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Top 5 Tips for Planning and Booking an African Safari

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Alice Lombard

Destination Expert

Safari Enquiry
Alice Lombard

Author: Alice Lombard - 21 December 2013

Last Update: 2 July 2024

Many dream of planning a safari in Africa. However, it requires careful consideration and preparation. This comprehensive guide will provide you with essential tips and advice on how to book and plan the perfect safari, ensuring a seamless and unforgettable experience.

1. Know When You Want to Go on Safari

Choosing the right time to go on a safari is crucial to maximizing your wildlife viewing opportunities and overall experience. The climate and wildlife patterns vary greatly across the continent, so it’s essential to know the best times to visit specific regions.

Safari Calendar: Best Time to Go on a Safari

To help you plan your safari, take a look at this seasonal outline of what you can experience across the continent – dig into the full month-by-month safari calendar of the best safari experiences to plan around:

Month Seasonality Recommended Destination and Safari
January: Lush vegetation, spectacular scenery, and fewer visitors in many safari countries.
  • Low Season
  • Green Season
  • Calving Season
February: Cuteness overload with numerous baby animals in various regions.
  • Low Season
  • Green Season
  • Calving Season
  • Thrilling predator action in the Southern Serengeti during the wildebeest calving season.
  • Ideal gorilla trekking conditions in East Africa.
March: Optimal wildlife viewing in Southern Africa, with fewer visitors than the busier festive season.
  • Low Season
  • Botswana’s salt pans fill up and attract an array of wildlife.
  • Newborn wildebeest calves join the migration in the Southern Serengeti.
  • Excellent wildlife viewing in South Africa, with fewer visitors providing a more exclusive experience.
April: The southern landscapes are bathed in the lushness of the rainy season.
  • Low Season
  • Safari areas in Southern Africa thrive after the rains pass, with exceptional birding opportunities.
  • Victoria Falls, bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe, reaches its peak flow.
May: This shift to the dry winter season is complemented by mild weather, setting the stage for optimal wildlife viewing experiences.
  • Low Season
June: The transition from rainy to iconic ‘dry season’ across Africa.
  • High Season
  • Dry Season
  • Exceptional Great Migration experiences in Tanzania’s Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.
  • Prime safari encounters notably in South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
  • The unparalleled Sardine Run on South Africa’s east coast with billions of sardines being trailed by sharks, dolphins, whales, and seabirds.
July: The height of the dryer season is the apex for wildlife enthusiasts, so expect fuller parks.
  • High Season
  • Dramatic wildebeest migration in the Western Corridor of the Serengeti.
  • Ideal gorilla trekking conditions in Rwanda.
  • The Okavango Delta in Botswana has high water levels in the dry season, perfect for dugout-canoe trips.
  • Massive herds of elephants convene in Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park and Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.
August: The subsequent dry months culminate in August.
  • High Season
  • The Great Migration progresses from the northern Serengeti into Kenya.
  • World-class safari experiences, especially in Zambia.
  • The end of the dry season in Mana Pools in Zimbabwe is perfect for walking safaris.
  • South Africa’s Namaqualand transforms from a semi-desert into a vast expanse of vibrant flowers.
September: Exceptional wildlife viewing across the continent due to high concentrations of game in many parks.
  • High Season
  • Thrilling climax of the wildebeest migration, with epic river crossings in Kenya’s Masai Mara.
  • Annual whale festival in South Africa’s Hermanus.
  • Indian Ocean islands warm up for beachside escapes.
October: Exceptional wildlife viewing, with animals congregating at water sources as the season’s first rains, provides a refreshing break from the high temperatures of the dry season.
  • High Season
  • Rainy Season
  • Massive elephant herds gather along Botswana’s Chobe River.
  • Diverse species share waterholes in Namibia’s Etosha National Park, creating unique photo opportunities.
  • Thousands of hippos crowd in river pools in Tanzania’s Katavi National Park.
November: Low visitor numbers in parks offer a more exclusive safari experience.
  • High Season
  • Rainy Season
  • Lush landscapes and the return of vibrant greenery across Southern Africa.
  • Fantastic birding with migratory species and birds in breeding plumage across Zimbabwe.
December: Many regions close for the season. However, South Africa offers enduring game-viewing experiences.
  • High Season
  • Green Season
  • Rainy Season
  • Sea turtles laying eggs on South Africa’s sandy beaches.
  • Start of summer in Mozambique and Mauritius.

2. Know Where You Want to Go

Determining your safari destination is the first step in planning your adventure. Africa offers a variety of safari experiences across different countries, each with its unique landscapes and wildlife. Popular destinations include Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Uganda.

Sossusvlei dunes | Photo credits: Namib Desert Lodge Gondwana Collection Namibia
Sossusvlei dunes | Photo credits: Namib Desert Lodge Gondwana Collection Namibia

Decide what safari type you are comfortable with. Do you prefer joining a small group departure to make friends and share memories, or do you prefer your own transport so that you’re flexible and can maximize your game viewing opportunities?

Alternatively, do you prefer flying from camp to camp, minimizing time on the road and maximizing time around your camp and lodge, sharing game viewing vehicles with others? This all impacts price and experience.

Region Country Popular Attraction
Southern Africa Botswana
South Africa
Okavango Delta
Quirimbas Archipelago
Kruger National Park
Kafue National Park
Victoria Falls
East Africa Kenya
Masaai Mara
Indian Ocean Islands Mauritius

3. Decide on Your Estimated Safari Budget

Setting a budget is essential for planning your safari. Your budget will influence your choice of destination, accommodation, and activities.

Consider all costs, including flights, accommodation, park fees, meals, and additional activities such as hot air ballooning or guided walks. Use our handy cost calculator tool to work out your budget in the currency of your choice.

4. Know Your Travel Style

Understanding your travel style will help you choose the right type of safari. Consider whether you prefer luxury lodges or mobile camping, guided group tours or private safaris, and the level of adventure you seek.

Tailor your safari to match your preferences for comfort, privacy, and flexibility. Our Travel Advisors can help you select the tours and itineraries suited to your specific travel style.

Bush Lunch | Photo credit: Ole Serai Luxury Camp Moru Kopjes
Bush Lunch | Photo credit: Ole Serai Luxury Camp Moru Kopjes

Here are some examples:

  • Luxury Safari: High-end lodges, private guides, and exclusive game drives.
  • Adventure Safari: Walking safaris, fly-camping, and off-the-beaten-path experiences.
  • Family Safari: Child-friendly accommodations, activities tailored for kids, and family-oriented itineraries.

5. Choose an Established Travel Company like Discover Africa Safaris

Selecting a reputable travel company is crucial to ensuring a well-organized and safe safari. Our previous clients (read their reviews here) consider Discover Africa to be one of the most trusted travel providers around. It’s crucial to provide us with key information, as detailed below, so we can help make your dream safari a reality:

  • Your preferred travel dates
  • Destinations and experiences you’re interested in
  • Budget and accommodation preferences
  • Number of travelers and room requirements
  • Specific interests, such as wildlife photography or bird watching

With Discover Africa, you’ll get first-hand travel advice from seasoned travel experts on the booking process. They’re here to make your life easier from start to finish—booking all arrangements, crafting a personalized itinerary, and being available for any questions or to sort out any issues that may arise during your holiday.

Consider these tips to help you make the most of our services:

Start Planning Early:

Safaris across Africa are extremely popular, with limited availability. Begin your planning at least a year in advance to secure the best accommodations and deals.

Your level of accommodation is ultimately the biggest factor that would influence the price of your safari holiday, this is the case other than the obvious factors such as the length of your safari and how many people are sharing your safari vehicle with you.

Game drive observing an elephant | Photo credit: One Nature Nyaruswiga
Game drive observing an elephant | Photo credit: One Nature Nyaruswiga

Let us know what accommodation you prefer. Some clients are not comfortable under canvas tents, and others prefer the smaller boutique camps. Some clients prefer us to work with a budget and choose accommodation accordingly, whereas others might want to choose the lodge and will adjust the budget accordingly.

How many rooms do you need? This will help us in securing the rooms for you and also what accommodation options you would have for your group size. If you are 6 adults, then you would fit into 1 vehicle and would need 3 rooms minimum, so this helps a great deal when planning your safari itinerary and more so what accommodation and transport options we can look at.

Be Flexible:

Flexibility with your travel dates can help you find better deals and availability. Find out when you can travel and if these dates are flexible. It is important to check flight route options to the destinations you want to visit in Africa and then back home again. We can help you with these.

Lion Couple | Photo credit: Hideaways Bumbusi Wilderness Camp
Lion Couple | Photo credit: Hideaways Bumbusi Wilderness Camp

The sooner we can work with real arrival and departure dates, the easier it is to find you accommodation and rooms based on what is available. We can then also “provisionally” book these rooms for you just in case we need them. Without dates, there is nothing we can reserve for you.

Communicate Clearly:

Provide detailed information about your preferences and expectations to your travel advisor. What you would like to see and experience is key to us designing you the perfect itinerary and making that a reality. The more you tell us, the easier it is to plan and get together.

Here we would like to prioritise what is important to you and design your journey accordingly. So let us know what matters. Wildlife and specific species are crucial to some; others would like to concentrate on accommodation levels and comfort. Some people prefer privacy, and others love travelling with a group.

Secure Your Safari and Stay Informed:

A deposit is the only way that we can secure your rooms, transport, local flights, and other services. This requires a commitment from us and from you. We can always still make changes, especially if it is a long time before you travel (outside of 3 months). Peak season rooms are limited, and the best value options also are limited and in demand, so securing your rooms is crucial.

It is important to keep up with any travel advisories, visa requirements, and health precautions for your destinations.

From the moment you have paid your deposit, you can start relaxing. The core of what you need is secured. We have rooms and international flights, and we now focus on fine-tuning your safari journey. Here we can add activities like hot air ballooning and make sure you are 100% happy with what we have decided on.

Hippos in the water | Photo credit: Mogotlho Safari lodge
Hippos in the water | Photo credit: Mogotlho Safari lodge

Pay the balance of your invoice in advance. Clients wonder why they have to pay for their safari in full before arrival. This is because rooms are not easy to sell last minute, and the lodges cannot run the risk of their rooms being empty.

All accommodation options require full payment a month in advance; otherwise, the booking is cancelled, and deposit payments are lost. We therefore, need your balance payment to reflect with us a minimum of 45 days prior to your safari so that we have time to transfer the necessary funds to everyone involved.

Understanding the booking process will help you plan efficiently:

  • Discuss your preferences and requirements with your travel agent.
  • Our travel experts will design a customized itinerary based on your inputs.
  • Secure your accommodations and services with a deposit.
  • Fine-tune your itinerary and add any additional activities.
  • Pay the remaining balance before your departure.
  • Receive your confirmed itinerary, flight details, and necessary documents. Get ready to go on your dream safari!

Need help deciding where to go? Reach out to Discover Africa today for tailored advice and first-hand knowledge of destinations across this incredible continent.

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