That is definitely the first question I asked myself.
Africa is a huge and diverse continent and despite the “best of” lists out there, you have to pick the right adventure for you. It was about this time last year that our research was in full swing and our decisions were narrowing down. So without further ado, if you are even considering a safari for next summer, start your research now. Some of the high end and harder to reach places book up early.
Here are my four tips on planning your own safari adventure:
Do the Research
Get quotes from multiple companies, figure out what you want to see, decide on a budget, as well as the type of places you would like to stay in. We got quotes for a high end safari, a more affordable one and a middle of the road fully customized itinerary. There are so many ways to go on a safari adventure, but it is truly a unique experience. I started my research through recommendations, best of lists and travel books. I believe it’s Fodor’s that has a whole book dedicated to safaris (I checked out multiple books about Africa from the library to familiarize myself with the areas and travel options). There, you will find a list of companies that can help you facilitate the trip and most importantly, offer a knowledgeable guide. They also break it down by country and what animals you can see in each place, as well as other relevant information typical to a guide book.
Some people go on missions and extend their stays to safari, others choose pure luxury, some, like us, choose to almost rough it in tented camps. Whatever way you want to go, there’s a company that will help you find your way. Although it is possible to rent your own car, if you go to places like Tanzania, a guide is a great consideration since many roads don’t have clear signage (or any signage!), lights, and let’s face it, if you don’t know much about animals, you won’t be seeing any in the wilderness without a guide.
And yes, if you are considering luxury accommodations, and even if you are not, it’s a good idea to start the research a full year in advance. A couple of resources that were handy:
- Access 2 Tanzania
- Two other finalists we considered were Micato and Gamewatchers
- Blogs I found through Pinterest like this one, which was my packing inspiration, as well as this one.
Simplify (your itinerary & your luggage)
Although it is tempting to plan a safari in several places, you may want to consider maximizing one country/area of Africa. For example, we ended up in Tanzania because there were several parks we decided we wanted to see there, we didn’t need to fly anywhere between camps and we were able to tack on a little luxuriating in Zanzibar without adding another country (and potentially more visas and vaccinations) into the mix. Another option for us was South Africa, as there were many additional activities (like wine tasting, Table Top Mountain, surfing and Cape Town) that we could include in our itinerary.
When packing, focus on a few key pieces that you can mix and match. There’s a reason those safari outfits are all in neutral colors! There are tons of blogs out there that do a really nice job of providing you with a concise wardrobe. I had 3 sets of clothes: safari, travel and beach. This is pretty close to my final duffle bag contents minus shoes (hiking sneakers, flip flops and high-top converse), medicine, and snack bars (way too many! Although they did come in handy).
Our Itinerary At A Glance:
- Fly into Kilimanjaro / spend night in Arusha, African Tulip
- Tarangire National Park / spend night in Lake Burunge Tented Camps
- Ngorongoro Crater National Park / spend 2 nights in Ang’ata Tented Camps
- Serengeti National Park / spend 3 nights in Kati Kati Tented Camps
- Fly to Zanzibar / spend 4 nights at Hotel Baraza
Stay True to You
If you are like us and you enjoy being active, incorporate walking safaris or hikes whenever you can (we did a hike at Ngorongoro Crater and it was amazing!! And much needed). Make sure you fit in a little time for movement. We specifically told our trip planner that we didn’t want to spend more than 3-4 hours daily in the car driving from destination to destination. With a more relaxed pace, I was up early nearly every morning and did some sort of body weight workout, yoga flow, pilates routine – whatever I felt like that day. Packing bands is easy and light and we also packed a frisbee (last minute addition), which we did end up using in the Serengeti. The bands were really great during longer layovers, and we even took turns carrying both duffle bags and walking between terminals to do some farmer’s walks! If you are interested in additional ideas and specific workouts I recently wrote a post on best travel workouts inspired by this trip. Best case, if you can spare the extra 4 days or so, go for it, climb a mountain!! Kilimanjaro got away from us this time, but maybe some day…
Expect Nothing; Appreciate Everything
Finally, after all your research, planning, and everything you heard from everyone else, just let it all go…. Forget about the planning. Enjoy every part of the journey. Do a movie marathon, finish a book, eat ice cream on a plane high above the Sahara Desert. Stare endlessly at an African TV (bonfire + sunset).
Take it all in.
Some of my favorite moments from our experience:
- Watching Collateral Beauty on the plane – what a great thoughtful, intricate movie – concepts that make the world go round – Love, time, death.
- Traveling intentionally – not rushed, but focused on enjoying every part including the transfers in between
- Eating ice cream on the plane flying over the Sahara
- Complete trust in a guide we didn’t know
- The juxtaposition of the Maasai tribe in traditional garb with cell phones in the middle of nowhere
- Looking for animals, staring at them, watching them, being amazed at them
- Clear and pure mind, being present, free from distractions, away from technology and modern conveniences, just being
- Wild Africa as far as the eye can see
- Ngorongoro Crater – acacia trees, sunsets, cool air, loved everything about the camp there, even the hot water bottles!
- Elephants (their eyelashes, amazing leathery skin, soft, but strong steps, baby elephants) giraffes (slow awkward and graceful movements, their spots), lion manes, lion cubs, the whole pride, hippos ‘running’ into water, African love birds, warthogs bathing in mud!! Zebras and their stripes, the way Rhinos run, monkeys gazing sideways, African television, groundnuts & popcorn
- Zanzibar sunrise
- Bike rides on the beach, bonfire on the beach, full moon on the beach, dancing on the beach
- Trying something new, trying everything new
- Returning with new perspective
Stay active, explore and share!