What is an African safari?
Practically speaking, an African safari is a vacation or tour to a wildlife reserve in an African country for the purposes of seeing and photographing a range of wildlife in their natural habitat, in order to observe their natural way of life. African safaris are about immersing oneself in nature and observing wildlife go about their daily life, unhindered by the human race. Meeting locals and learning about their fascinating culture is also an enlightening experience whilst on safari. But above all, a safari in Africa is about going on an adventure and not knowing what to expect next.
The Different Types of African Safaris
Luxury and Mid-Range Luxury Safaris
Incredible elephant sightings are part of the dining experience at the luxurious Kanga Camp.Luxury safaris are offered in all the best wildlife viewing game reserves in Africa - often in private concessions, and will include top-end or mid-range luxury lodges and tented camps. These lodges and camps provide unbeatable valuable: ensuring guest privacy, world-class facilities, a personalized service, exclusive game viewing activities, and opulent accommodation. These safaris are generally fully inclusive - all your meals, local brand beverages, and a range of safari activities. The most lavish of lodges will even include private dining experiences, spa treatments, and a private butler service.
Scenic air transfers are how one gets around Kenya, flying low enough to admire the landscape and wildlife.In remote safari destinations such as Botswana, flying directly to a reserve and flying between different reserves, is the most feasible transportation option. It not only allows one to visit inaccessible places but often avoids driving on roads comprising of deep sand or rough gravel. Although fly-in safaris are usually more expensive and often require the use of smaller charter flights with strict luggage restrictions, they do save a lot of time - especially when you are visiting for a short period of time. These smaller planes fly below the clouds, offering incredible views of the wilderness and animals.
Walking safaris are a great way to learn about fauna and flora that is of great significance to the African bush.Nothing gets the heart pumping as fast as a walking safari does in big five country. Many lodges in Africa generally provide short guided bush walks as part of their safari offering but there are also those that focus the guest experience entirely around walking. These safaris are led by armed and highly trained guides and sometimes even a tracker. These guides offer a fountain of knowledge, sharing interesting facts about plants, trees, birds, skat, and animals. Walking safaris allow one to feel part of the bush and awaken all of your senses - appreciating the gift of sight, taste, and smell.
Mobile Camping Safaris
Experience an authentic wilderness experience at Zambezi Expeditions Camp in the iconic Mana Pools National Park.Mobile camping safaris vary in group size, some operating with as little as two travelers and others with as many as twelve. A safari of this kind requires travelers to move around a lot more than any other safari experience, winding through the wilderness on 4x4 vehicles - getting that much closer to nature. Mobile camping safaris have the lowest impact on the environment and are definitely suited to the more adventurous traveler. The camps are set up by the staff and sumptuous meals are prepared over an open fire. The more luxurious mobile safaris will run with a smaller number of guests and guests tents are decked out with comfortable beds, chairs, lighting, and warm bucket showers.
Nothing is more tranquil than gliding through the shallow channels of the Okavango Delta in a mokoro.A specialist safari focuses on specific interests pertaining to a safari. These one of kind experiences are led by guides that have trained in this particular field, ensuring an unforgettable guest experience. Some specialist safaris are only available on a private basis or operate in small groups. Here are some of the specialist safaris on offer in Africa:
- Photographic safaris
- Birding safaris
- Horseback safaris
- Canoeing safaris
- Gorilla trekking safaris
- Wildlife tracking safaris
- Whale watching safaris
Game DrivesGame drives are the core component of a safari because they cover a lot more ground than any other activity. In some reserves, game drives could be a full day affair but generally game drives are offered in the morning and late afternoon for about 3 to 4 hours at a time.Game drives in private reserves offer the most exclusive game viewing opportunities, with the number of guests and vehicles limited. The safari vehicles are open-sided except for East Africa where the vehicles are top open. Safari vehicles in private concessions are permitted to go off road - allowing guides to track animals and follow them into the bush. The morning game drives are generally the best for game viewing and often the best time to sight predators. Late afternoon game drives will often see animals grazing, resting in the shade of a tree, or drinking from waterholes. Once the sun sets and temperatures drop, guests have a greater opportunity of seeing nocturnal species and possibly even witness a kill as lions favor the cooler evenings to hunt.
Bush Walks Short walks are offered at several lodges and camps as a mid-morning activity. You climb into a vehicle and drive into the bush with your armed guide. After a safety briefing, you head out on foot to discover the different fauna and flora. A bush walk is a great way to learn about the much smaller yet significant creatures of the bush, as well as animal tracking. Bush walks most certainly heighten your senses as you rely on your sight, hearing, and nose.
Boating/Mokoro/Canoeing Safaris on the water offer a different game viewing perspective, generally offering up-close views of hippos, crocodiles, aquatic birdlife, water antelope, and even elephants taking a swim. Mokoro (traditional dugout canoe) safaris are often the highlight on a safari in Botswana, gliding quietly through the shallow waters of the Delta. Boating safaris cover a lot more distance and are thoroughly enjoyed in places such as Chobe National Park, where the Chobe River is the main source of water for the wildlife. Sightings of elephants playing and swimming in the river are a usual occurrence in Chobe.Canoeing safaris are a popular choice in destinations such as Zambia and Namibia, riding the rapids and discovering wildlife along the way.
Bird Watching Bird watching is a fun activity that is possible at any of Africa’s game reserves. With as many as 500 species of birdlife to be seen in places such as the Kruger and Chobe national parks, bird lovers will have plenty to mark off their species list, some even endemic to the region. Staying in private reserves affords bird watchers the opportunity of spotting birdlife from the comfort of their lodge or camp, during game drives and bush walks, and various bird hides located in some of the game reserves. Private Birding safaris can also be arranged in some instances.
Hot Air Balloon RidesA hot air balloon safari is only possible in certain reserves across South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Taking to the sky as the sun begins to rise is an experience you will never forget. As the sun lights up the savannah plains, lakes, and lagoons, so the bush comes to life. It’s a bird’s eye view of the region’s diverse landscape and incredible wildlife often gathered in areas unattainable by game drives. It is important to note though that balloon safaris only run if the weather conditions are good.
Scenic FlightsScenic flights have become a popular activity choice amongst visitors to Africa, often perceived to be the fastest way of seeing some of the world’s natural wonders - flying over the mighty Victoria Falls, spotting wildlife in a big five game reserve, and admiring the vastness of the Namib Desert. Flying safaris are generally private experiences conducted in smaller aircraft such as bantam microlights and helicopters. In places such as the Okavango Delta, travelers get to experience incredible views of the Delta and its intricate network of waterways during their light aircraft transfers.
Wildlife InteractionsThroughout Africa, travelers will encounter several wildlife rehabilitation centers and animal orphanages that offer educational interactions, and in some cases like the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, visitors can even adopt an elephant. It is an opportunity for people from around the world to gain a better understanding of animals, and contribute to their protection and care within these facilities. Game reserves such as Shamwari and Phinda even offer their guests the option of actively getting involved in wildlife conservation - anti-poaching, darting, moving of animals.
Mountain Biking & Horse Riding SafarisMountain biking like walking is a great way to get close to nature, with the exception of covering more ground than simply exploring on foot. Without the restrictions of a vehicle, mountain biking safaris are a thrilling experience and are offered as part of the safari experience at lodges and tented camps in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia.It’s also the perfect way to burn off those calories from the decadent cuisine that comes with a safari. Mountain bike safaris are offered at several camps
Gorilla TrekkingOften regarded as the ultimate safari experience in Africa, gorilla trekking is by permit only and is generally limited to a group of eight people. Uganda, Rwanda, and the Congo offer the opportunity to get up close to these gentle giants in their natural habitat. Trekking through a petrified forest to find endangered mountain gorillas could take as long as five hours. Once you find your assigned gorilla family, you will have an hour to admire and photograph them. The minimum distance between visitors and gorillas is seven meters but it is not uncommon for gorillas to walk up to or through the group.
Ocean SafarisAn ocean safari starts and ends on one of Africa’s most pristine beaches. It’s about experiencing close encounters with various whale species and dolphins whilst out at sea on a boat. Other ocean safaris include shark cage diving off the coast of Cape Town and diving amongst coral reefs in South Africa, Mozambique, and Seychelles.
How to Plan an African Safari
Traveling to Africa is a big deal! With so many safari tours out there to choose from, pinpointing the right safari can be somewhat difficult.
A lot goes into the planning of a trip to Africa with various elements to consider, including flights, transfers, lodges, travel insurance, and activities.
Our advice is simple - use an accredited travel company that specializes in trips to Africa. There is value in knowing that you are chatting to someone who knows what they are talking about and will be there for you every step of the way. Not planning a trip to Africa correctly is easy and can be disastrous.Read on further if you want to find out how to book the perfect African safari...
Top Destinations for an Unforgettable African Safari
Whether you travel to the eastern reaches of Africa or the south, each is diverse in landscape, wildlife, and experiences.
South Africa boasts some of Africa’s best big five game reserves, including the Kruger National Park, Madikwe Game Reserve, KwaZulu Natal, and the Eastern Cape.
Botswana is a popular safari destination known for its exclusive safari experience. Glide through the crystal clear waters of the Delta on a mokoro, discover the big five and endangered wild dog on game drives in the Moremi, cruise along rivers in a speedboat and see hippos, crocodiles and even herds of elephants up-close. There is so much to experience in this vast wilderness. Tanzania and Kenya are renowned for the world’s greatest mammal migration and offer sightings of animals in huge numbers. It is here where one can view the big five, climb mountains, or even spend some time relaxing on a tropical beach.Zambia and Zimbabwe share custody of the mighty and glorious Victoria Falls - the world’s largest curtain of falling water. But each side of the falls also offers a safari adventure of a lifetime. Game reserves such as Hwange and Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, and Lower Zambezi and Kafue in Zambia are top choices for. These parks are the essence of wild Africa - remote, home to an abundance of wildlife, and great for walking safaris. Rwanda, Uganda and the Congo offer the ultimate safari experience in Africa - the opportunity to come face to face with some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas. These protected parks are also home to other animal incredible species such as golden monkeys and chimpanzees.
The Cost of a Safari
The cost of a safari can vary based on several factors, however, the two biggest contributors are logistics and comfort - the use of charter flights to access remote safari destinations and operational costs such as running generators and delivery of supplies. In conclusion, the more remote the destination and the more luxurious the accommodation, the higher the cost of a safari.Read on further to gain a better understanding of the cost of a safari.