There are thousands of different safari options, and not all of them on dry land. Clients may wish to see the Big Five in Kenya (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo) or perhaps try a whale safari along the coast of Nova Scotia. There are plenty of choices when it comes to planning a safari. An active holiday or a passive one? Travel individually or by group? Or would it be best to tick off a list of animals before exploring the rest of the country?
Think about what’s wanted from a holiday. If it’s to see big game, consider the best time of year to go. For example, for the Great Migration, the best time to visit the Maasai Mara is between August and October. Alternatively, to see wildebeest cross the Savannah en masse, head to the Serengeti in January or February.
Tom Harari, product manager at Exodus Travel, says: “If you’d love to see chimps or gorillas on the same trip then head for Uganda where you can combine a more traditional safari with seeing these great apes. You may want to combine your safari with other sites, such as Victoria Falls, Cape Town, Zanzibar, or Sossusvlei.”
Many safaris simply involve sitting in a 4×4 and driving slowly through grasslands, but it’s also possible to take a walking safari or even cycle or canoe. The Exploration Company offers cycling safaris in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana where visitors can get up close and personal with elephants and giraffes.
Look past the big, well-known national parks too, and check out private conservancies that work hard to protect huge swathes of land. Katherine MacMahon, marketing manager at the Safari and Conservation Company, explains: “Most of the time, there are very few lodges that have access to that landscape and wildlife. Our favourite is the Borana Conservancy in Kenya — with only five lodges spread over 32,000 acres, you’ll rarely see other cars. The conservancy even has a rule that only two cars can approach wildlife at a time, making for a truly special and exclusive experience.”
Once the where and when is decided, packing is the next thing to consider. Packing for a safari is simple — avoid bright colours to ensure that animals won’t be frightened away.
Harari says, “Remember that you’ll probably be going for game drives very early in the morning. At this time of day it can be quite cold and it’s worth having warm clothes with you. At the same time, once the sun is up it can get hot rapidly so layers are always a good option.
Finally, long sleeves and trousers are good for areas that may have mosquitoes — especially if you’ll be going on a late afternoon/early evening safari.”
On the trip
A safari is just like any other holiday, which means you don’t have to do every single activity under the sun. Many game drives happen early in the morning and it’s fine to pass on the odd one or two if you’d prefer a lie in.
MacMahon cautions, “Breaking out of the ‘I must see the Big Five’ mindset will instantly free you from the mad rush, and will suddenly allow you to appreciate everything you see.”
Binoculars are a must, as the more discernible safari operators like to give animals space. Seeing a rhino through binoculars is hugely more satisfying than seeing a small black speck on the horizon. Most operators will bring some along on 4x4s or at the lodge, but remember to make good use of them.
MacMahon recommends doing a bit of research into your lodge’s activity offerings on arrival. “Activities can include walking safaris, scenic flights in a biplane, mountain biking, meeting rangers, lion tracking, fishing and standup paddleboarding — is there anything cooler than watching elephants drink from a water hole while you watch, metres away?”
Exodus Travels’ 12-day Chimps and Gorillas of Uganda trip, from £4,249, includes flights, accommodation, one chimp permit and one gorilla permit.
Imagine Africa’s 11-night Discover Namibia itinerary is a self-drive trip. Prices start at £3,350, including accommodation, flights and car hire.