With a wide-range diversity in safari activities and travel styles, the possibilities for exploring Africa are endless. Naturally, travelers seeking to visit Africa would want to maximize their experience given their budget and time. And with a myriad of safari tours available from many different operators, it is normal to feel overwhelmed. So, how do you choose the best safari vacation package depending on your budget?
1. Know where you want to go
Africa is a huge continent made up of 54 countries. Where do you want to go? Popular safari destinations include:
- East Africa: famous for “real Africa” wilderness, raw wildlife adventures, primate trekking, and the Great Wildebeest Migration. Countries include Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda.
- Southern Africa: known for diverse activities that you can add to your wildlife safari including visits to vineyards and excursions to see dolphins, whales, penguins, etc. Countries in this region include South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.
- African coastal areas: Zanzibar, Mombasa, Cape Town
Of course, knowing where you want to go entails knowing how accessible these places are. So make sure you know the ways to get to the country of your destination. For example, you’re eyeing to visit Kenya. Are flights available to Kenya from your city/country? If not, what are your alternatives in getting there? These factors can greatly affect your budget and schedule so plan wisely. Also, take note that some places are remote and you might need to get charter flights to get there, which inevitably increases your expenses.
If you’re traveling with family, plan your safari vacation package to destinations that are family friendly. This way, every member of the brood gets to enjoy the holiday. If you’re traveling for a romantic honeymoon, perhaps you would want to try a bush and beach excursion. This takes you to two contrasting and yet utterly breathtaking sceneries. If you’re traveling solo and you would want to meet up with like-minded travelers, certain countries offer group safaris that are both unforgettable and easy on the pocket.
2. Know what you want to see
From endangered primates to enormous herds of wildebeests to rare animal species to the big cats and the famous Big Five, Africa will never disappoint. So the big question is, what do you want to see?
If like many first-time safari-goers, you are after the Big Five, only a few game reserves have sufficient space and the right mix of habitats for all five species to co-exist in harmony. You’ll get the best chances for these sightings in Tanzania (Serengeti National Park), Kenya (Masai Mara National Park), South Africa (Kruger National Park) and Botswana (Chobe National Park). Other mammals can also be found in these countries – leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, and so much more.
For impressive elephant herds, Botswana and Zimbabwe are on top of the list while Namibia’s Etosha National Park provides one of the best places in the world to see endangered black rhinos.
For primate trekking, this experience is particularly awesome in Uganda and Rwanda. These countries are naturally blessed with a slew of primate species including the only remaining Mountain Gorillas in the world.
What if what you’re looking for is a more dramatic wildlife experience? Say, predator activities? Well, these sightings can be randomly witnessed almost in all parks or reserves in Africa but for higher success, go to East Africa for its Great Wildebeest Migration. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa is another excellent bet.
If you’re looking into seeing an amazing array of birds, Uganda, South Africa, and Morocco are among the top birding destinations in Africa.
3. Know the different accommodation options
Choosing the right type of accommodation significantly affects your safari experience — and budget. Here’s an overview of the different accommodation options you can find in Africa:
- Budget camping: Perfect for those who are traveling on a shoestring budget and are more keen on getting one with nature and wildlife. If you don’t mind sacrificing some comforts and doing away with a few amenities like private bathroom and wifi, this option could be best for you.
- Lodge: Usually classified into budget, mid-range, and luxury, lodges are four-walled hotel-like rooms. The difference between budget, mid-range, and luxury are the size of the room, availability of amenities and level of service you can get.
- Tented camps: These are unique tented accommodations, usually set in strategic locations that provide exemplary wilderness vibes.
4: Set your schedule and maximize your adventure
How many days or weeks will you be able to allot for your safari? Know that some parks or reserves may require some time to get into and, if you want to explore every nook and cranny of such park, you may need a minimum number of days to be able to do so. For example, you are eyeing to see the Serengeti in Tanzania. A typical safari to explore Serengeti would be at least 2-3 days. If you’re eyeing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which is Africa’s highest peak, you also need a certain number of days to be able to trek to the summit.
So depending on what you want to see, where you want to go and what you want to do (example, wildlife safari then go to the beach), you have to consider your schedule/availability as well. This way, you can maximize your adventure and plan accordingly.
5. Know what’s included and excluded in your safari vacation package
Every safari vacation package has different offers. Make sure you know what’s included in your package and what’s not. This doesn’t only affect your safari experience, it will also significantly affect your budget.
Look for a tour operator that could honestly accommodate your needs. A tour operator who’s always willing to answer your questions will also help you get the peace of mind you deserve.
6. Know when to go
Like many other countries, there are low and peak seasons in every country in Africa. If you are eyeing to see a certain event or experience a particular festival, you might just be looking at a certain date/season. Or, if you only have a particular time for your holiday (example, your vacation leave), time may not be that much of an issue as you may not be able to change it. But, know that there are certain times to see certain animals or animal movement. Let’s say you’re planning to see the river crossing during the Wildebeest Migration. This only happens between July and October. Or you’re after the red elephants of Tarangire. These herds usually congregate around Tarangire river between June and October when it’s dry season.
Also, if your time is flexible and you want to catch lower rates, travel during the low season. This usually coincides with the rainy season but if you come around this time, you will be rewarded with lush vegetations and a dramatic price reduction.
7. Know your options of getting around and activities you want to try
Did you know there are many ways to go on a safari? Aside from the 4WD rides, you can also go on a group safari where you ride mini busses, vans or sometimes also a 4WD. Horse riding safaris, night game drives, canoe trips, hot air ballooning, and even camel rides are also available. So if you are keen on experiencing any of this, make sure that that activity is available on the countries or parks you’re going, and never forget to include these in your budget plan.
With these factors in mind, it’s almost impossible to end up with a mediocre safari vacation package. Whether you are on a scrimpy budget or on an open wallet, an African safari will truly be a memorable experience. All you need is some careful planning and some expert, honest recommendations from a reputable, experienced organizer. For questions, inquiries or any safari-related concern, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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