Information About Traveling to Africa
By Saurabh Khetrapal | Updated June 11, 2020
Once it’s experienced, African is never forgotten. And when someone tells you “Africa will get in your blood”, the only malady they’re talking about is the niggle in your brain that insists that you come back again!
Whether you’ve been on safari before or it’s a first-time bucket-list trip after years of longing, this guide will provide some of our nuggets of knowledge about the Wondrous World of Safari and Travel to Africa.
Planning a Safari
- Decide on your absolute must see animals… lion, leopard, cheetah, rhino, giraffe, wild African dog, elephant, African fish eagle, ostrich, pelican, etc.
- Choose your month and duration of travel, bearing in mind that the best time to go on safari in southern and eastern Africa is June-September.
- List the kinds of activities you would like to include e.g. hot air ballooning, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, white water rafting, canoeing past hippos, shark cage diving, horseback riding, helicopter flight to Cape of Good Hope, walking safaris and close-up animal encounters, cultural interactions, visiting an orphanage and other philanthropic projects, etc.
- How brave and bold are you? Are you willing to push the boundaries by walking in big game country and camping for the night? Or, would you rather build up courage slowly and stay within your comfort zone in a safari lodge?
- Know yourself! Is constant hot water and a high-pressure shower a priority or would you find a warm bucket shower and a canvas basin of hot water for your morning wash rustic and charming? Or can you manage a bit of both?
- Maybe you have a specific place you want to visit. Where is that? Perhaps it’s Tanzania or Kenya to see the greatest migration of animals on earth and the colorful Maasai tribe, or the largest curtain of falling water at Victoria Falls, Cape Town’s Table Mountain, the leopards of South Africa’s Kruger Park, or hippos and elephants wading through the waterways of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. None of these are vaguely near each other and they stretch from the Equator, south beyond the Tropic of Capricorn, and down to the very tip of Africa.
- Are you taking your family – what special considerations do any of them require and what is the range of ages?
- Set a budget and a contingency amount in case there’s something you really want to add on, like the ‘Flight of Angels’ in a helicopter over Victoria Falls, or hot air balloon over the Masai Mara.
- Your answers 1 through 8 will help narrow down the choices and destinations but you’ll still need a Fair Trade Safaris expert to put together an itinerary that will fulfill all your desires and make logical sense! Dreaming up your wish list is easy; putting it all together is a skill.
- Plan as far ahead as possible (a year in advance is good, but a few months can be doable as well) to make sure there’s space in the small exclusive camps and lodges, to get your visas, medication and injections in order, and to especially to build up your excitement for this bucket list vacation.
On safari you can be in the middle of nowhere and while your camp or lodge will have a First Aid box, you really don’t want to venture outside in the middle of the night to look for it…especially after you’ve just heard a lion roar!
Bring your own medication for the 10 most likely Travel Problems:
- Insect bites, allergies, itching
- Stomach cramps and diarrhea
- Common cold
- Cough and sore throat
- Pain or fever
- Poor sleep
- Travel sickness
- Khaki is cool, and that includes all shades – from dusty brown to olive green – except for black because there is very little black in nature and dark colors attract mosquitoes and tsetse flies.
- Warm jacket and woolly hat – those early morning and evening game drives can be very cold, especially in Southern Africa in the months of June, July, August, and September.
- Comfortable, breathable walking shoes or trainers and supportive sandals.
- Strong insect repellent, high factor sunscreen, hand sanitizer, ear plugs
- Brimmed hat and sunglasses
- Camera, lenses, case, binoculars, head lamp, e-reader and batteries.
- Chargers for all electronic equipment with adaptors
- It’s fine to wear your wedding ring and other minimal jewelry but insure your valuables…and leave that expensive diamond necklace at home!
- If taking a small plane (like a 6-seater into the Okavango Delta) luggage must be in a flexible, soft-side bag usually weighing a maximum of 15kg (33 pounds). This is important as they won’t let your 45-pound rigid case on board!
- If you are planning on spending time by the beach or in a country house, make sure that you pack the basics for day and evening. Most itinerary and trip do not require formal clothes…remember that Africa is uber relaxed and your finest clothes will look out of place.
- Plastic zipper bag for wet or dirty clothes
- Gift for your guide/s like a Tee Shirt, cap or badge from your home town. If visiting a philanthropic project find out in advance what they would appreciate.
“Whether the weather is hot, whether the weather is cold, whether the weather whatever the weather, whether the weather or not!” In other words…..expect all sorts of weather!
Climate in southern Africa and the weather in eastern Africa cannot be lumped into one description – because while Kenya is on the Equator, the Limpopo Province of South Africa spans the Tropic of Capricorn and Cape Town is over 1,000 miles away at 34 degrees south.
All you really need to know is that apart from Cape Town (which is in an entirely different climatic zone), in the rest of our travel destinations, the summers are hot and rainy (approx. October to March) with the bush growing thick and water plentiful, which makes game viewing more difficult. Autumn and winters (approx. April to September) are warm and dry during the day, with cooler nights. The drier weather provides optimum wildlife viewing because the bush is less dense, making the animals more easily spotted & seen. Plus, during the dry months, the wildlife tends to congregate near the waterholes, whereas during the wet season – when water is everywhere – the animals are more dispersed.
Cape Town, on the other hand, has a temperate Mediterranean-style climate of warm dry summers and cool wet winters and the weather is generally mild throughout. Occasional snow can fall on the mountains – but none on the coast.
Go on, give these foods of Africa a try…even if it’s for the bragging rights of being able to claim you’ve sampled them:
- Mopane worms – this dried caterpillar of the emperor moth is a great source of protein which tastes like cardboard with a hint of timber.
- Pap/Ugali/Sadza/Fufu – it’s all the same word for southern and eastern Africa’s staple carbohydrate – maize meal. It tastes like a cross between mashed potatoes and corn bread, and it’s used as an energy food to accompany meat, vegetables and sauces.
- Bokkoms – pungent, withered, dried mullet are a delicacy along South Africa’s west coast, but is an acquired taste.
- Blood & Milk – blood recently extracted from a live cow and mixed together with milk is part of the diet of the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania.
- Termites (aka flying ants) – caught as they exit their nests, these local high-protein snacks are delicacies that are fried once the wings have dropped off.
Best Up-Close Animal Encounters
- Giraffe Manor with their friendly resident herd of Rothschild giraffe, Nairobi, Kenya
- DavidSheldrick rhino and elephant orphanage, Nairobi, Kenya
- Camp Jabulani, elephant back riding, South Africa
- HoedspruitEndangered Species Centre and cheetah sanctuary, South Africa
- Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary, Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
- Birds of Eden free-flying aviary for 3,500 rescued birds, Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
- Apex Shark Adventures, Cape Town, South Africa
- Swimming with wild dolphins, Mozambique
- Gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda
- Walking safaris in most safari destinations