Bucket List #1 African Safari
If you ask anyone what’s on their bucket list of things to do before they die, an African safari is almost always on the list. In fact, 30 million tourists visit Africa each year, many fulfilling this dream of an African safari.
And we can see why! A classic African safari conjures up the image of intrepid explorers, guidebook, and binoculars in hand, traversing the bumpy terrain in search of exciting wildlife.
If you’re ready to check “African Safari” off your bucket list, a great place to start is in East Africa. But how long should you plan to spend on a safari in East Africa?
Read on to find out all you need to know and more.
The Planning Stages
An African safari isn’t as simple as booking a last-minute vacay. Before you decide on the length of your African safari tour, you need to consider these next few points.
When choosing the length of your African safari, you need to plan a budget. Do your research and try and find the best possible value.
If you have a small budget, visiting one country will be more than enough. But if you have a bigger budget and want to splash out, why not opt for safaris in several countries around Africa? After all, this might be your only opportunity to visit.
Don’t Forget the Jet Lag
During your planning stages, as you’re choosing the length of stay, you need to take the time and distance into consideration. If you’re flying from a far-off country, you need to add in the travel time and extra time for getting over jet lag.
After a long tiresome flight, take a day or two of rest to relax and recuperate. This balanced approach will help you to make the most of your vacation.
Honest Self Evaluation
When planning an African safari, it’s easy to get carried away. But when choosing the time frame, you also need to consider your age and health limitations. The goal of this “once in a lifetime” experience is to enjoy it, not for you to go through some kind of endurance test in the wilderness.
The safari will take several hours. It may be scorching. And due to bumpy roads, it won’t be particularly comfortable.
As exciting as a safari is, you need to think realistically about how your body will cope during the tour.
Get the Right Help
When you’re planning your safari tour, the best option is to have a reputable company do most of the planning for you.
With the internet and Google maps, you might think that you are qualified to create a successful itinerary. But it can be easy to overkill your schedule and make wrong estimations when it comes to traveling around.
Choose a well-experienced company who will plan your dream trip, with all the needed know how.
A Typical Safari in East Africa
On a typical safari day, you’ll spend around 6-8 hours in the vehicle. Usually, the day starts with an early morning and a quick breakfast.
Most animals are active during the morning, and in the evening when the day is cooler. Leaving too late in the day will give you less chance of seeing the wildlife.
Early morning is a good time to see nocturnal animals returning from their night’s work. For instance, lions after their night hunting sessions.
After a few hours driving around on bumpy, dusty roads and animal spotting, it will be time for lunch. After, there will be a few more hours of driving around spotting animals. Most vehicles are open at the sides or have an open roof hatch, which means you may be exposed to the sun during the drive around.
Remember that a safari is not a zoo. You’re not guaranteed to see all the animals you want in one day. Especially when it comes to shy creatures, such as the elusive leopard.
National Parks Worth Visiting
With so many national parks throughout the plains of East Africa, where are the best parks to go to? Here are a few of our favorites.
Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
Tarangire National Park has the largest concentrations of elephants in the world. It also boasts the highest number of breeding bird species. Other magnificent creatures can be seen such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, oryx, kudu, gerenuk, wildebeest, zebras, gazelles and more.
Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda
Murchison Falls National Park is full of majestic waterfalls surrounded by lush rainforests. This stunning location attracts many creatures, with chances of seeing lions, elephants, leopards, giraffes, chimpanzees and an abundance of bird life.
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
One of the most famous parks in Africa, Maasai Mara is home to a huge population of lions, leopards and, cheetahs. You can also spot hippos, crocodiles, gazelles, elephants and many more amazing animals.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Serengeti National Park is a huge park famous for spotting the top 5 must-see animals: lions, elephants, leopards, rhino, and buffalo. Chances are you’ll also see cheetahs, giraffes, ostrich, and many more creatures great and small.
Here crossing the Grumeti River, you may be able to see the great migration of wildebeest during May and July. The herds must quickly wade through the fast flowing water to avoid crocodiles and other predators. It’s indeed a spectacle.
Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania
Lake Manyara is known for its huge flamingo-filled lake which is surrounded by an abundance of baboons, incredible birdlife and breathtaking views from all angles. You can also spot giraffes, elephants, hippos, buffalos, zebras, and lions.
Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia
The Simien Mountains have some of the highest peaks in East Africa. They also boast huge populations of Gelada Baboon. You may also spot the Ethipioan wolf, leopards, spotted hyena and other rare creatures.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania
One of Africa’s natural wonders is the Ngorongoro Crater. This volcanic area attracts close to 30,000 animals. The crater teems with buffalos, zebras, lions, wildebeest, flamingos, elephants, hippos, ostriches, cheetahs, hippos and even the rare black rhino.
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Another volcanic area that is full of life is the National Park in Rwanda. Thick rainforests and tall mountain peaks surround five active volcanoes. The park is home to the majestic mountain gorilla, golden monkies, spotted hyena, elephants, buffalos and 178 kinds of bird species.
Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda
Nyungwe forest is a must visit if you want to see all manner of primates. Golden monkies, chimpanzees, colobus monkies and others can all be spotted swinging through the forest.
Is Camp Hopping a Good Idea?
Staying at a variety of locations and heading to different camps definitely increases your chance of seeing all the animals you desire to see.
However, as much as distances between national parks look small on a map, it may take a full day to travel, or even a flight to get to the next destination. Always remember the quality of the roads is not the best, which makes for slow traveling.
Adding Extras to Your Trip
To break up an intensive safari trip, you may want to include some of these other amazing activities.
Enjoy tours around local towns and markets to see how the local villagers live. Visit different tribes and learn about their language and colorful customs. You could even visit the Bushmen tribes to see their way of life first hand.
Visiting the locals can give you amazing perspective-altering experiences. For instance, they can show you how they hunt with bow and arrows or how to carry water buckets on their heads.
Explore the landscape by heading on a walking tour to see rice and banana plantations. Or if you’re adventurous and are staying for a longer period, why not try hiking Mount Kilimanjaro?
Visit Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria. The shoreline of this huge lake is the home to millions. Enjoy the relaxing, pristine environment of the lake by exploring untouched islands by canoe.
Another dreamy place to head is to the beaches of Zanzibar. Enjoy a laid-back life on this tropical island while feeding and swimming with turtles. You can also enjoy other water activities such as jet skiing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing.
How Many Days Should Your Safari Be?
So you’ve planned a budget, have made an honest self-evaluation about your limitations, and know exactly what’s involved in an African safari. What’s the verdict? How many days should the safari be?
For a well-rounded experience, 8-15 days is more than enough to have the safari of your dreams. This time frame includes rest time and taking part in other activities, but does not include flight travel time. For actual safari time in the vehicle bumping around, five days is the perfect amount.
Of course, if you’re a nature enthusiast or a wildlife photographer, you may want to extend your trip so that you have more chance of seeing the rarer creatures.
Don’t Give Up on Your Dream!
It’s true; there are so many things to think about when planning a Safari in East Africa. If it’s all coming across as a bit too much, don’t give up! If you’re planning to visit East Africa, Tanzania is one of the best destinations to consider.
We can help you to plan your dream vacation, covering everything you want to see at the perfect pace for you. Check out our Safari itineraries in Tanzania today!