nocturnal wonders of the animal kingdom with many animals active in the cool temperatures between dusk and dawn.
Fully immerse yourself in the wild with a walking safari that urges you closer to the wildlife by finding the smaller, often-overlooked animals, including a view of the insects unnoticed on a drive such as the Little Five. This term refers to the less-noticed but pertinent antlion, elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, buffalo weaver, and rhino beetle.
The classic overland safari has the most flexibility by changing to accommodate the mood of the guests and those of the animals, and each moment exploring offers a new and exciting perspective of the terrain and the wildlife. The flexibility of a game drive works with the unpredictability of nature and captures the incredible wildlife habits or perhaps the mesmerizing sunset. Depending on the parks you visit during your time in Africa, you can expect to see the famous Big Five, a term referring to what hunters once considered the most dangerous animals in Africa. These are namely the lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, and rhinoceros.
The general mood of a safari is one of tranquility and thrills. The landscape and life in different safari destinations across Africa have a rhythm connected to the dry and wet seasons, in addition to a pattern aligned with the day’s weather. Most safaris begin in the fresh air of first light before the famous heat of the African sun beats down across the landscape. The Southern Hemisphere’s winter and therefore drier months create the best time to experience game drives, so June to early September is prime safari time. Summer has hot and wet conditions that last from November to March, with birdlife and birthing season starting the year with a show.
Most morning drives end before the intensity of the midday sun returns when guided safaris give way to relaxing afternoons at your accommodation. Safari excursions are designed for exploring the wildlife across the endless scenery, but the journey continues in the tranquility of your camp when nature reveals itself to you. Private verandas, communal campfires, an elevated swimming pool, or a boma meal under the glittering African sky often become remarkable vistas to view elephants stomping through the trees and crocodiles wading in the waters of the river winding below the grounds.
The simple ambiance of safari does not connote a less comfortable experience, it instead highlights a tradition of ecologically friendly concepts fundamental to communities across the African continent. Solar panels provide hot water and power to camps and lodges situated hundreds of miles from the nearest road or village. Materials are taken from the local environment and blended into the landscape. The rooms feature hand-carved wooden beds or thatched bomas, traditional enclosures, reflecting the superb quality and enchanting iridescent colors.
Lodges and permanent tented camps typically provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner with dishes ranging from Western to traditional regional African cuisine and lunch can whisk you away to a private paradise such as a designated picnic area or hidden hideaways. Sundowners have become a ritual for Africa safari-goers. The tradition consists of enjoying a beverage of choice while the sunset layers the horizon. The brilliant reds, pinks, and oranges paint the sky acting as a backdrop to bathing elephants, or zebras quietly snuggling. Plan on staying many days in two or more destinations to discover the fascinating ecosystems across a variety of countries.
Having a valid passport goes without saying and it is important to check with your Zicasso travel expert as to what visas and other vaccinations may be required to enter specific countries. Most safari destinations will recommend a malaria prophylactic and certainly taking heed as to doctor recommendations regarding other medications or vaccines is encouraged while not necessarily mandatory. For anyone requiring medical needs or services whilst in destination, simple communication goes a long way and your needs will certainly be taken care of during your once in a lifetime adventure.
Consider flight times and getting into and out of your safari destination. You may need to spend an extra night in a main city to facilitate connecting major gateways. Think about your travel path, you may want to think about spending a few nights en route in Europe, the Middle East or other parts of Africa. Think about culture and dos and don’ts in the country you will be visiting and if possible, read up about all to do with your adventure destination. If traveling with family, plan ahead with entertainment for the long flights and choose a safari location and property that is geared to family needs, multi-generational if need be.
The second-largest continent in the world, the African countries that offer classic safari experiences are located in East and Southern Africa. While countries like Kenya and Tanzania stand at the forefront of the safari experience with outstanding reserves like the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti respectively, the national park of the Kruger offers quality and outstanding safari experiences, too. Botswana’s Chobe National Park is home to vast elephant populations and Namibia’s Etosha National park hosts large prides of lions. Zambia also hosts more prominent and secluded game reserves around South Luangwa.
Zimbabwe is another excellent option for grand safari excursions away from the crowded parks. A strong push towards green tourism has brought new perspectives and insight into conservation practices around the country, allowing a resurgence of the elephant, leopard, and wild dog populations, as well as 400 different bird species in Hwange National Park, one of Africa’s most significant conservation areas. Never underestimate the inspiring beauty of private reserves, national parks, and protected landscapes of destinations underneath the radar of international fame.
Take a moment to think about the kind of experience you are looking for on your African safari. With a variety of accommodations and styles of game viewing, health requirements and exploration combinations to choose from, working with a Zicasso safari expert is your first step to ensuring an experience beyond memorable. Find more exciting experiences with Zicasso’s African safari itineraries or look for information with our African Safari Guide. Contact your Zicasso safari specialist to start planning your next adventure. Get started by filling out a Trip Request or by calling our team at 1-888-265-9707.