Best advice for your first safari in Africa

One of the most exciting and memorable travel experiences you can have is an African safari! However, organising a memorable safari in Africa can be challenging – much more so if it’s something you’ve never done before.

On this magnificent continent, there are 54 countries. There are many wonderful safari destinations, but there are also some that should be avoided as a result of political unrest or poor infrastructure. 

We suggest visiting the following destinations: Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. These countries offer excellent tourist facilities. They have areas with a variety of fauna and a reasonable infrastructure, including safe roads, hospitals and airports.

Your interests play a role in deciding which African safari destination is best for you. The ‘Great Migration’ is one of the top highlights for animal lovers. Nearly two million animals migrate during this spectacular wildlife spectacle in the Serengeti (Tanzania).

The Okavango Delta in Botswana is the perfect destination for a canoe safari on the water.  In addition to being top safari destinations on a budget, Zimbabwe and Zambia are home to the Victoria Falls – one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Incredible countries for safe gorilla trekking include Uganda and Rwanda.

It’s important to choose a family-friendly destination if you intend to travel with children. For instance, gorilla trekking is not appropriate for children because it takes three to five hours to hike to the gorillas. When travelling with young children, it is essential to consider a destination that is malaria-free. There are places in each country where malaria risk is minimal or nonexistent, so be sure to speak to your travel agent in order to find out where these areas are.

Choosing the right safari accommodation

There is something for everyone on a safari, from luxurious lodge accommodations to very basic camping and overlanding. Decide whether you want to camp in the bush or if you want something more comfortable. You may wish to experience both, switching between luxurious and budget accommodation options.

Many first-time safari goers overlook lodge accommodation because they worry about breaking the bank. However, there are several budget safari options available that feature comfortable lodges. 

You can stay in a reasonably priced lodge in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve (in the Greater Kruger region of South Africa) and enjoy a luxurious African safari experience. Like many other lodges, Sabi Sands caters for children. Many safari lodges provide nanny services, child-friendly activities and play areas.

How to keep costs down when on safari in Africa 

One of the best options for a first safari that is remarkably affordable is an overlanding tour. These are adventure tours with experienced guides that take you into the heart of Africa. A thrilling and adventurous way to experience the African bush up close is by overlanding. There are many different overland tours available in Africa, including family, camping, and lodge tours. 

You can choose from the most affordable large group overland tours or the more exclusive small group overland tours. While some overland tours are ideal for younger travellers, others are tailored for older tourists (over 40). You’ll spend your nights in a tent on the less expensive overland camping tours. This means you get to fall asleep to the sound of wildlife and wake up to birdsong. Budget safaris with “no frills” cost between $150 and $180 per day. You can expect to pay between $280 and $750 for midrange or luxury accommodation.

How to stay safe

Knowing how to be safe is essential while going on your first safari in Africa. Start making plans for your safari a few months in advance to give yourself enough time to organise all of your paperwork. You don’t want to travel without the necessary visas or travel permits!

Make certain you have adequate health insurance for the locations you travel to. For instance, you may require insurance for air evacuation services or air ambulances if you are travelling to very remote areas, such as on a gorilla trekking tour.

Before embarking on your first safari, check which vaccinations you require. A yellow fever vaccination is required in many countries. You might also need to take anti-malaria medication, depending on where you’re travelling to.

How to get the most out of a game drive

On your first African safari, you might be quite eager to see specific animals, but be sure to keep your expectations in check. While it is undoubtedly special to see the Big Five, the African bush is home to a wide variety of amazing creatures.

We advise guided tours for your first safari because they will provide you with a much richer experience. These tours are accompanied by expert trackers and, although there is no guarantee, travelling with a guide increases your chances of seeing a specific animal.

Less is more when it comes to packing for an African safari 

Essential packing items include neutral colour clothes, sun protection, insect repellant, a head torch and binoculars. Make sure you know how to use your camera if you intend to bring one with you. Know your close-up and long-range settings. 

Ensure that you know how to snap photos in bright sunlight, cloudy conditions, at dawn or at dusk. Many safari lodges offer great cameras for hire to visitors. It is best to confirm in advance. Rent a camera instead of carrying around expensive equipment if possible.

How long should a first-time African safari last

We advise a first-time safari in Africa to last between 10 and 12 nights. A four-day tour is the best option if you’re seeking an introductory safari experience because a longer safari obviously requires a larger budget. 

In this way, you can experience a small taste of what an African safari is like without committing to a lengthy journey. When organising your safari, think about the additional places and experiences you’d like to include.


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Written by Taryn Hill

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