Tips for your first safari

Tips for your first safari : Nobody ever forgets their first safari experience in Africa: the early game drives, the bush sundowners, the Big Five sightings, and the starry nights spent by the campfire. It’s an experience unlike any other. But organizing your ideal safari can be a daunting task. There are many factors to think about, such as which nation to visit and what to pack, so start with these professional suggestions for making the most of your very first African safari.

A Little Safari history.

The origins of the modern safari can be traced back hundreds of years, to the time when traders from Africa and Arabia travelled great distances across difficult terrain from one city to another. It follows that the word “safari” is derived from a word in Swahili that means “journey” in rough translation. When Europeans came to the continent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they revolutionized this age-old custom by establishing a framework for multi-day expeditions across African landscapes in pursuit of untamed wildlife.

Many of these pioneers, such as Denys Finch Hatton of out of Africa fame, who established the Kenyan safari in the 1920s, included hunting as part of their expeditions. Fortunately, many African nations outlawed hunting and established national parks as a means of protecting their natural riches when wildlife protection gained prominence in the 1970s. Nowadays, the majority of safaris follow a conservation-based philosophy that blends luxurious accommodations with ethical wildlife and cultural immersion.

What can you expect on safari?

Ballooning over the Serengeti. Tanzania.

While each safari is distinct in its own right, your everyday schedule will be very similar. A steaming cup of coffee in your tent before going on a game drive or hot air balloon ride, where you can see animals at their most active, is how most days begin before dawn. You’ll then head back to camp to eat and unwind during the hottest part of the day. A lot of lodges offer relaxing areas with pools, spas, or observation terraces. You’ll depart for a second game drive in the cool of the mid-afternoon, complete with sundowners in the bush and dinner and drinks by the campfire.

What kinds of animals can you anticipate seeing on your very first safari? There’s plenty more to discover, but undoubtedly you’ll want to cross off seeing the Big Five (the lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino) from your bucket list. Your driver-guide will be aware of the best locations to see other iconic African creatures, such as hyenas, giraffes, zebras, and crocodiles, in addition to a variety of vibrant birds. Tell your guide if there is an animal you’ve been dying to see so they can plan your game drives appropriately and bring binoculars for the best wildlife viewing.

In addition to game drives, most camps offer a variety of additional unique activities. You can go on a walking safari with a naturalist in certain private reserves and conservancies, and they’ll point out interesting little details like animal dens and tracks, as well as dung beetles. Take part in ethical tours to nearby villages or community initiatives, go on a nighttime drive to see nocturnal creatures, or just spend time stargazing. Don’t forget to take in all of Africa’s sights and sounds.

A bush walk with a Maasai naturalist in Tsavo, Kenya

Africa is a vast continent with diverse ecosystems and fauna that differ depending on the region, ranging from the endless savannahs of East Africa to the marine-rich coast of South Africa and the gorilla-inhabited rainforests of Rwanda. However, if this is your first time going on a safari, South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania are the three nations that will make your safari dreams come true.

South Africa.

The best place to have your first safari experience is South Africa, with its mix of cities, coastline, and wildlife reserves. While visiting the Rainbow Nation, one day you might be hiking up Table Mountain or enjoying wine in Constantia, and the next, you might be seeing whales in Hermanus or taking in the sights at Kruger National Park. Taking you from Cape Town to the Eastern Cape Game Reserves, our Safari and the City itinerary combines breathtaking safari scenery with urban exploration.

Because of South Africa’s varied regions, there is always a good place to go on safari, weather permitting, no matter when you go. The Eastern Cape and the Greater Kruger National Park are the most well-liked destinations for safari travelers. Both offer luxurious lodging options with treehouses where guests can sleep beneath the stars and are home to the Big Five. Remember the Marine Big Five as well; Hermanus and Plettenberg Bay, two Garden Route locations, are great places to see whales, dolphins, sharks, seals, and penguins.

South Africa is also a great destination for families looking for a safari because of its many malaria-free areas and a variety of self-drive itineraries. A fun combination of whale watching in Hermanus, beach days in Plettenberg Bay, and a stay at an Eastern Cape Game Reserve with specially designed kid-friendly amenities and kid-friendly safari activities awaits you on our Family Adventure Self-Drive.


Tips for your first safari

Kenya was the pioneer of safari, as books like Born Free and Out of Africa exemplify. This is where the famous African photos of wide, sun-burned savannahs peppered with termite mounds and acacias first appeared. It is home to the Maasai Mara, a big cat hotspot that facilitates the yearly Great Migration, and is among the best places in the world to see the Big Five. Between July and October, millions of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelles thunder across the plains in search of lush grasslands and water. This is a natural phenomenon.

Although a trip to the Maasai Mara is essential, Kenya offers first-time safari visitors much more. The Special Five the Somali ostrich, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, Beisa Oryx, and gerenuk live in the parched Samburu plains and the bird-studded Great Rift Valley lakes, which are accessible from Nairobi, the country’s dynamic capital. Experience the main attractions of Kenya with our Taste of Kenya itinerary, which also offers the option to add a beach break on the fine white sands of Watamu and Diani for some post-safari relaxation.

Kenya is home to an impressive array of camps and lodges connected by road or bush airstrips, making it the original safari heavyweight. The Governors’ Safari combines accommodation at some of the most illustrious and historic camps in Africa, situated in prime wildlife viewing areas, with luxury extras like hot air balloon rides. Without going on an ethical cultural excursion to meet the renowned Maasai people who have roamed this land for millennia, a trip to Kenya is not complete.


The northern circuit of Tanzania is perfect for a short first safari, such as our Classic Tanzania itinerary. After arriving in Arusha by air, travel west to Lake Manyara, home to a plethora of bird species. The UNESCO-listed Ngorongoro Crater, a natural amphitheatre formed by a volcanic collapse millions of years ago, is only a short drive north. The crater, which is home to 30,000 animals, including the Big Five, guarantees sightings of wildlife.

With its endless plains, the Serengeti is the last stop on the circuit. You can track the herds here for most of the year if seeing the Great Migration is your top safari destination. Large-scale wildebeest calvings occur in the grasslands during the winter, and by summer, the animals are migrating across the Grumeti River to the Maasai Mara. In addition to the migration, the national park manages a rhino conservation project and offers year-round excellent wildlife viewing.

Tanzania additionally offers the opportunity to mix a safari with a little beach time in Zanzibar. This group of spice islands is a gem in the Indian Ocean, offering tours of Stone Town’s history, private resorts fit for a honeymoon, and protected marine parks with world-class diving. The ideal way to cap off your first safari.

Tips for your first safari.

Are you prepared for the safari of a lifetime in Africa? Here are some first-time safari tips to help you get started, along with our comprehensive Safari Essentials Guide to help you get ready:

When to travel is mostly determined by the weather and national migration patterns. Because they congregate near water sources during the dry season, animals are easier to see, but during the rainy season, parks can be challenging to navigate.

The length of your safari will probably depend on your budget, but for a first-time safari, three days to a week is a good range. In order to counterbalance the early starts and rough 4×4 drives, think about scheduling a beach vacation and adding some city sightseeing or cultural tours.

Travelling around: 4x4s and light aircraft are the modes of transportation used on safari. If you rent a private vehicle, your guide will customise the safari to suit your interests and you can go at your own speed. However, because you can share guides and transportation, small group tours are less expensive and let you meet other travellers.

What to bring: For safaris, neutral-colored clothing is ideal; long sleeves and trousers provide sun and bug protection. For chilly evenings around the campfire and early mornings, dress in layers. Sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a swimsuit are also necessities for poolside lodges. Investing in binoculars and a high-quality camera can significantly enhance your gaming excursions. But keep in mind that most light aircraft only allow 15 kg of soft luggage, so bring as little as possible.

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