The word safari is a Swahili word meaning ‘journey’ and for us safari is much more than just a holiday; it’s often a life changing experience. Mahlatini’s Travel Experts have put together some of the key things they consider when planning the optimum safari experiences for clients.

Seasonality: When is dry season and why is it considered best for game viewing?

Southern and Eastern Africa generally has two seasons, “dry” and “wet”. The dry season usually falls between June to October and is usually considered the best time for game viewing. The land during these months is characterised by droughts, very little vegetation and large numbers of animals concentrated around any remaining water, making it easier to find and see the wildlife.

The ‘wet’ season, commonly called the ‘green season’, usually falls between November and May. This is when life in Africa blooms. The grass grows, the rivers fill, and the animals bear their young. This season is extremely beautiful, but the drawback of a lush landscape is that it makes game viewing more difficult as the animals disperse into the foliage. You may also get the occasional afternoon rain shower, though this rarely affects your safari experience. The ‘Green Season’ is also a photographer’s dream, with the lush landscape and versatile plant life presenting the perfect backdrop to capture stunning shots.

Price: Does the cost of safari fluctuate?

Yes, the price of safari certainly varies between seasons and countries. The ‘dry’ season is commonly referred to as the high season and it can be up to twice as expensive as the ‘green season’. However, this doesn’t affect the amount of people wanting to travel during these peak months and we always encourage clients to plan ahead to ensure their preferred lodges are not fully booked.

Botswana Tourism operate a “low volume high yield policy” making this country one of the more expensive to visit, the crème de la crème of safari destinations. For this reason, Botswana appeals to those who prefer more exclusive and unique safari experiences. However, the ‘green season’ in Botswana can offer amazing value for money, especially in Okavango Delta  which boasts amazing water-based safaris and bird life.

The best value for money in the current economic climate is the Kruger Park in South Africa, which always offers an outstanding diversity of wildlife, including the legendary Big 5.

Style: Do you prefer an iconic national park, a private concession or even a water-based safari?

Everyone’s vision of a safari is different. Our Travel Experts work to make your experience unique and authentic. Some imagine the vast plains and large herds of animals in the Serengeti or the Masaai Mara, whilst others aspire to stay in the ultra-luxury lodges in the Kruger Park. East African Safaris, in the likes of Kenya and Tanzania, are generally more populated with a significant number vehicles in the National Parks. More private, exclusive safaris can be found in Botswana and within protected areas of the Kruger Park.

Water-based safaris are a less travelled option but a mesmerising experience as you view wildlife on the banks of the river from the comfort of a motorboat or ‘mekoro’ (a traditional dug-out canoe).

Accommodation: Camp or lodge?

The three main styles of safari accommodation are mobile camps, tented camps and lodges. Mobile camping, sometimes referred to as “classic camping”, shares similarities with the early African explorer style. Although mobile camping would be the most basic in terms of amenities, it often provides the best game viewing as you’re able to move around and literally follow the footsteps of the wildlife. Tented camps, mostly found in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and Zambia, tend to be the most luxurious accommodation choice and have a hotel suite feel, like the rooms at the amazing Mombo Camp. Lodges can vary in size and quality, with the most luxurious generally found in South Africa, like Thornybush River Lodge, which is set on a private game reserve.

Families: Little people, big experiences

Some safari lodges have age restrictions in place, often not permitting children under eight years of age on game drives. However, most safari lodges cater well for families with young children, some even offer tailored experiences specially for the young family members. These lodges provide unique, educational activities for children such as learning African bush skills. Some lodges offer on-site babysitting services, giving parents a chance to enjoy a dinner for two or even an evening game drive. Another option for families to consider is a South African safari in one of the malaria-free national parks, which gives many families peace of mind.

Relaxation: Remember to return rejuvenated

We recommend visiting two distinct areas during a Safari experience, one for the adventure and wonder of a safari, the other for relaxing or visiting an area of interest such as Victoria Falls or Cape Town. When choosing somewhere to relax, we usually suggest a sun lounger, white sand and on-site facilities such as a spa.

Choosing an idyllic Indian Ocean beach destination will often depend on where is the easiest to travel to, minimising your travel time and making the most of your time in the destination. The choice of idyllic Indian Ocean beach destination will often depend on the easiest logistics but will usually take you to MauritiusSeychellesZanzibar, Kenya, Mozambique or South Africa.

Speak to a specialist: Trust us, we’ve been there

It is extremely important to speak with an expert safari consultant to get the best experience at the correct time of year within your budget. All the travel experts at Mahlatini Luxury Travel have either lived or travelled extensively throughout Africa and have first-hand experience of the camps and lodges within their portfolio. Get in touch today to start planning your ideal safari experience.