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The Guide's Guide to Mobile Safaris

Deciding to take a trip to Africa for a safari adventure is an enormous proposition, involving considerable research into which country you would like to visit, where you want go, which season to visit, and what exactly you want to gain from the experience. And that is before you have looked into booking flight tickets! With such a welter of options as to where, what and how, booking a safari can be rather overwhelming: even if you have decided on a particular country, you can choose between the cosseted pampering and luxury of a top-end lodge, with magnificent accomodation and an accompanying pricetag, all the way down to an overland adventure tour where you are required to participate.

Somewhere in between, you will find "mobile safaris". Wilderness Safaris offer these adventures under the ‘Explorations’ banner, and &Beyond call them ‘Expeditions’. 

A Guide's Guide to Mobile Safaris - camping in the wilderness
A classic 'mobile camping' scene: you're right in the heart of the bush with elephants as your neighbours.

These are affordable, adventurous, and a huge amount of fun, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, put the idea of ‘participation’ out of your mind- this is a ‘glamping’ experience! Depending on the locations you will be visiting, you will either be staying at a permanent classic camp at one end of the scale, or in a mobile camp that has been set up before your arrival at the other. Both will have fantastic meals simmering in the kitchen as you arrive, and both will have a chilled, icy drink waiting for you. The major difference is in size and structure.

A permanent classic camp will have a larger room with a large bathroom, and a main building housing a lounge, bar and dining room, and sometimes a swimming pool. A mobile camp will have the same, minus the pool, albeit on a smaller scale, and will be almost exclusively canvas. You can still expect a comfortable bed to sleep in, a hot shower, delicious hot meals and ice cold drinks regardless. Often an Explorations or Expeditions trip will utilise both kinds of camp to mix things up.

If you are considering a mobile safari, let me list the benefits and advantages of such a trip. 

1. Your guide:

A good guide is what makes or breaks a safari, and the guides chosen to lead mobile safaris are among the very best. Not only will they be personable and professional, they will be experienced in a variety of fields, from being walking guides to ornithology experts to being wildlife photographers, able to pass on their vast knowledge of their subjects.

As they will accompany you for the entire trip, they are able to craft your experience in a manner that would not be possible were you simply moving from lodge to lodge on a different itinerary. Added to this, as they are with you for the entire journey, they can make sure of any special interests or needs that need to be met by handling the trip down to the micro level with the staff of the camps you will be visiting. 

A Guide's Guide to Mobile Safaris - your guide organising drinks
Your guide will be able to craft your experience personally.
A Guide's Guide to Mobile Safaris - your guide showing you the ropes
Guides share the delights and thrills of their job with you.

Explorations and Expeditions guides are truly extraordinary people: you will meet at the beginning of your trip as a guest, and after a week or longer together, you will part as lifelong friends.

2. Small group size:

A mobile safari will never have more than eight people on it. This is ideal if you are a group of friends or a family wishing to have an exclusive experience, or a perfect way to enjoy an adventurous safari in the company of a small group of like-minded individuals. 

3. Private concessions:

Unlike if you were to attempt to drive yourself on a mobile safari, these trips offer access to exclusive private concessions that give you an uncrowded wildlife experience in areas that are not accessible to the general public.

Mobile safaris often traverse regions with far more expensive permanent lodges which are operated by the same safari companies, giving you an unrivalled opportunity for excellent game viewing. The campsites that they utilise in the event of being in game reserves or national parks are separate and private, as they are leased seasonally by the safari operators, ensuring you the best possible experience. 

A Guide's Guide to Mobile Safaris - private concessions
Exploring private concessions with your own guide means your time there is exclusive; the general public has no access to those areas.

4. Adventurous experiences:

A mobile safari is a more adventurous experience, hands down. Not only by travelling by vehicle between destinations and arriving at a camp like an early explorer, but by the variety of activities that are on offer. To make the most of the areas and habitats that you encounter, your guide will lead you on walking safaris and by mokoro (a traditional dugout canoe) in addition to game drives. When distances are not too great, the journeys between destinations will be done by vehicle, giving you the chance to really gain a feel for the country you are travelling through. When you have driven for several hours through the Kalahari or anywhere in Namibia, for example, you gain an incredible insight into the vastness of the landscapes and space that Africa has to offer.

5. Affordability:

Mobile safaris are accessibly priced, somewhere between a participatory overland trip and a high-end luxury lodge fly-in safari. This makes it appealing to a broad spectrum of people, from the young-at-heart who wish to experience Africa without spending a fortune, to younger, budget-conscious travellers with the same yearning to enjoy a safari in magnificent wilderness areas.

A Guide's Guide to Mobile Safaris - around the fire
The camaraderie around the camp fire is an experience.
A Guide's Guide to Mobile Safaris - dinner!
Enjoy delicious fire cooked meals served with a smile!

A mobile safari does not require you to have a special level of fitness or involve any strenuous activity that you require training to handle. All it needs is an adventurous spirit and a desire to experience and enjoy some of Africa’s greatest wilderness areas in an engaging and uplifting way. If you want to get the most out of a safari, get a real feel for the country you are travelling in, bond with your friends, family or fellow travellers and encounter incredible game in pristine wilderness areas in a unique way, then this is the journey for you! 

Written by Ryan Green. Connect with him on Google+.

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