Your First Safari in Africa: All You Need to Know
There is so much to see and experience on your first safari that will make this adventure unforgettable. So if you are thinking of going on your first safari, get ready to have the adventure of a lifetime… But before you start - what are the key essential things you need to know before you set off? Read through our carefully written checklist to make sure you’re fully prepared before you go. Happy animal-spotting!
1. Where to go and What animals you can expect to see
Travelling is all about experiences, enrichment and enjoyment, and South Africa ticks all these boxes. With such diversity on offer, it is a country that is hard to beat - with incredible cities, sublime safaris, great drives and tantalising gourmet experiences. Explore this wonderfully diverse and breath-taking country. The legendary Kruger National Park, situated in the east of South Africa bordering Mozambique, offers a superb South African safari experience. There is an immense variety of animal life including leopards, elephants, lions, buffalos, wild dogs and rhinos. Guided game drives and walking safaris offer excellent game viewing opportunities. There is also a wide choice of accommodation from tented camps to some seriously luxurious safari lodges.
The magnificent Madikwe Game Reserve, located in South Africa’s North-West province, close to the border with Botswana and the Eastern Cape’s reserves of Shamwari and Kwandwe, are all malaria free safari destinations and an excellent safari option for those who travel with children. These parks are home to incredible animals such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, wild dogs and buffalos.
South Africa isn’t just about the beasts of the field: its waters are home to some of the world’s most thrilling ocean wildlife, the ‘marine big five’ of whales, sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins.
- Take a look at our itineraries and accommodation in South Africa.
From incredible game reserves teeming with wildlife to glorious beaches, luxurious accommodation and incredible culture and food, Tanzania has the largest concentration and diversity of animals in Africa. There are over 1000 bird species to spot in the country, more than 120,000 elephants, 160,000 buffalos and 2000 rhinos. Selous is also home to large concentrations of hippos, crocodiles and wild dogs. Legendary names such as the Serengeti, Kilimanjaro and Ngorongoro are all part of Tanzania's National Parks with the highest concentrations wildlife.
The Serengeti is most famous for one of the greatest show on earth - the Great Migration - the movement of millions of wildebeest and zebra across the Serengeti-Mara National Parks between Tanzania and Kenya.
- Take a look at our itineraries and accommodation in Tanzania.
A fascinating country with an extremely diverse landscape - beautiful beaches, exotic wildlife and a truly unique culture. Synonymous with safari and breath-taking scenery, Kenya really does exceed expectations.
Often the country immediately considered for a Safari, Kenya has definitely earned this reputation. One of the first countries to offer this hugely immersive experience, Kenya is also one of the few countries where you can see the Big Five – elephants, lions, rhinos, buffalos and leopards.
Its diverse landscapes, incredible animals and friendly people make it a truly special place to visit and to really immerse yourself in Africa. More than 40 national parks and nature reserves are scattered between Lake Victoria and the Indian Ocean, covering every imaginable landscape and featuring just about every animal in Africa. The infrastructure for travellers is impressive. Jeeps, buses and light aircraft travel daily across the country to safari lodges and tented camps, some simple and rustic, others lavish and opulent.
You can enjoy incredible safari experiences such as bush walks as well as the more traditional game drives, staying at some of the most luxurious camps around, ensuring you don’t ever have to go without your creature comforts, as well as, enjoying the unparalleled magnificence and diversity of the wildlife and landscape in Kenya.
Seeing the wildlife of Kenya on a safari is one of the best ways to see the BIG FIVE in their natural habitat. Between July and October, this country offers the traveller the chance to experience the majesty of the annual Wildebeest Migration. Beginning in the Masai Mara and the Amboseli National Park, this incredible spectacle of wildebeest, lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, buffalos and zebras can be witnessed from a superb vantage point high above in a hot air balloon safari, giving you the very best seats in the house.
Kenya is also a fantastic destination for family holidays. Your children will adore the thrill of the safari experience; imagine their smiles as they spot leopards, lions, zebras and elephants for the first time, and listen to their squeals of excitement as they spend their first nights sleeping under canvas in the heart of a wildlife reserve.
- Take a look at our itineraries and accommodation in Kenya.
You will need some vaccinations before travelling to Africa and it’s best to speak to your doctor’s or local travel clinic at least 4-6 weeks in advance to ensure enough time to get everything sorted before you go.
3. Malaria Tablets
Once you have selected your destination, you should find out if you are going to a malarial area. There are many great malaria-free safari destinations in South Africa which are ideal if you are travelling with children; for example, Madikwe Game Reserve and the Waterberg. However, if you do choose to visit a malarial area, it is worth paying a little more for the more modern malaria tablets, such as Malarone, which have fewer side-effects. Just be sure to follow the instructions on when to start and finish taking them so that you don’t miss any doses.
4. Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is absolutely necessary wherever you go on holiday but, if you needed an added incentive, there are lodges in Africa which will not allow you to take part in activities unless you have valid travel insurance. Best to avoid this kind of disaster - remember to take the details with you.
Africa Travel will not only be able to organise your flights and lodge booking, but also transfers to and from the airport, so that you will be met on arrival and delivered back to the airport on departure.
6. Travelling with Children
Some countries require families travelling with children under the age of 18 to travel with additional documentation, your travel consultant can advise you on the latest requirement, facilities/special activities there might be for kids.
Here are just a few of our recommendations of great family friendly places to stay in Africa. Children of all ages are welcome and lodges offer a wide variety of activities to suit all interests:
7. Drinking water
You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that the water at many safari lodges is safe to drink. However, this depends on its source. It is essential to ask on arrival whether you can drink the water and, if you can’t, they will provide bottled water, which you should also use for brushing your teeth.
The majority of our safari itineraries include food and drinks. However, some itineraries include full board basis, where all food is included but guests pay for drinks.
On safari you rarely go hungry! Food is plentiful and usually served in various locations so you may have breakfasts out in the bush or dinner under the stars. Different dietary requirements can usually be catered for if the lodges have been advised in advance so do discuss any allergies, intolerances or other requirements with your consultant.
9. What you will need to pay for when you get there
When you are booking your safari, it is important to find out what is included. Lodges vary, but luckily many are all inclusive, so you don’t need to pay additionally for food, drinks or activities. Normally, if they offer off-site excursions, these will be at an additional charge. Many lodges also offer spa services, which can be charged as an extra. Most lodges offer a laundry service, which is great because you don’t need to pack masses of clothing.
Tipping is generally a custom in Africa and, on safari, is usually done at the end of your stay. You may wish to give your guide a personal tip, should he or she have provided a particularly memorable experience, but many lodges suggest a general tip so that even the staff you don’t see benefit. Of course, it is always the golden rule to tip based on the quality of your stay, but at Ant’s Bush Homes, for example, they recommend between R150-250 (approx. £8.50 - £14.50 at current exchange rates) per person per day.
10. What to pack
Contrary to popular belief (particularly if you are going to only be in a vehicle), you don’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe in khaki. However, if you want to get close up to the wildlife, you do want to select neutral colours such as khaki or olive in order to blend into the environment. If you are walking or horse-riding a comfortable pair of boots is a must.
In winter the days can be balmy but as soon as the sun sets the temperature plummets, so a couple of jumpers and a warm jacket are recommended, as well as a warm hat and gloves.
In summer there may be rain, so a light-weight rain jacket is essential. You will also have time to relax and do your own thing between activities, so a swimsuit should be included if your lodge has a pool (most do), and relaxed clothes for evening meals.
If you are using a small aircraft at any point on your safari, please take particular note of the baggage allowance specified on your itinerary.
All luggage should be packed in small, flexible, soft-sided bags (not only for the smaller aircraft, but also to fit into vehicles).
Large suitcases and any other rigid, inflexible luggage, including bags with “pull-along” handles, frames and wheels, cannot be transported on small aircraft, as they physically cannot fit into the aircraft.
For more details, you can check our blog ‘What to pack for your African safari holiday’ to make sure that you are packing correctly to get the most out of your adventure.
You will undoubtedly want to take a camera to record your adventures and will simply need a South African adaptor to charge these at the lodge (I also recommend a spare battery). Many lodges also have Wifi, so you can post your best photos on social media while you are there (however, don’t expect lightning-fast broadband – it is the African bush!). If you have selected a tented camp for your stay, ask if they have electricity before you go. If there isn’t electricity, you can obtain a solar charger before you go, unless you prefer to take a break from the outside world!
If you are interested in booking your fist safari or have further questions on the practicalities, our Africa Travel specialists will assist in planning your first African safari holiday. Call 020 7843 3500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org