The word Safari comes from the Swahili word for journey. When most of us think of a safari it involves viewing wild animals and birds in the wilderness, usually in a remote national park or reserve. There is a huge choice of styles and destinations and this can make safari planning a mind boggling experience. To assist in narrowing down on the right experience for you the best thing to do is to chat to a safari expert. Hopefully, however, the below information will assist in jump starting the planning process for you. This blog will come in two parts with part two being on Thursday.
The best place to start is to ask yourself, “What do I want to see?”
For the vast majority of first time visitors to Africa the focus is on the Big 5 – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. Safari operators have borrowed the term that big game hunter’s used for their most desirable trophies. The Kruger National Park in South Africa for example is a great place to go in search of the Big 5 and for other mammals and birds.
The best sightings of white rhino are generally in South Africa and for the black rhino we recommend Namibia’s Etosha National Park and Damaraland or the Lewa Conservancy in Kenya. Elephants are hugely appealing, some of the largest herds in the world can be found in the Chobe National Park and Linyanti regions of Botswana. If it is primates are you are after, the likes of gorillas and chimpanzees then your best bet is to head for the pristine forests of Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Predator sightings, particularly the big cats, are always a magical experience and a highlight of any safari. During the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park expect superb predator action, in particular lions and cheetah. Leopards are best observed on night drives in the Kruger Park in South Africa, the South Luangwa in Zambia and the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
The next question to ask yourself is, “What time of year can I go on my safari?”
What month you can travel in often determines which country and which region within that country that you visit. For example if you wish to travel in January it may be suggested to you that you consider the Serengeti in Tanzania with the wildebeest herds present in the southern plains and the babies all being born. If you wish to travel in March / April you may be steered away from East Africa due to the long rains and towards countries within Southern Africa. If you want to see the Okavango in full flood, head to the country from May to July. If you want a green desert experience in the likes of Botswana’s Kalahari, February and March are best.
If you have flexibility on when you travel, generally if it is a first time safari and you are out to maximise your sightings it is best to travel during the ‘dry season’ months from June to October. This is because the grasses are lower and the animals tend to congregate around water sources making them easier to spot. Dry season is generally the ‘high season’ in Africa for this reason.
If you are a birder, it is a second time safari or indeed if price is an issue, the ‘green season’ months of Nov – May do have their own rewards. The bush is alive with babies having been born, the migrant birds have all arrived, the scenery is lush and green and the light is incredible for photos. Generally rains fall in sharp, short showers in the afternoon, being a welcome relief to the hot summer days.