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How to Actually Plan an African Safari

Updated: Mar 4

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African Safari Jeep

Although many say they want to go on an African Safari, not many actually follow through with it. This could be because the price, or simply because they don't understand how to make it happen. You might even be surprised to find it affordable - you just need to know where to start.

Thanks to the internet, the lack of understanding is a non-issue with the right search and some free time. To ease the process, I've compiled the basics in one post. So for just a moment, throw away all your doubts and concerns, and realize your dream could be closer than it seems.

Serengeti National Park

African Safari

Located in: Tanzania

Size: 5,695 sq. miles

Possible animals encounters: 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, and getting started is as simple as filling out a form. This company gives you the option to add on beach trips, hot air balloon rides, romantic experiences, and more. You can also choose to go specifically during the migration period, which is a world-famous selling point of Serengeti.

The Serengeti National Park itself offers a special Big 5 tour that spends 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 African 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

Possible animal encounters: Elephant (this park is often called the “Land of Giants” because the elephants have large tusks), Wildebeest, Zebra, Giraffe, 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 options or click "plan my trip" to find one that suits you best.

Wild Africa offers a short, three day tour where patrons can camp or stay in a safari lodge. The lodge sits at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, making it a can’t-miss accommodation for nature lovers.

Kruger National Park

Adult and baby elephant

Located in: South Africa

Size: 7,523 sq. miles

Possible animal encounters: 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 African safaris ranging from two to seven days long. The most extensive 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 includes a sunset drive and barbecue.

Nhongo Safaris offers something at every price point. The budget-conscious can spend two to five days in a charming hut, while more luxurious travelers are housed in unique lodges. Other options include a fishing safari, cultural experience, and a visit to Cape Town.

Kurt Safari has single day packages taking place in the morning, afternoon, or both. If you don't have much time, the full-day option only takes nine to 10 hours. Others can enjoy self-drive tours, panoramic tours, and safaris paired with visits to Cape Town or Johannesburg.

Masai Mara National Reserve

Zebras in Africa

Located in: Kenya

Size: 583 sq. miles

Possible animal encounters: Lion, Buffalo, Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest, Cheetah, and Hippos.

Best time to visit: July-October

Tour companies:

Natural Tours and Safaris last two to four days, featuring extensive drives that seek out the coveted Big 5. Some options allow you to add hot-air balloon trips or visits to the Masai Mara village.

African Overland Tours can quite literally take you over the land depending on which package you choose. Some tours last more than 50 days and travel from Nairobi to Cape Town. Don’t worry, though; if you aren’t quite ready to commit to that, seven-day options are still available.

How to Get There

Lions on a safari

Once you decide which tour you like, getting to Africa is the obvious next step. Next, I'll tell you which airport to use, how to get to each national park, and where to stay while you're there.

Serengeti National Park

To visit Serengeti, the best course of action is to fly to the Kilimanjaro International Airport. It's about an hour from Arusha, where each of our suggested Serengeti tours begin. To get there, you can book an airport transfer, a shuttle bus, or a taxi.

You'll likely need somewhere to stay before embarkment, which is why I recommend the African-styled Four Points by Sheraton. The Mount Meru Hotel is also a good choice, with a beautiful pool and high-end aesthetic.

Amboseli National Park

The best airport for Amboseli is the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. From there, you need to get to Nairobi, which is about 20 minutes away by car or private transfer. Both of our suggested Amboseli tours include accommodations from Nairobi to the park.

A great place to stay in Nairobi is the Nairobi Serena Hotel, boasting an outdoor pool, great ratings, and a full-service spa. With similar ratings, the Sarova Panafric has two notable restaurants and bar.

Kruger National Park

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

Suffice to say, those who choose this route will want to book a hotel in Hazyview, such as the picturesque Hazyview Sun or the highly-rated Hotel Numbi and Gardens.

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 the city. If you go this route, you can choose from the hotels previously mentioned for Amboseli National Park.

What Should I Bring?

Safari Giraffe

There are a few things that are essential no matter which safari you join. First of all, you’ll need a good pair of binoculars for spotting animals at a distance. A reputable choice is the Barska Lucid View Binoculars, which are lightweight and easy to focus and carry. To keep your essentials in tow, pick up the Jester Backpack - a must-have that's loaded with pockets and able to stand on its own. Finally, don't forget how scorching hot Africa tends to be. A Hydro Flask Water bottle can keep beverages cold for 24 hours.

With this information, you no longer have an excuse not to follow your dreams! I hope this post serves as the inspiration you need to plan your own African safari.

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