“I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up and was not happy,”
I wholeheartedly agree with the quote from one of my famous authors from English Literature days in school and my fellow Mojito lover. Having been born in Kenya, in East Africa, growing up in Africa has truly enriched my body and soul in so many adventures, memories, knowledge and life experiences.
One experience, which no matter how many times you do it, is just always so amazing, is going on an African safari. There is something about seeing lions up close in the grasslands, or a cheetah jumping on a neighbouring car’s roof (or your own car roof) which is just unexplainable. It is a truly life changing experience.
It is thrilling to see wild animals in their natural habitat, going about their daily lives. If a safari is on your bucket list tick it off sooner rather than later (it is definitely worth it) and here is how to get the best out of your safari.
Firstly where to go on safari? I am going to be unashamedly biased and say East Africa, either Kenya or Tanzania, although it is meant to be really good in South Africa too. You can read about one of fellow blogger Angie Silver’s luxurious safaris in South Africa at Singita Lebombo here.
For the purpose of this blog post I am going to talk about Kenya as safaris in Kenya are what I am most familiar with.
Planning the Safari
First things first is the destination. Within Kenya itself, you have a choice of several game reserves. As important as the game reserve you choose, is the accommodation, which can range from budget lodges to luxurious camps. I went for the luxurious option and stayed at the Olare Mara Kempinski on my last safari which was amazing and is in Masai Mara.Read about it here. It is sometimes worth it to spend a little bit more for an unforgettable experience as after all it is a once in a lifetime Out of Africa experience 😉
You then have to decide whether you are going to go for a package tour or do it yourself. There is a benefit of having a good driver, who can often double up as a fantastic guide. They often know how to seek out the hiding spots of all the animals making your chances of seeing lots of animals higher.
National park entry fees
An important consideration is that there is a daily fee for national parks which range from $40 for some of the smaller parks to upwards of $60 for some of the bigger parks. If you take your own vehicle there may be a charge for the vehicle too so make sure you add this to your overall budget costs for the trip.
Timing is everything
The time of year you choose to do your safari will influence the cost of your trip as well as the amount of wildlife you are likely to see. The dry season, which runs from June to October, is usually the best time of the year to see wildlife. It is also the most expensive and busiest time of year, especially August as this is when the Wildebeest migration happens. The Wildebeest Migration, is one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World” and also known as The World Cup of Wildlife.
You need to decide what works best for you in terms of timing and cost. If you can, consider going on a safari just before high season kicks in.
Fly or Drive?
In Kenya, you can choose to either arrive at your chosen accommodation by car or fly into the neatest airstrip. The cheaper option is to drive but it is also the longest journey.
Flying, may be slightly pricier but you save lots of time and can see the game park from an alternative angle.
Packing for your safari
Once you have booked your safari and the time has come to pack, here are some suggestions of must bring items:
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Flip flops
- Swimwear (if your camp has a pool)
- A warm jacket/sweater for evenings
- Insect repellant
- Sun cream
- Light clothes
- A blanket or shawl for early morning drives
- Camera with spare batteries and various lens
- Travel backpack
- A novel to read for when you are back at the camp
- Always carry cash with you and a form of ID
The Safari experience
Once you have arrived at your destination, make sure you arrange to do an early morning game drive. Although it may be more tempting to have a lie in instead, trust me it is so worth it! An evening drive is also recommended to experience sunset in the park.
Once you go on your first safari don’t go with high expectations of seeing the big 5 all in one go, although you may get lucky and see them all in your first drive!
Do keep your eyes and ears open to ensure you don’t miss out on an animal hiding!
Always be respectful of the animals and keep noise to a minimum when you are nearby so not to disrupt them in their natural habitat too much.
Finally make sure you live in the moment use all your senses to fully experience the moment and adventure. As tempting as it may be to photography absolutely everything, take a moment out to just take in the surroundings, the smell of the african savannah, the smells of the game drive and the sound of the animals.