Our Ultimate Safari Planning Guide
By Jade Limpus | Updated October 23, 2020
Whether Africa has been a continent that’s been on your bucket list for as long as you can remember or if you’ve seen pictures of our amazing wildlife conservation and the landscape on Instagram and have fallen in love, a holiday to Africa is at your fingertips. But how do you even begin planning a trip? Sometimes the process can seem a little overwhelming, but with the right tips and information to hand, it is truly easier than you may first think. This is why we have put together our easy guide on how to do this, and you don’t even need to break a bead of sweat!
We want to make visiting Africa as easy as possible, as not only is it lovely to educate the world about this amazing corner of the globe but also you visiting actually helps us conserve what we have here. Education is where it all starts.
We’re here to empower travelers to design their own safari and are dedicated to making the planning process fun, easy and exciting – as it should be when you’re planning any holiday! This is why we’ve put together some of our top tips and handy hints to help you plan your own safari and to answer some of the most commonly asked questions. Don’t worry if you get stuck at any point, we are here to help every step of the way.
Where To Visit?
When it comes to the African continent, you’re spoilt for choice for things to do. It is unique and jam-packed with fabulous experiences and scenery that will take your breath away, so you’ll be leaving your holiday with us with memories that will last you a lifetime.
You have the safari staples that you’ve probably heard of Botswana which offers unprecedented safari options in what some would say are the world’s very finest wildlife reserves. These include the Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve, fanning out across the North-Western corner of the country. Waterways and seasonal floodplains create a wonderful landscape of islands and lagoons full of wildlife, which you witness from above as you fly on a small plane into your remote safari lodge. The Chobe River is the lifeline of Chobe National Park supporting great concentrations of animals in particular elephants.
Kenya is not one to miss off the list. Resting on the Indian Ocean’s coastline, Kenya’s vast landscapes of savannahs, lakelands, and the Great Rift Valley boast a rich environment and unsurpassed viewing of the Great Migration. Sir David Attenborough poetically describes Kenya’s jewel. “And here we are, the birthplace of safari. The only place one can witness the greatest journey in the animal kingdom: the Great Migration. Imagine the sheer primal energy as hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebras make their perilous journey across the Great Plains. There really is, nothing else like it, on planet earth.” Thank you, Sir David, couldn’t have said it better ourselves!
If you love walking on the wild side then Zambia is for you. With its vast wildlife preservation areas jam-packed with animals, you are sure to get to experience real, authentic safaris here. South Luangwa is a top choice, and Zambia is where walking safaris first started. Its national treasures include rough terrain, deafening Victoria Falls, and the Zambezi River. It’s also home to some of the most highly-awarded and respected guides in Africa. Allow the highly regarded guides to lead you on a traverse through Zambia showcasing natural beauty and wildlife such as the elusive leopard.
These are just some of our favorites, but we have loads more to offer – 12 dazzling destinations in fact! These are South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Namibia, Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Madagascar, Mozambique, and the Indian Ocean Islands.
We’ve got the lowdown on a variety of different countries across Africa, some you’ve heard of and some you may not. Start exploring Africa now and plan your next great adventure with us!
When To Visit?
This is always key to know when planning any holiday, especially a safari. Just like anywhere on the planet, every country in Africa has different seasons and weather patterns that in turn have their own quirks and charms that you will want to explore. If we’re truly honest, there is no ‘bad’ time to visit. It depends on your safari taste, there might be a time of year that suits you better. June to October across much of sub-Saharan Africa is considered the ‘best’ for a safari. It’s the dry season and the weather is lovely and warm but gets very hot towards October. This is when the animals congregate around water making them easy to spot, and makes for a great photo opportunity too! The rains tend to fall from November to April in most of the countries we run our tours in. It is worth noting that East Africa has a reprieve from the wet weather over December & January. It’s worth taking note that it doesn’t rain all day every day in the wet seasons and the scenery is simply beautiful all year round so if you’re not shy of packing a light raincoat for the possibility of rain then don’t discount these months. January to March is also an excellent time to combine a Cape Town city break with a safari in the Kruger (p.s. Cape Town has some of the best vineyards in the world, so if you’re partial to a glass of wine then you’ve definitely got to stop here for a taste).
What To Experience?
What you should experience really depends on what tickles your fancy. There is so much on offer here, you will be spoilt for choice on what you can get stuck into. Most camps in wildlife areas will offer game drives in 4x4s which are an excellent way to get to explore the area and spot many animals at the same time – so pack a camera! There are also walking safaris which are a wonderful way to get up close and personal to the wildlife. This is something we offer on our Uganda trips to the Mountain Gorilla Sanctuary in Rwindi, giving you the breathtaking opportunity to see these amazing creatures up close and in the wild. If cars or by foot isn’t your style then there are boat, canoe, and mokoro safaris that will take you to places vehicles simply can’t get to. Hop on down to the beach at Cape Town and check out the cute and cheeky little penguins that hop around on the beach. For sheer memory-making magic, why not saddle-up on a horseback safari and gallop alongside a giraffe, or even head deep into the desert atop a quad bike and see what mother nature has in store. Another great experience has to be sleeping under the stars and watching the milky way overhead. If you’re looking for something outside of the bush, why not venture over to Cape Town and immerse yourself into their art scene, discover ageless treasures in Ethiopia or head to the Indian Ocean coastline for some serious well deserved R&R and a swim in some of the most beautiful oceans you will have seen.
We could go on for days about the amazing trips we have experienced and which ones we loved, but truth be told – we can’t pick a favorite as they’re all amazing and memorable in their own way. If you want to feast your eyes on our handpicked selection of experiences, head on over to our destination page for more.
Where Are The Best Beaches?
If you’re more after a week or two at the beach, sand in your toes, and some of the best crystal clear oceans you’ve ever seen then we have something for you. How about mixing things up after a week of sunrise mornings and wildlife watching, with some chill-out time by the cool waters of the Indian Ocean? We are lucky to have so many options to choose from, no matter what part of the continent you find yourself in – there is something for everyone! East Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania all have picture-perfect coastlines and islands, making the woes of today just slip away as you swim with the fishes and relax. The exotic island of Zanzibar is one of the most picturesque places we have seen, topped with tasty freshly caught seafood right on the seafront – it’s a sea lovers paradise.
In southern Africa, the beach destinations on our hot list are Mozambique, Mauritius, and Seychelles. These are all a short flight from Johannesburg, and each has its very own share of glamour, water sports, diving, and pure, get-away-from-it-all luxury. Perfect if you ask us!
We can’t suggest these destinations enough, this is why they have made it to our shortlist. But if you need more food for thought or are ready to book your dream getaway, don’t wait any longer. Check out our favorite bush and beach combos in both East Africa and southern Africa and start planning your getaway. And if you’re still not sure which tropical getaway to pick, get in touch with one of our advisors who will be more than happy to help you make the right choice for you and your family.
Where To Stay?
The accommodation in Africa is as varied as the culture and landscapes that you’ll be experiencing, but you will be able to find something that suits you here. Whether you have a large party or are traveling alone, there are accommodations to meet your needs and not skimp on the luxury nor break the bank. If you’re looking for a larger party or want to be in a bigger building then a lodge may be a good choice. Lodges tend to be larger with more facilities to cater for a vast amount of people – swimming pools, spas, a restaurant or two. If you’re looking for a smaller affair then camps are maybe for you. These are usually tented or with small lodges, but trust us – you won’t be skimping on the quality when it comes to these types of escapes. Bush camps are the most intimate of all (some as small as three rooms!) or you could go one step further and take a bedroll and a mosquito net (and an experienced guide!) and spend a night sleeping under the night sky, gazing over the milky way watching stars shoot by. Sounds dreamy right! If that sounds good, you might also enjoy a mobile safari or a mobile camp – structures that move to the best positions for wildlife at certain times of year making sure you’re always in the middle of the action. It’s also worth mentioning, that there are also some excellent private properties dotted around that are available to rent on an exclusive basis. In the main cities, you will find a wide range of hotels and cozy guesthouses. Don’t worry about the bathrooms either. Generally speaking, unless you’re camping, most lodges, camps, and bush camps have flushable loos and plenty of hot water to go around so you won’t be completely out of your comfort zone or without your own creature comforts.
Here at Fair Trade Safari’s, we have something for everyone. From the most intimate settings with lodges that have your very own private outdoor pool to group experiences in glamorous tent style accommodation where you can experience what it is like to be out in the bush, having a glass of locally produced wine around the campfire whilst exchanging stories in the evening with the group. We don’t believe you should have to pay too much to experience something amazing, this is why we offer affordable classic luxury trips.
How To Get There?
It’s no harder than traveling anywhere else really. Most airlines fly to at least one or two destinations on the continent from a good selection of major European airports and if you’re coming from the States, it’s simply a matter of connecting through – simple!. The airport hubs on the continent are Nairobi (for East Africa) and Johannesburg (for southern Africa). From these locations, you can easily pop up to the country you’re visiting. As with most long-haul trips, booking in advance will hopefully save you some money, but do keep your eyes peeled for any last-minute deals too as you can really grab a bargain. When you arrive in Africa, the most common way to get around is by bush plane. These are tiny little aircraft that can get you directly into the heart of where the wild things are. These planes are flown by expert pilots and all have the highest of safety ratings, so you don’t have to worry about safety – these are a common mode of transport over here. There is the option to drive over here, but we highly recommend flying if you can as this is both quick and memorable as you’ll get to see the amazing landscape below which will just remain in your memories forever.
If you’re looking to save some cash and plan your own holiday, then we would recommend using websites like Kayak or Skyscanner. These sites have the ability to work with multiple airlines to make your trip planning as easy as possible if you’re looking. If you’d like advice on the best times to arrive and depart, just give us a call and we’ll help you out.
What Does A Safari Cost?
This is something we often hear, how can you make a safari more affordable? You’ve probably heard stories from people about trips costing more than a year’s rent and swanky tents that are larger than a small village. Or maybe you’ve seen adverts in magazines with trips costing an eye-watering amount. We believe a fabulous safari shouldn’t be about how much it costs and is more about the memories made, luxury shouldn’t cost the earth. This is why we aim to put on some of the best holidays at an affordable rate without sacrificing quality.
When it comes to planning your holiday, our first top tip to watch the wallet is to first choose your destination carefully. Botswana is always going to top the price charts when it comes to different safari types, but countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa can be very cost-effective and equally hold their own charm.
We would also advise to not try and cram too many places into one trip either. Those little flights around can mount up, and one or two stops that you take time out in to explore can be just as rewarding as four or five. We’re also big fans of a special offer (who isn’t after all?). Although they can be a little harder to find in the safari industry, they do exist. Last but not least, think about the time of year you can travel and if you can avoid school holidays and other peak times, you’ll soon notice a big difference in the price that you end up paying. That’s what we like to hear!
A Typical Day On A Safari
Most of the camps and lodges over in Africa will follow a similar routine. A typical day will go as follows. In the morning, you’ll be woken as the sun rises (usually with a cup of tea or coffee delivered to your door – heaven!) before heading out on a game drive or walk. The temperature is cool early on in the morning, the animals are still active from the night before making it prime game viewing time. The activity will usually last for 3-4 hours, including a lunch stop. When you get back to the lodge, you’ll have a spot of lunch, and then it’s siesta time. Some lodges offer a short activity over siestas such as a nature walk or a visit to a local school – but otherwise, the time is yours to do as you wish, whether it be read, snooze, or watch the wildlife stroll by. The afternoon kicks off with Afternoon Tea, then you’ll be heading back into the bush for your second activity mid-afternoon. In the evenings, dinner will usually be served at the lodge and you may have the chance of another game drive, this time in the dark, and using a powerful spotlight to help spot the animals lurking around in the night. When you get back to base camp, you will be able to settle down around an open fire with a glass of locally produced wine, have a lovely shower or bath, and relax ready for another jam-packed day.
What To Pack?
You may love it or hate it, but being properly prepared can make or break a trip. Especially a safari. Your packing list will depend on the activities you’ve got lined up on your trip, but one important point to remember is that your luggage should fit comfortably into a soft-sided bag, no one wants to find out they have a broken bag when your feet hit the floor at your destination. Also, make sure your luggage is around the 15kg mark for those small planes when you hit African turf. Your essentials should include plenty of layers in neutral colors to help you blend in on those safaris, comfy shoes, plenty of sun cream, comfy socks (sounds silly but no one likes blisters on long days out), sunglasses, and a hat. In your hand luggage, pack all your camera equipment, prescription medication, spare batteries and chargers, important documentation (with copies or even e-copies), and a refillable water bottle. Little extras that will make you the envy of all your travelers include a warm jacket or jumper – it might be Africa but it gets cold in the mornings and evenings on those open-air safari vehicles. Also, a Kindle or iPad loaded with books for the ultimate siesta-time or plane journeys. If you’re old school like us, maybe grab a travel magazine to read on the journey over.
Is Traveling In Africa Safe?
Yes, of course. Sadly, Africa is a continent that attracts unfair rumors and myths that never quite seem to be forgotten in a hurry. But trust us when we say that almost every one of them is a myth. Africa is welcoming, vibrant, lively, utterly beautiful, and crammed with more incredible experiences than you could have ever thought of. The locals will open you with open arms. Like anywhere that you visit, there are a few safety rules to follow: in the cities, follow your common sense and you’ll be just fine. As for the wildlife areas, you’ll receive a full safety briefing from the people who know the animals like the back of their hand so you’ll be sure to be in safe hands at all times. With regards to your health and medical, we always suggest that you visit a professional before you travel but as ever, if you’re sensible, you won’t have any issues. And rest assured, if you choose to travel with us, you’ll have full access to support from the moment you book to the moment you touch back down from your flight back home from us.
You’re ready! You now have everything you need to know about planning your ultimate safari. Why not check out the amazing offers we have? Browse from the destinations we have on offer, choose your accommodation from our handpicked selection, and have fun customizing your trip to make it truly memorable. And don’t worry – if you get stuck, our experts are right here to give you a helping hand to ensure you have an unforgettable experience.
Your dream trip is just a few clicks away!