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How to Actually Plan an African Safari

Updated: Sep 5, 2022

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African Safari Jeep

Although many of us want to go on an African Safari, not many actually implement the idea. Part of it could be due to the price point or a minimal understanding of what a safari actually entails. Some people probably could afford it, but they don't have a clue where to start.

Thanks to the internet, the lack of understanding is a non-issue with the right search and some free time. To help ease the process, I'll be covering what it means to actually go on a safari. As far as money is concerned, many of these tour companies offer budget accommodations, you just have to be okay with "roughing it."

So, throw away all your doubts and concerns for a moment and imagine encountering wildlife with beautiful scenery. First, I'm going to break down a few of the best safari spots in the continent and how to start.

Serengeti National Park

African Safari

Located in: Tanzania

Size: 5,695 sq. miles

Some animals you can expect to see here: Wildebeest, Lion, Zebra, Cheetah, Giraffe, Elephant, and Birds.

Best time to visit: Late June-September. The wildebeest migration occurs between June and July.

Tour companies:

Safari 365 offers personalized experiences for American visitors. Getting started is as simple as filling out the form on their website, where it gives you the option to add on beach trips, hot air balloon rides, romantic touches, and more. You can also choose to go specifically during the migration period, which is a world-famous selling point of this park.

The Serengeti National Park itself offers a special Big 5 tour that lasts six nights in the park. The Big 5 is a term that refers to the most popular wildlife in Africa: the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo.

Asanja Africa lets you choose safari packages ranging from three to eight days long. These packages can be customized to accommodate visitors' specific goals. There is even a special honeymoon package for newlyweds.

Amboseli National Park

Trees in Africa

Located in: Kenya

Size: 151.4 sq. miles

Some animals you can expect to see here: Elephants (this park is often called the “Land of Giants” because the elephants have large tusks), Wildebeest, Zebra, Giraffes, Hyena, Lion, Cheetah, and Buffalo.

Best time to visit: June-September or January-February.

Tour Companies:

TourHQ offers wildlife tours, nature tours, culture tours, and safari tours depending on what your focus is. You can either scroll through a list of available tours or click "plan my trip" to find the one that suits you best.

Wild Africa offers a short, three day tour that allows patrons to camp or stay in a safari lodge. The lodge is situated at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, which is a can’t-miss opportunity for nature lovers.

Kruger National Park

Adult and baby elephant

Located in: South Africa

Size: 7,523 sq. miles

Some animals you can expect to see here: Hippo, Giraffe, Elephant, Zebra, Wildebeest, Hyena, Buffalo, and sometimes Lions and Rhinoceros.

Best time to visit: April-September

Tour companies:

Kruger Park Tours have classic safaris ranging in length from two to seven days. The longest one features morning drives, a three-hour tour of a Big 5 reserve, and plenty of time in the park. The shortest one lets you choose between an early morning bush walk or a game drive and features a sunset drive and barbecue.

Nhongo Safaris offer classic Jeep rides and a walk on the wild side with The Thriller Experience. This tour includes zip lining, biking, and white water rafting alongside game viewing drives. The panorama safari showcases the park’s natural beauty, and the southern Kruger safari spans over eight days with an included night drive. There is truly an option for everybody with this company.

Kurt Safari has a special one-day package that better suits budget travelers or those who don't have much time to spare. This tour lasts around nine to 10 hours. For others, there are panoramic tours and longer tours available also.

Masai Mara National Reserve

Zebras in Africa

Located in: Kenya

Size: 583 sq. miles

Some animals you can expect to see here: Lion, Buffalo, Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest, Cheetah, and Hippos.

Best time to visit: July-October

Tour companies:

Natural Tours and Safaris feature tours that last two to four days, and each of them take you on an extensive drive in hopes of seeing the Big 5. The four day tour offers the option to add a hot-air balloon trip and a stop in the Great Rift Valley.

African Overland Tours can quite literally take you over the land depending on which tour you choose. Some tours are more than 50 days long and feature trips from Nairobi to Cape Town. Don’t worry, though. If you aren’t quite ready to commit to that, you can still go on their seven-day tour.

How to Get There

Lions on a safari

One you choose your preferred tour, you need to book tickets to Africa. The following airports are the best choice for these safaris. We also cover how to get from the airport to the national park, and where to stay while you’re there.

Serengeti National Park

Your best choice to get to this park is to fly into the Kilimanjaro International Airport. The airport is about an hour from Arusha, where most of the Serengeti tours begin (including all of our suggested tours). The best choice for getting to Arusha after arriving at the airport is a shuttle bus or a taxi.

Once you arrive to Arusha, you'll need somewhere to stay before embarking on your safari. If you’re looking for luxury, I suggest Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge. If not, an inexpensive choice that's still nice and clean is the A1 Hotel and Resort.

Amboseli National Park

The best airport to access this park is the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. From there, you need to get to Nairobi, which is only 18 minutes away by car. Both of the tours suggested above include accommodation from Nairobi to the park.

One of the top hotels to stay at in Nairobi is the Nairobi Serena Hotel. It has great ratings, an outdoor pool, and a full-service spa. If you’re looking for an inexpensive one night stay, you can check out the Sarova Panafric, which has good ratings as well.

Kruger National Park

To get to this park, you should fly into the O.R. Tambo International Airport. Two of the tours I suggested, Kruger Park Tours and Nhongo Safaris, will pick you up from this airport. The other tour, Kurt Safari, picks up from hotels in Hazyview and at the Perry’s Bridge Trading Post and Tourism Center.

If you opt for the Kurt Safari tour, you should stay in Hazyview. The Protea Hotel is a bit away but a suitable option for the night.

Masai Mara National Reserve

Most of these trips start in Nairobi, so you’ll fly into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and take a taxi to Nairobi. For this option, I recommend the same hotels under the Amboseli National Park header.

What Should I Bring?

Safari Giraffe

No matter which safari you choose, there are a few things you'll want to bring. First of all, you’ll need a good pair of binoculars in case you see an animal at a distance. A good choice is the Barska Lucid View Binoculars, which are lightweight and easy to focus and carry. A Jester Backpack is also a good idea for keeping your essentials in tow. Furthermore, it's important to remember how hot Africa is. Bring along a Hydro Flask water bottle to stay hydrated.

There ya go! Now you have no excuse to not follow your dreams. I hope this post serves as a jump-off point to the best adventure of your life.


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