Africa welcomes over 30 million tourists each and every year. While there are plenty of once-in-a-lifetime activities here, many make the journey for one main reason: to go on a safari.
But just like any other bucket list vacation, a trip to Africa takes a lot of careful planning. Booking your African safari won’t be as easy as simply clicking a button.
There are tons of different safaris and safari companies to choose from. While this helps ensure the perfect safari for every type of traveler is out there, it also makes booking your trip a bit more confusing.
Do you need help narrowing down your options?
Keep reading to discover 7 things you should consider when planning your safari to make sure you get the best experience possible.
1. Your Budget
There are plenty of budget vacations around the world, but an African safari isn’t one of them. Before you start planning your trip, make sure you have a nice budget in place.
If you want to have the best experience and some perfect views of the wildlife, know that you’ll likely have to splurge a bit to get the right company. However, the cost of the safari isn’t the only thing you have to worry about.
Don’t forget to budget for your flights, tipping, any hotels or other actives you plan to do outside of the safari, and how you’ll get to your safari location.
Be sure to plan your budget and decide exactly how much you can spend on the safari portion of your trip as soon as possible. This will help you narrow your search, and you’ll feel a lot less overwhelmed.
2. Your Level of Comfort
Think back to your last few vacations. Were you camping in the mountains or staying in a luxurious hotel in Paris?
Many of the popular safari locations in Africa have adapted to meet the needs of varying tourists. This means that you’ll be able to find anything from camping safaris to safaris with more luxury accommodation.
Make sure you talk to everyone you’re traveling with and get on the same page here. While nicer accommodations will cost more, you’ll likely be miserable if you decide to cut costs by camping when you’re not an outdoorsy person.
Also, know that many of the cheaper safaris really will be roughing it—some don’t have access to things like hot water. Don’t be afraid to contact a potential company and ask for more details to ensure you’ll be happy with your accommodations.
Another thing to keep in mind here is that there is no one “right” way to do a safari. There are many people who swear by luxury accommodations, and there are also many who believe the best way to fully experience a safari is by pitching a tent under the stars. Follow your gut here, and pick an accommodation style that you’re comfortable with.
3. How Long You Want Your Safari to Be
Did you imagine spending a full two-weeks roaming about the Serengeti on your safari? Or would you rather just spend a day and move on with your itinerary?
Africa is jam-packed with amazing things to do. If you’re staying in Tanzania, for example, you might want to spend some time climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or relaxing on the beaches of Zanzibar.
Before you get your heart set on a certain trip, make sure you do a bit of research to see what else there is to do in the area. Then, decided how much time you can reserve just for your safari.
Keep in mind, though, that longer safaris give you more chances to spot your favorite animals, get those unforgettable pictures, and even see these animals in action as they hunt for food. Since they are free to roam, you’re not guaranteed to see specific animals, but increasing the duration of your safari will increase your odds.
4. The Quality of the Company
The company you choose for your safari and the guide you end up with will make a huge impact on your overall experience. Ideally, you’d get a good guide who is able to tell you more about the area and the animals you’re witnessing.
They’ll also know the best spots to take you to get those stunning views and spot some wildlife.
But picking the wrong company could mean you end up with a subpar experience and go home feeling like you didn’t learn anything new. While these companies do exist, there is a way to avoid them.
When looking for a reputable safari company, start by scanning their website for some sort of license. For example, if you’re traveling to Tanzania, you want your chosen company to have a Tanzania Tourist Board license. You can usually find this on the bottom of their website or on the “About us” page.
Once you’ve checked that off, you’ll want to look at customer reviews. Ideally, they’d have this proudly displayed somewhere on their website. You can also check various tourism sites, like Tripadvisor.
While there will likely always be a handful of negative reviews, make sure the majority are positive. You want to aim for a company that has at least 4 stars and comments that make you confident they are a good choice.
5. The Size of Your Group
Smaller is always better when it comes to safaris.
Since there are so many tourists coming to Africa, many companies have invested in large vehicles so they can take more people in one safari group. However, this might mean that you don’t get a window seat and end up spending all that money just to be jammed in a middle seat with a poor view.
Before settling on a safari, make sure you ask how big their safari groups are and what the vehicle is like. You may want to invest a bit more if it means ending up on a private tour or in a smaller group.
6. When You’ll Travel
Just because Africa is warm all year long, doesn’t mean there are no high or low tourist seasons. Generally, high season in Tanzania is during the dry period, which is June through October.
When the rainy season hits, the number of tourists and the average prices of safaris drop. However, this is also when many of the animals disperse, making it harder to spot them.
Another thing to take into consideration is the Great Migration. In Tanzania, this happens December through July.
December through March is when the herds settle in northern Tanzania and give birth to their young. Although it’s during the rainy season, it could be worth it to travel during this period if you want to witness live births or predators on the hunt.
June and July are the months that the herds actually start migrating. Since this is a big event for many, tourist numbers and prices can often peak during this time. If you’re not interested in seeing the Great Migration, consider avoiding these months.
7. How You’ll Remember Your Trip Forever
If you’re like most, you probably use the camera on your smartphone to take pictures. While they’ve become more and more advanced over the years, you will want to invest in a higher-quality camera for your safari.
Remember, you won’t exactly be within touching distance of the wildlife, so you’ll need a camera with a powerful zoom. Your phone’s camera will likely leave you with a bunch of blurry and fuzzy images that you can’t quite make out.
Consider getting a digital SRL camera. These focus quickly and snap the image as soon as you press the shutter button. When animals can move or dart away at any given second, this is vital to getting those perfect images.
Of course, you’ll also want a nice telephoto zoom lens that has a reach of 300mm or more. For capturing those amazing landscape images, you’ll need something wider, such as a 24-70mm lens. Finish off your camera shopping spree by picking up extra batteries and memory cards, so you’re always prepared.
Now that you got all this equipment, its time to learn how to properly use it. Many companies offer special photography tours where they can help teach you how to take the best images.
However, it’s still a good idea to get some practice and research in at home so you’re not a total beginner on your trip.
Planning the Perfect African Safari
Don’t let your dream trip get spoiled because of poor planning!
Just follow the tips above to ensure your African safari is truly amazing. From picking the right company to choosing the best time of year to travel, there are many things to take into consideration before you book your trip.
Are you ready to take the next step? Contact us today to learn more about our African safaris.