Planning your safari is very exciting – there are so many bucket-list experiences to choose from and natural wonders to see, every kind of accommodation you can imagine and as many different settings, from mountains to beaches, rainforests to deserts.
We’ve been planning safaris for more than 15 years now. Our goal is to match to the right locations, lodges and activities to our clients’ wish list, making their African safari dreams come true to make their vacation unforgettable for all the right reasons. Here are our top tips for planning a successful safari.
Do you have a travel goal?
First things first: do you have a specific goal for your safari? Maybe you’ve dreamt of seeing wild lions since you were a child, or witnessing the Victoria Falls in full flood, or visiting the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi. What animal, place or experience is at the heart of your dream safari?
That is the starting point of your planning. Ask your travel consultant:
Where is the best place to see the animal you most want to see? When is the best time of year to go see it? or
When is the best time of year to visit the place or have the experience that most interests you?
Now you have a primary destination and rough travel dates, you can explore which attractions and experiences combine well with your goal. This is the main reason we publish tour packages. Browse our safaris to find out what locations and attractions go well together in terms of logistics and gain a general idea about the costs per person. You’ll most likely enrich your safari goal with additional places and experiences, creating a wish list for our experts to turn into a vacation itinerary.
Part of our service is to make sure your journey is tailored around your unique travel concerns. For instance, if you’re travelling with children or grandparents, celebrating a special occasion, have a disability, or simply prefer private residences to hotels – we tailor your itinerary around your needs as well as your wish list preferences.
If you don’t have a specific safari goal, we recommend that you do a little research to find out what really interests you. Of course, you can always tell our safari experts what you do and don’t like on holiday generally and let her propose a suitable itinerary for you, but we’ve learnt that most clients form clear preferences quite soon once they start exploring our website and blogs.
Do you have a specific budget?
An African safari is not an inexpensive holiday even though there is a wide range of tours and travel styles, some of which are cheaper than others. We advise clients to start off with a budget in mind – it’s fine to spend a little more if an expert recommends a clever add-on or a true luxury, something that makes your vacation experience so much better than it is worth much more than the extra expense. It’s also fine to spend less than you budgeted, but you don’t want to start off not knowing what you’re comfortable spending.
First time travellers to Africa sometimes expect it to be a cheap destination because of the favourable exchange rate, but most destinations charge in US dollars. It’s worth keeping in mind that safari lodges must deliver excellent service, food and accommodation in very remote destinations, and that costs much more than delivering the same standard of comfort in a big city.
Do you have specific dates?
The timing of quite a few of Africa’s best safari experiences depends on naturally occurring factors, like seasonal rainfall. This means that your preferred travel dates make a big difference to your itinerary – you don’t want to vacation on a tropical beach during the rainy season, or visit Victoria Falls late in the dry season, when the water is at its lowest volume.
Knowing how many days you want to spend in Africa at what time of year is very important information to give your safari expert when you start planning your itinerary. If your safari goal is a seasonal event it is likely that the best places to experience it will be booked up well in advance, which means you want to know the ideal travel dates as soon as you start planning.
What is your travel style?
Your travel style is a matter of personal preference influenced by the people you intend to travel with, your budget and the vacation time you have available. If your budget is limited, you’ll want the most affordable options. If you have limited time, you’ll want the most efficient travel logistics.
Which one of these travel types do you prefer?
Tailored: Our tailoring service doesn’t cost you anything extra – it’s the value you get when you book through a quality travel company. Our safari experts match your wish list, preferences and budget to the most suitable accommodation, activities and locations, and make sure you get the best value for your time and money.
Private tailored: This style of travel features private guides, vehicles, transfers, accommodation and activities tailored to your specific interests, such as bird watching on safari. You have a high degree of control over your meals and daily schedule, plus private facilities wherever you stay.
Set departures: these safari experiences start and end on fixed dates during the year. This type of travel includes luxury train journeys and mobile safari expeditions and we tailor-make the rest of your itinerary.
Scheduled tours: these tours feature fixed dates, a circuit of popular attractions, medium to large groups, transport in a minivan or coach and low cost accommodation. They offer a cost-effective way to see multiple attractions, but we don’t recommend them in a destination as complex and diverse as Africa.
Choose a great travel agent
Here’s our best advice on how to choose a great travel agent who can deliver real value to your vacation:
Personal travel experience in the specific countries you want to visit.
Be independent – your agent should not be employed by a specific lodge, activity operator or marketing company, to ensure you get unbiased advice.
Insurance in place to protect your travel investment.
Full travel booking service – it’s in your best interests to combine your flights and accommodation in one booking.
Provide you with support during your safari - an important advantage to booking through credible agents who have offices in Africa.
Recent reviews published on independent sites, like FEEFO.
A great agent takes the time to get to know your preferences, addresses your concerns, and offers you detailed, up to date travel advice. Good planning reduces risk and increases rewards, from making savvy savings to smart splurges, the best agents deliver vacations that you’ll still be talking about years from today.
Ready, set, go!
You’ve set your travel goal, enriched your vacation wish list, worked out your budget range and preferred dates, and chosen your safari expert. It’s time to enquire [link] and get ready for the holiday of a lifetime!