What to Expect on an African Safari: Part II

March 16th, 2018

Learn what to expect on an African Safari to make the most of your vacation.

Africa is one of the world’s most exciting continents. You can experience the majesty of the savanna, the thundering cascades of Victoria Falls, and the captivating grandeur of lions bathing in the golden sunlight. The previous post on What to Expect on an African Safari provided great detail on the different alluring elements of a safari you can look forward to when traveling by land, air, river, or lake in search of the vibrant wildlife. Africa maintains a marvelous mystique deriving from the mixture of exotic animals amongst the hills, mountains, and grasses fluctuating between jade and gold. Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy a safari at least once to embrace the natural wonders of Africa’s fascinating flora and fauna. The most common animals people hope to view on safari include:

  1. Elephants
  2. Lions
  3. Leopards
  4. Cape buffaloes
  5. Rhinoceroses
  6. Cheetahs
  7. Giraffes
  8. Hippos
  9. Crocodiles
  10. Zebras
Consider Before Going...

A group of zebras kick up dust in Tanzania.

You will need a passport to enter the different African countries offering safari excursions. Many countries including Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Rwanda, Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia require visas. Visas are stamped at the airport upon your arrival, but some countries, such as Kenya and Mozambique require visitors to obtain their visas in advance. You can secure a visa for Uganda at the airport upon arrival, but if traveling by land, you must receive the visa ahead of your arrival.

Common vaccinations you should receive before leaving for safari include hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, typhoid, and diphtheria. Yellow fever is also common around Western, Central, and parts of East Africa. While a yellow fever vaccination is not mandatory in places like Tanzania and Zambia, a certificate of vaccination is required when entering Kenya, Uganda, or upon returning home from destinations known for having a risk of yellow fever. Ebola scared much of the Western World between 2014 and 2015 after an outbreak in West Africa occurred in February of 2014. No Ebola outbreaks have happened in any of the East or Southern African countries known for their safari tourism. For instance, the capital of Liberia is more than 3,300 miles away from the capital of Kenya, which is farther than the distance between California and Maine. In fact, while the continent is often mentioned as one large entity, the countries affected by the Ebola outbreak were closer in distance to Europe than to East or Southern Africa.

Destination Makes a Difference

Due to Africa’s immense size, make sure to focus your trip to see your favorite safari animals, such as the lioness in Mozambique.

Maps and globes can be deceiving when considering the size of Africa as an entire continent. Africa is, in fact, the second-largest continent in the world, just behind Asia in its immense landmass. The countries that offer classic safari experiences are located in East, Central, 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, Botswana and Zambia also host more prominent and secluded game reserves around the Okavango Delta and South Luangwa, respectively.

Your safari experience can be catered to meet your expectations, as long as you take into consideration the differences between the parks and countries, the time of year you travel, and the type of animals you hope to come across during your safari excursion. Chobe National Park in Botswana retains a large elephant population; some herds in South Africa’s Kruger National Park have habituated enough to the presence of people, and they will graze within view of a safari lodge. Etosha National Park in Namibia hosts over 300 adult lions that can often be found at the numerous waterholes scattered around the park between June and October, while Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania has one of the world’s highest densities of lions due to the park’s relatively small estimated area of 100 square miles.

Mozambique is rehabilitating former national parks after ending a long-standing civil war. Safari destinations include one of the world’s most bio-diverse landscapes at Gorongosa National Park. Mozambique is a quieter and less-crowded destination any time of the year. Zimbabwe is another excellent option for grand safari excursions away from the crowded parks. A strong push towards green tourism has brought new perspective 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.

Time and Focus

Wildlife are attracted the large water sources prominent in Africa’s wet season from November to March.

Scouring the internet in search of the best deals has become easier with endless information accessible with the click of a button, but nothing compares to working with local guides and safari companies who understand the intricacies of specific safari destinations better suited to your desired experience. When considering the time of year to travel on a safari, you can forget the misconception that it’s better to visit in the dry season. The wildlife tends to congregate around water sources year-round, which swell in the wet season and shrink to smaller foundations in the dry season. Great safaris are available every month of the year no matter the season depending on where you want to visit and what you want to see. For instance, Lake Manyara in Tanzania is known for hosting colorful flocks of flamingos, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya is famous for its rhinoceros population, and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda boasts misty rainforest, undulating volcanoes, and a population of 100 golden monkeys no matter the season.

An excellent guide will maximize your time in any situation, whether you stay a suggested minimum of three nights in any location, or stretch out your vacation to include six nights spread across two different safari lodges. Understanding the type of experiences you want to have on safari requires focusing your time on one or two game reserves instead of spreading your vacation out across a variety of protected landscapes. Keep in mind that when you narrow down the parks you visit, much less time will be spent traveling and more time will be spent on safari.

Prioritize what you hope to see, whether you have your heart set on the Serengeti to witness the Great Wildebeest Migration in Tanzania, you wish to search for the elusive leopards of Linyanti Bush Camp in Botswana’s Chobe National Park, or you want to visit the dense jungles of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda to find mountain gorillas. A stay at a lodge or luxury campground inside the park provides you with more time to explore the marvels of the wildlife by participating in pre-dawn game drives or night drives for views of different animals active in the cooler temperatures of the day absent in the strong golden sunlight. To learn more about our travelers' favorite safari lodges and experiences, consider reading our travel reviews here.