Deciding to go on a safari is a far cry easier decision than navigating through endless information about them. Information on the Internet is mind-boggling. Safari destinations, tour companies that sponsor them, venues, accommodations and pricing are as varied and vast as the country and wildlife.
After weeks of sifting through Internet sites, brochures, travel books and guides, the following is practical information and tips to selecting and preparing for an African safari:
Choosing a Safari Destination Africa is a huge continent and there are many safari sites Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, etc. Kruger National Park, located in South Africa is the largest game park. It is surrounded by many private game reserves and promises visitors viewing of the “Big Five”-elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, Cape Buffalo-and is a good first-time safari destination choice.
Safari Tour Operators: Find an established tour operation. Check them out by reputation, rating, etc. Find out if they operate from the US, Africa or have offices in both countries, It’s advantageous to have in-Country offices or employees. Have a budget in mind; safari pricing and accommodations vary greatly. Safaris can be all inclusive or you can opt for ala carte. It’s often easier and less expensive to do all inclusive, air, lodging transports, meals etc. Also, if anything goes wrong, they are on the hook to fix it,
Accommodations: Decide if you prefer more opulent accommodations or if you are really seeking an authentic, rustic safari experience. There are tented, lodge style accommodations, walking, river and land safaris. Some itineraries allow you to experience several locations and types of safaris.
Passports and Visas: Be informed about the region(s) you plan to visit. Read the fine print regarding visas, passport, immunizations and other in-country legal requirements generally available on the State Department and CDC websites. South Africa has strict passport laws. Err on the side of caution and make sure you have plenty of empty Visa pages. (Amendment and Endorsement pages located in the back of the passport cannot be used for Visa stamps). Keep copies of your passport, credit cards, license etc. at home and with you in a safe place.
Immunizations: Most insurance companies do not pay for travel immunizations but they will recommend or refer you to travel clinics. Some doctors’ offices will provide immunizations but may not have needed vaccines on hand and must order them. Travel clinics, specializing in travel immunizations, also provide counsel in all aspects of a safe travel experience. Vaccines vary depending upon your itinerary. Over the counter medications for sleep, nausea, diarrhea, insect bites etc. may be recommended. Sunscreen is a must.
Weather: Depending upon the time of year, the weather can vary significantly from one part of the country to the next, so check it out and pack accordingly. There are huge climate differences from one part of the country to another. Our game reserve was arid and dry and temperature fluctuated dramatically from hot to cold. It’s wise to bring clothing that can be layered for warmth or removed as the days warm. A fleece is a staple during winter and spring. The key is to pack lightly but efficiently. There are luggage weight restrictions on the game reserve transport planes.
Safety: Prudence is always recommended and while there are many precautions about the countries political, racial and health issues, it is wise to pay heed but not to let the bad press deter you from the adventure. Exercise practical caution in city center areas, and use good sense in the wilderness.
Travel Insurance: Most banks and credit cards offer travel insurance that covers anything from missed connections to emergency medical. It’s recommended and make sure you get a copy of plan coverage.
Preplanning and preparation will help make an otherwise enjoyable experience, totally unforgettable!