Safari 101: What You Need To Know Before Going On An African Safari – Part 1

Planning for an African safari is a no-easy task, as there are lots of factors that we should carefully put into consideration; the best time to visit which could make or break the trip, the budget, the required vaccinations, your packing list, and so on. That’s why we have put together a set of answered questions that travelers usually ask themselves before planning on an African Safari!

Masai Mara - blogSunset at Masai Mara In Kenya

Remember that this is a once in a lifetime experience, that you should happily invest at; time, effort, and money :).

When should I start planning?

Booking early is a rule of thumb, and that’s for several reasons; 1. to find cheap/affordable flight tickets, 2. to find camps or lodges availability at affordable rates specially at peak-seasons.

Bonus tip: Though traveling off-season is a huge money-saver, however it’s not advisable to go on Safari during the low season -shoulder season* is better than the low season yet there is a 50/50 risk- which will be explained in details in the following point.

*Shoulder-season: Is the season falling right before, or right after the high-season

Safari in NamibiaNamibian Safari

What’s a good/bad time to go on Safari?

A good time is a time that doesn’t fall into the rain season -commonly referred to as the wet season-, because during this season everywhere is wet, which gives easy access for animals to water to drink and refresh, animals would hide behind tall grass, or under the shades of trees seeking a refuge from heavy rains, making it difficult for Safari-goers to spot them. However it is a good time to spot baby animals, and for bird-watching.

4470238900_1b4a9e0b79_zLeopard that is hardly spotted due to tall grass by Pim Stouten

That’s why the dry-season though scorching hot, is the best time to go, as this is when the grass is low, water resources are scarce, so animals would congregate around existing water holes, hence your chance to see them!

10922446506_c68f98b8bb_zA leopard watching a potential prey at Okavango Delta in Botswana by Jim Frost

How much does it cost?

Though the poverty in Africa, African Safaris are relatively expensive, but worth every penny, which are usually customized according to the customers’ interests, preferences, time frame, and budget.There are many agencies specialized in tailor-making African Safaris, just make sure that you are choosing a reputable one.

It’s better, and cheaper to travel in a group of 4, 6, or 8; 1. as a regular 4×4 would take 4 to 8 passengers comfortably seated next to a window, and 2. to split the cost equally.

17300598911_a0d47c6a9f_zPhoto courtesy: Pictures Of Money

Is Africa a safe place to go?

If you look at the world, you’d see that no place was or will ever be 100% safe, many countries have fallen victims to random, unfortunately deadly acts of terrorism, therefore what you hear in the media shouldn’t scare you from Africa, it’s just like any other continent.

Always take the necessary security precautions

  • Beware of pick-pocketing specially at crowded areas
  • Avoid being dressed in fancy clothing to not be subject to scammers,
  • Don’t look or act like a tourist, be confident & firm about your decisions, if you are offered a ride for an X amount negotiate the price, if you are surrounded by street-vendors be firm -not rude- that you don’t need their services, and so on.
  • Always keep your valuables at a safe-box in your hotel, and it’s even better if you do not pack valuables in the first place to avoid the headache.
  • Don’t walk alone at night, or go to remote areas, or places that are infrequently visited specially when you are alone
  • Always stay in groups

The more you’re far from the city, the more you’re safe, hence lodges and tented camps.

8141557915_37db392ae2_zPhoto courtesy: Doran

How is it like to go on an African Safari?

It’s a life changing experience where;

  1. You will get to stay up, close, and personal to animals in their natural habitat, and see how smart, and adorable they are
  2. You might be lucky to witness a live hunt, or an animal kill -it’s cruel, but that’s mother nature
  3. You will connect with nature at its best, and with locals as well
15746435316_fcce90c60f_zAfrican buffalo at Masai Mara by MudFlapDC

Where in Africa could I go on safari?

You have so many options;

  • Southern Africa which includes: South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi & Zambia.
  • East Africa which includes: Kenya, and Tanzania known for the Great Wildebeest Migration.
  • Central Africa which includes: Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Congo famous for Gorilla & Chimpanzees tracking.
9927084895_6224e4e817_zA pride of Lions resting watchfully in Masai Mara by Mikey O.

What are their highlights?


  • Masaai Mara for the ultimate Safari experience, and spotting the animal migration usually happening from July till October
  • Lake Nakuru for flamingos, birds, along with wildlife watching
  • Hell’s Gate for cycling, and trekking in the wild, and animal-spotting
  • Amboseli National Reserve
  • Lake Baringo
  • Lake Bogoria
  • Tsavo National Park which is divided into Tsavo East, and Tsavo West, it’s the oldest and largest park in Kenya
  • Samburu National Reserve
9758863526_6a94d52566_zMasai Mara Wildbeest Migration by Christopher Michel


  • The Serengeti Plains also to witness the animal migration usually happening
  • Ngorongoro Crater that has stable weather all year round
  • The Selous Game Reserve
  • Trekking in the Masaai Steppe near Tarangire
2016-02-01_1214Elephants at the Serengeti by Voyages Lambert


  • The Namib-Naukluft National Park: Africa’s largest game reserve, and one of the largest in the world.
  • Etosha National Park
  • The Skeleton Coast
  • Namib Desert
  • Black Rhinos tracking at Damaraland, in the northwest of Namibia
9452707947_996d972c8f_zWildebeests in Namibia by Massmo Relsig


  • The lower Zambezi River basin including Victoria Falls & taking a dip at the dangerous Devil’s Pool naturally formed
  • Lower Zambezi National Park
  • South Luangwa National Park
923931009_941c3cb248_zVictoria Falls in Zambia by Zest-pk

South Africa

  • Kruger National Park -5 hours from Johannesburg
  • Pilansberg National Park -the closest to Cape Town
  • Shamwari Game Reserve
  • Namibiti Game Reserve
16209247983_d4d3c45749_zAn angry lioness at Krurger Park by Scott Taylor


  • Okavango Delta wetland
  • The semi-arid Kalahari Desert
  • Chobe National Park
15532682219_cf03526142_z (1)
Leopard hunt by Ralf Κλενγελ


  • Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Reserve In Uganda
2339407620_3af8760412_zGorilla trekking in Uganda by Hjalmar Gislason


  • Volcanoes National Park for Mountain Gorilla Tracking
  • Nyungwe Forest National Park for Chimpanzees Tracking
18387006022_282d47c3af_zGorilla in Rwanda by Mone Loe


  • Hwange National Park
255143593_1de7760d9f_zThirsty Giraffe in Hwange Park in Zimbabwe by Federica Olivieri

What’s the difference between Safari in Southern Africa & in Eastern Africa?

In the east there is a high density of tourists in hotel-styled lodges, and tented camps, Safari trips are in mini-vans which makes it a bit difficult to get the best out of your Safari experience, but 4x4s, or open-air vans are a more comfortable, and a more expensive available option, along with more luxurious accommodation that was recently introduced.

As for Southern Africa accommodation, and food are more luxurious, giving a better intimate safari experience, as Safaris are in open-air land rovers.

2016-02-01_1226Quiver Tree Forest at Keetmanshoop in Namibia by Martian Heigan

When is the rainy & dry seasons in Africa?

East Africa

  • The Rainy Season: April to June, and from November till the beginning of December
  • The Dry Season: December to March

Southern Africa

  • The Rainy Season: November to March, which is the best time to visit Victoria Falls in Zambia
  • The Dry Season: May to August (temperatures may drop to freezing degrees at night)

Central Africa

  • The Rainy Season: March to April, and October to November
  • The Dry Season: December to March, and June to September
22470550284_2dc5a340cb_zSteenbok at Etosha National Park in Namibia by Renaud CHODKOWSKI

What does the “Big Five” refer to?

It refers to the African; lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and Cape buffalo. Though these aren’t the biggest animals you’d come across in Africa, it is believed that the name was coined by game hunters, who designated them as the hardest to succeed at catching or hunting.

22604032617_3505fca301_zA lion hunt in Namibia by Phineas_Gage

How much time is recommended to have a satisfying Safari experience?

I’d recommend at least 4 days of Safari, but that highly depends on; 1.where you are going, 2. how concentrated animals are in the area that you have chosen, and 3. how big the park is.

There is one tip that you should always take into account while planning your safari is to not rush things

8881387644_8174775d37_zSafari at the Serengeti in Tanzania by Colin J. McMechan

What type of animals could be encountered?

There are species that are commonly found everywhere in Africa such as; zebras, antelopes, impalas, giraffes, rhinos, snakes, kudus, wildebeests, African buffaloes, warthogs, ostriches, big cats, hyenas, hippos and crocodiles near lakes, etc

And some others could only be found in certain areas mostly in large herds such as;

  • Leopards: Masai Mara in Kenya, Okavango Delta & Greater Chobe area in Botswana, South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, and Greater Kruger area in South Africa
  • Lions: Masai Mara & Amboseli in Kenya, Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, Sabi Sand Reserve that’s adjacent to Kruger Park in South Africa, Okavango Delta in Botswana, and South Luangwa National Park in Zambia
  • Elephants: Chobe National Park & Okavango Delta in Botswana, Amboseli National Park in Kenya, Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, and Lower Zambezi National Park & South Luangwa National Park in Zambia
  • Cheetahs: Serengeti in Tanzania, and several game reserves in Namibia
  • Meerkats: In the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, The Namib Desert in Namibia, and in South Africa.

Bonus tip: There aren’t any tigers in Africa.

15247173628_86c11ba363_zCheetahs in South Africa by Shawn Kinkade

We haven’t covered it all :). Are there any information that you want to know? Let us know in the comments below…

And stay tuned for Part 2 😉

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