The planning of a safari holiday can be a daunting process. It isnt your average beachside break and is likely to cost more. There is a huge choice of styles and destinations and this can make safari planning a mind boggling experience. For many people a safari is the holiday of a lifetime so it is very important that you speak to a safari expert to assist you in narrowing down on the right experience. Before you make that call, however, you may want to have a read of the below information which will hopefully assist in jump starting the planning process for you.
What do I want to see?
What animals you want to see often determines where you go
Most first time visitors to Africa want to see the Big 5 - lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. The term Big 5 is borrowed from the original big game hunters, these animals being their most desirable trophies. One of the best places to go in search of the Big 5 and plenty of other mammals and birds is South Africas Kruger National Park
and surrounding private reserves. Here the animals are accustomed to vehicles and this leads to very up close sightings – what you want for a first time experience.
If your interest is in the highly endangered rhino, the best sightings of white rhino are generally in South Africa
and for the black rhino we recommend Namibia's Etosha National Park
or the Lewa Conservancy in Kenya. Elephants are always hugely appealing and can be seen across Africa with some of the largest herds in the world found in the Chobe National Park
regions of Botswana. If you are looking for a different type of safari and it is primates are you are after, then your best bet is to head for the pristine forests of Uganda
, Rwanda and Tanzania
where you are likely to have incredible sightings of gorillas and chimpanzees.
When asked what people are most excited to see on safari often the answer is the predators, particularly the big cats. Expect to see superb predator action during the wildebeest migration
in the Masai Mara in Kenya and Tanzanias Serengeti National Park
, 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
If you do want to combine your safari holiday with a beach or city break, this may also determine where you take your safari. Most safari destinations can be combined relatively easily with Indian Ocean locations, however, please be aware that with some combinations a huge amount of travel is involved so choose combinations wisely.
When can I travel?
WHEN you go on safari often determines WHERE you go
The country you choose and indeed the region within that country that you visit is most often determined by the month of travel. For example if you are travelling during August, September or October to East Africa your safari consultant will likely suggest that you visit Kenyas Masai Mara because the wildebeest migration will be spread across the plains during this time. 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 are all being born. People travelling in March / April are often steered away from East Africa due to the long rains and towards countries within Southern Africa, perhaps to experience the Botswanas Kalahari in full bloom. If you want to see the Okavango in full flood, head to the country from May to July. It is absolutely essential that you question your safari consultant to ascertain their understanding of these essential animal migrations and weather patterns.
Arguably to maximise your sightings on a first safari 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. Unfortunately this is also the most expensive time to travel to Africa.
Birders or those who have experienced safari before should definitely consider the ‘green season months of Nov – May which have their own rewards. As well as being a cheaper time to travel, the bush is alive with babies having been born, the migrant birds have all arrived, the scenery is lush 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.