There is so much of Africa! Africa is huge, and offers a bewildering variety of options. There are so many ways of doing safari.
Here are ten simple questions to ask yourself in order to narrow it down:
1. What are you hoping to experience? (particular animals, Big Five, dunes and deserts, white sharks, mountains, oceans, whales, special birds, family time, romantic break., gorillas, walking, boating, hot air balloon etc) Check out Bucket List safaris add link for ideas.
2. What special event or place do you want to see? (Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti, Okavango Delta, great deserts, Cape Town, migrations, whales, wild dogs at the den, relaxed leopards etc) link to Bucket List safaris
3. What are your particular interests? (birding, photography, walking, family safari, chilling, general)
4. When can you travel?
5. How much time do you have?
6. How many people are traveling? (couple, family, small group, friends etc)
7. What level/type of accommodation do you prefer?
8. How physically active do you want your experience to be?
9. Would you like a private or a local guide? Add link to The Distinction
10. What type of trip do you want? Flying, driving, boating, walking, fishing, photographic, camping, a mixture?
Great! Now contact me add link to Contact and I will piece a trip together that fulfils all the parameters.
Think about the following:
1. Timing it right
The success of your safari may depend on getting the timing just right, so give yourself the best chance. When you go on safari also depends on what you really want to see, and what your interests are. Most places in Africa are great at any time of the year, but there are a few natural occurrences that take place in specific windows that you should be aware of.
African hunting dogs (Wild dogs)
Any time, but they den in southern Africa in July/August, and are much more easily found at that time.
The renowned wildebeest migration is a year-round trek but is most commonly watched in the Serengeti (Tanzania) in June and the Mara (Kenya) in July. Birthing takes place about January/February. Predicting the migration is not an exact science!
Typically, December to January. Coastal.
Out of Africa in about May, returning in about September. But local migrations take place too, so it depends on what you are hoping to find.
It depends on the area, but the rainy season is generally from November to February in central and southern Africa. Don’t be put off by the rains though: it usually comes in the form of showers, and passes quickly. Bear in mind that if you are visiting Cape Town, it may rain over June and July.
The spectacle of small nursery herds of Africa’s most populous antelope is endearing and delightful. Most lambs are born with the coming of the rains, in about November.
Southern Right Whales gather off the South African coast to give birth and to display in about September. It is an awe-inspiring spectacle to see these massive creatures literally brushing against the shore, and to witness their breaching displays as they rise from the water, and crash back into the ocean in a welter of foam and spray.
Flower Festival (South Africa)
Spring in the West Coast area is a spectacle of colour as carpets of wild flowers cover the arid land. It is so magnificent that eventually you just stop taking pictures, and gape at it. The best time is September and October, and the local folk are only too willing to tell you exactly where the best flowers are to be found.
2. Where’s the big stuff?
It is perfectly natural, especially on your first safari, to want to see the big animals, the ones you saw as a kid at the zoo, and now want to see in their natural environment. Later in the trip you may prefer to spend time on smaller animals, birds, even reptiles and insects, and your guide will be delighted to show them to you. But for now, where can you find the cool stuff?
It is pretty much everywhere in Africa but in some areas it is much easier to find, either because there are more of them and /or because they have been habituated by years of happy tourist watching, and are not inclined to run away. Remember that every animal on this list is an endangered species (usually because of loss of habitat) , a fact easy to forget when you are seeing them at close quarters and possibly every day of your safari.
So here are a few iconic places and areas that will keep you (and your guide!) smiling.
Lions: every wildlife area, and quite common is some, especially Botswana (Mombo, Dumatau, Chitabe) and the private reserves (Mala Mala and other Sabi Sands lodges) of South Africa. The desert-adapted lions of Namibia are elusive but worth the search (Rhino Tented Camp, Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp). Etosha in Namibia is a sure bet, as is the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania and Hwange in Zimbabwe
Elephants: Botswana has the highest concentrations , especially along the Chobe River in winter (Chobe Chilwero) and the heart of the Okavango Delta (Chiefs Camp, Vumbura). In South Africa, try Addo Elephant National Park, and Mala Mala. Namibia hosts the desert-adapted sub-species, easily found in the winter from Damaraland Camp and Etendeka Mountain Camp. In Zimbabwe, Hwange NP and Mana Pools NP are excellent, as is the Lower Zambezi Park in Zambia. The Ngorongoro Crater is the place to go for the big tuskers in Tanzania.
Cheetahs: most easily found in Botswana (Kalahari Plains Camp) and South Africa (Phinda), although the highest wild population is in Namibia, where sightings are ironically more hit and miss (Etosha National Park). In Kenya, you will probably have luck in the Masai Mara NP, and both Ruaha and Sabora in Tanzania are also good. The Sabi-Sand reserve in South Africa is also very good for these cats
Leopards: they are everywhere, but sometimes tough to find. Relaxed leopards are best seen in South Africa (Sabi Sands), Botswana (Tubu Tree Camp, Mombo, King’s Pool) and Zambia (South Luangwa). The Serengeti is a pretty sure bet too.
Hunting (Wild) Dogs: often the most sought after predator, these active hunters are most easily found when they are denning, and close to their pups in July and August. In Botswana, the best is Selinda, Dumatau, Savuti, Chitabe and Kwando. At other times of the year, dogs are encountered at random. In Tanzania, the Selous NP can be rewarding, and Zimbabawe (Mana Pools) is very good.
White Rhinos: the South African national parks are great for these huge animals (Umfolozi-Hluhluwe, Kruger), as are the private parks of Sabi Sands. They are very rare anywhere else, although in Namibia, Ongava Game Reserve virtually guarantees them.
Black Rhinos: by far the best chance for these highly threatened animals is Namibia. Desert Rhino Camp will get you very close to them on foot, and they are at the waterholes of Ongava and Okaukeujo (Etosha NP) at night. The Ngorongoro Crater NP in Tanzania is famous for open sightings.
Mountain Gorillas: almost guaranteed viewing, albeit after a sweaty walk, in Uganda (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park) and Rwanda (Volcanoes NP) Chimpanzees: easily found in Uganda (Kibale NP) and Mahale in Tanzania
Almost everywhere in southern and east Africa is fine at any time of the year, but there are clear windows that may suit you, depending on your interests. Since so many of LCCA travellers are from the colder, wetter parts of the northern hemisphere, I know that you are looking for not only great wildlife viewing but also warm and sunny weather on your holiday, with no rain. Africa is the place to find it!
Southern and south-central Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabawe, Zambia, Malawi).
Rainfall: usually December to March- scattered, short-lived, sometimes dramatic and sudden afternoon downpours
Humidity: usually dry, though it can be humid following rain for a day or two. Namibia is particularly dry. South African east coast can be very humid from December to March.
Temperatures: very cold mornings (close to 0 C) in June and July, warming to moderate (20- 25 C) through the day. It can be extremely hot (up onto 40 C) between October and March, cooling to comfortable temperatures (18 -22 C) in the evenings.
Visibility: clear and bright most of the year, but it can be dusty in the months before the rains come (August to November).
Best months: April/May and August/September are the moderate months, with no rains and comfortable temperatures and humidity. These are therefore popular times, but the weather can be equally beautiful at any other time of the year , depending on local conditions.
The Cape: note that the southern Cape has a Mediterranean style climate and differs markedly from the rest of southern Africa. In fact, it is neatly reversed! It can be rainy, windy and cold in June/July/August, but is warm and dry from November to March. However, the Cape weather is very fickle and unpredictable, changing from day to day. Warning!: The Cape Peninsular boasts magnificent beaches, but the Atlantic Ocean is very cold (about 12 – 14 C) there.
East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda).
Rainfall: in two seasons. The ‘Long Rains’ are from March to May, the ‘Short Rains’ are from October to November. This leaves long periods of dry weather which is perfect for safari, from June to September, and December to February. The rains can be heavy, but with dry days between rainy ones.
Humidity: generally there is a dry heat which makes safari comfortable provided one stays out of the midday sun. However, there can be high humidity during the rains
Temperatures: as for southern Africa, except for the mountain areas where higher altitude makes it considerably cooler and damper, temperatures dropping below 10 C during the day, and close to 0 C at night.
Visibility: as for southern Africa. Local winds during the dry season can affect visibility during the heat of the day
Best months: June to September, and December to February.
4. Privately-guided/escorted versus locally hosted
Check out The Distinction to find out which you prefer
5. Flying safaris
The most time-efficient way to get about Africa is by flying on light aircraft between lodges and areas. This also provides a fantastic aerial view of the terrain. This can be achieved by
• private charter and pilot (your pilot stays with you throughout your trip; marvellously flexible and extremely convenient, and you can often get into very remote destinations this way, landing on gravel strips.) Travelling privately means that you are not reliant on commercial flights so you save a lot of time.
• seat-rate transfers between lodges (cheaper but less flexible)
• commercial transfers between “gateway” towns
Some people prefer to be driven between destinations if possible (depends on distances) or a mixture of road and flying transfers.
6. Walking safaris
This is a niche market developed by LCCA over many years.
Lloyd has a great reputation for leading walking safaris across many parts of Africa. It is exhilarating to walk amongst the wildlife and landscape and adds a different perspective to the safari experience. Sometimes this is only a single day’s walk, sometimes it is as long as two weeks. Accommodation is a mixture of beautiful lodges and simple yet comfortable small mobile tents. Hot food and cold drinks are served, and hot bucket showers are the norm. Many people migrate to this option after a more conventional safari, others go straight in and get some dust on their boots. It is an exhilarating yet safe experience that really stirs the blood. Walks can be as short as a kilometre and as long as twenty-five in a day: it all depends on you. Walking safaris are often mixed with rides in a game-drive vehicle so that the client gets both types of experience.
7. Kids on safari
Africa is for families! Kids adore wild animals and being in the bush and Lloyd has led many families on safari. Many of the lodges are set up for families with family rooms (interleading rooms so the kids are close to their parents) and special kids menus, and staff members specially trained to entertain children. Lloyd has many wonderful games and activities for children that involve them in the safari: tracking lessons, game identification counts, story telling, picnics, even bush football!
The idea is to relieve the parents of responsibility for a while and allow the kids to express themselves safely in the bush environment. They love it!
Depending on where you choose to go, children as young as six can go on safari.
8. Malaria free safaris
Malaria is not the problem you might think it is.
Very often you are not even aware of mosquitoes on safari. But they do exist in some of the areas in which LCCA operates. If you are on a good malarial prophylactic (usually Malarone) , use bug spray and cover up at the right time, the chance of your getting malaria is extremely remote. Most guides do not take the drug at all but just take the sensible precautions listed above.
But some adults are concerned about their children in particular. That is why a malaria-free safari circuit has developed in the eastern Cape of South Africa, and it is a marvel: great game viewing, exceedingly child-friendly, easy to get to and perfectly free of malaria. It’s a great option for a safari experience coupled with the manifold attractions of the Cape.
9. Lodges and accommodation
It is the environment and how we experience it that will make your safari and provide your memories. But, of course, we all need a place to stay where we feel comfortable, safe and very well looked after.
LCCA only uses camps, lodges and hotels in the mid to upper range. They are all pristine, efficiently run, memorable, discreet, classic and elegantly Africa, and are all owned by people who understand their responsibility to the environment and your needs, especially if you are a first-timer to Africa. I have stayed in all of the lodges featured here: that’s why I chose them. Sometimes LCCA has actually conducted the training of the guides and service staff in these places.
Many lodges are community owned, some are privately owned, and all of them subscribe to the same environmental and social ethics that LCCA does. You will feel very welcome in all accommodations on the LCCA list, and will be amazed at the enthusiasm that the local people have in their quest to help you have the best time.
Most itineraries include a mix of lodges, hotels and resorts, depending on what you want to do. They are all memorable. Remember that whichever style, or mix of styles, of accommodation you choose, the wildlife viewing is generally the same. You can choose from
Traditional safari lodges : very comfortable permanent structures made of wood, thatch and canvas, with en-suite bathrooms, deck, and lounge facilities, serving wholesome food and good wines
Luxury safari lodges: highly designed, elegant permanent structures which typically incorporate brick and glass, air-conditioning, internet access, dual bathrooms, plunge pools and serving fancy foods and fine wines
Mobile camps/tented camps : temporary camps with small tents, yet offering hot showers, enterprising bush food and the sense that you are really part of Africa
Hotels: sometimes it is necessary to use hotels, particularly is transition between areas or countries. LCCA always chooses hotels close to the wilderness areas where wildlife remains a focus
10. What you’ll need
Still unsure? Contact me for more ideas and a free quote.