Looking for the best African safari companies but don’t know where to start? Africa has so many sights, sounds, and experiences to offer, it’s a must-do trip. A safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To make sure you have a safe, enjoyable, and fun-filled experience, you must choose the right company for your safari.
The company you choose can make-or-break the experience, without a doubt. We’ve put together a helpful step-by-step guide to choosing the best African safari companies to help you out!
What Is a Safari Like?
You might have images of jumpy old jeeps and basic tents, from safaris in those old-fashioned films. These days, safaris can actually be pretty luxurious – and there are many more options to choose.
You can pick luxury safari lodges, walking safaris, self-drive, and everything in-between. Some safaris have you on horseback, in a canoe, or even in a hot air balloon!
A usual day on safari focuses on dawn and dusk, as these are the times when safari animals are most active. Between these times you’ll be eating or resting at the camp. We recommend you take a minimum of a 4 or 5-day trip to be able to settle into the groove and get the greatest chance of ticking all those animals off your list!
You can combine your trip with other local sites. It makes for a longer itinerary but means you’ll leave with no regrets.
Places to Consider for Your Safari
There are a few main safari destinations in Africa:
- South Africa, offering Sabi Sand Game Reserve and Kruger National Park
- Kenya, for the Masai Mara
- Botswana for the Okavango Delta
Tanzania, for Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park
When to Go
The best time to head out on safari in eastern and southern Africa is from June to October. At this time of year, there is less rainfall. That makes for easier time outdoors, easier driving, and has the animals focused around the remaining waterholes.
Another bonus of reduced rainfall is that with less vegetation you can spot the animals easier. Between June to October, the great migration also takes place. Over a million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras and a number of other grazing animals move from the Serengeti Plains to the Masai Mara in Kenya. And back.
The exact timing depends on the timeline of monsoon rains in a given year. Of course, this huge back of grazers is followed along by lions and other predators.
What to Take
You won’t want to forget your camera, obviously. We’d recommend you not go with the most expensive SLR out there, just in case it is stolen or damaged on the trip. The animals will be close enough to not need that sort of zoom anyway!
You might consider binoculars, though some companies will provide these. Try to wear neutral or khaki colors to blend into the environment so the wild animals don’t scare. It’s a good idea to cover up against sun and mosquitoes alike.
Choose light-weight fabrics for the heat, and make sure you have a wide-brimmed hat in. At night it can be cold, so you’ll need a slightly versatile wardrobe.
It’s wise to consult your government’s travel advisory in the planning and lead-up to your trip. There can be political flare-ups in Africa, though they are rare. South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, and Kenya are generally safe places for travelers.
Like anywhere else in the world, it’s wise to take precautions. Don’t go on holiday with irreplaceable family heirloom jewelry.
See your doctor for a health check and the right vaccinations well prior to the trip, and get travel insurance.
What Wild Animals Will I See?
There is no end to the wildlife and birdlife you will see on safari. Many of the animals you may never have even heard of before. The beauty of a great guide is that they will explain the habits of each of the animals to you.
The big game animals you’re likely to see include buffaloes, elephants, rhinos, lions, and leopards. The location of the safari you take will change the likelihood of what you’ll see.
Choosing an African Safari Company
Okay – you’re excited about safari now but need to know how to chose the company. There are a few things to consider. Let’s have a look at those before closing with our handy step-by-step for choosing a safari company.
Price is not the only consideration. The internet abounds with stories of people who thought they were winning with their bottom-dollar tour price. Then they arrived on tour and saw why it was so cheap – it was terrible and no one else wanted to take it.
You want to look at prices as well as reviews and find the compromise between them that works for your budget. If you really like the look of a tour but find it cheaper elsewhere, you can write to them directly and see if they’ll match the price. The worst they can say is no, right?
Check the prices of companies alongside each other to see if you are getting like-for-like. Keep in mind the local economy – what may appear cheap to you might still be outrageously expensive in that economy. That’s’ why it’s a good idea to compare global and local providers too.
You want to make sure you are giving your safari tour money to an ethical company. What do we mean by the ethical? Check reviews online to see what people say about how they treat their workers, and how they leave the campsite behind them.
Are they responsible operators, or do they go too close to protected animals? Thankfully the internet has made this research easier in many respects as you can check reviews.
Look for verified reviews or certificates. A Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence was awarded to Tanzania’s Earthlife Experiences in 2017 and 2018.
Step by Step to Choosing the Best African Safari Companies
Here it is. our step by step to help you choose the best of the best for your African safari tour.
1. Ask Around
As with any other product or service you buy, the opinions of people you know and trust are often the most helpful. If you have friends or family that have been on safari over the last couple of years, ask if they would recommend a particular area or company. Their advice on what not to do is just as helpful! Take advantage of their travel experience to make yours easier.
2. Check Online Reviews
Without getting too swamped – as there’s a lot of info out there, have a look at travel blogs, and travel guide websites with reviews. Check out some blogs and scan the comments section to see if people agree with their review or not. Don’t be afraid to post a question and have other travelers give you some advice
3. Research Their Reputation
After following step 1 and 2, you’ll likely now have a bit of a short list of safari tour operators. There are some area specific associations you can check them through. Ensure you’re choosing a quality, ethical and reputable company for your safari experience.
The area associations for Africa are as follows: African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA), Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa (APTA), Africa Travel Association (ATA), Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO), Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA), Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO), and the Tours and Safari Association of Namibia (TASA).
4. Speak to the Company
Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions – you should! Make a list, and then get in touch. We recommend you make a note of their answers.
Later, email them for confirmation so you have it in writing. You’ll want to ask them how many people will be in the tour, whether they allow children under 12 (some don’t). Ask if they can send you pictures or speak to the quality of the safari jeep.
Ask what happens to your deposit or tour payment if the trip doesn’t happen due to issues at their end. Ensure you have clear responses about their refund and cancellation policies, in writing.
Once you’ve researched the location, time of year and tour operator you want for your trip, there’re only a few things left to do. Schedule the doctor appointment mentioned above, book flights, buy travel insurance, and get planning!
We highly recommend Tanzania for your African safari, and that you let Earthlife Expeditions Limited show you around. We have 10 years of experience offering unique, unforgettable and customized safaris in Tanzania.
Our team is made up of local Tanzanians who know the land and the wildlife like nobody else. One of the great things separating us from other operators is we have no game drive mileage or hours limit. That can make a big difference to the bang you get for your buck on safari!
Time for Tanzania!
If you’re excited about an African safari, there’s no place like Tanzania to do it! Why not check out the excellent online reviews for Earthlife Expeditions, one of the best African safari companies.
Think about all the other things you could do while in stunning Tanzania! The adventurous might consider climbing Kilimanjaro. For the more low-key traveler – or a rest post-climb, there are the beaches in Zanzibar.
What are you waiting for? Time to book a trip to Tanzania!