Guest Post by Rob Reed.
Calling an African safari your “vacation” is a pretty huge understatement. A trip of such magnitude usually ranks right around “climbing Mt. Everest” and “boating down the Amazon” on the “do it before I die” lists of our planet’s most adventurous souls.
A vacation is going to the shore for a week with your relatives. An African safari is the trip of a lifetime. In turn, you can’t just throw some clean undies into your bag and plan on going to Wal-mart for anything you forgot. A journey like this requires some serious advance planning. Here are a few tips to get you on your way.
1. What do you want to see?
The first step is figuring out what you want to see. On a safari that translates to deciding what kind of wildlife you wish to encounter. Africa is a big continent and you may have to sacrifice seeing certain animals in order to view others in their natural habitat.
A lot of African safaris cover what is called the “Big 5”. That includes lions, leopards, buffalo, rhinos, and elephants. Good places to see these animals include Masai Mara in Kenya and Kruger National Park in South Africa.
If you would rather see gorillas then you should plan on going to Rwanda, Gabon, or Uganda. For crocodiles and hippos you can explore the lakes and rivers of eastern or southern Africa. The Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania has ample viewing opportunities.
2. Know your budget.
One question you should ask yourself before planning a trip to Africa is how much you can afford to spend. This is important because it can greatly affect the enjoyment of your trip. Although the beauty of the landscape is astounding, you may not be able to see all of the expected wildlife without spending at least a few weeks there. It is recommended to stay there for at least a month.
You may be able to save money by booking this trip through a travel agency. There are many travel agencies with varying prices. For example, if you are looking for flights to South Africa, you may want to consider Liberty Travel. With some research, you can find great prices for planning this trip of a lifetime.
3. How are you getting around?
This sort of goes with deciding how much “roughing it” you expect to do. If you want to have a more relaxed vacation then you will probably be doing your wildlife viewing from a four-wheel drive vehicle. However, there are many other options for the more adventurous types.
A safari on the back of an elephant isn’t the most discrete way to sneak up on wildlife, but you’ll feel like Tarzan cruising through the jungle on the back of such a gigantic creature. Abu Camp in Botswana offers elephant back safaris.
You can also experience the jungles and savannahs of Africa simply by walking. This is a great way to get to know the guides and take advantage of their wealth of knowledge. Being on foot will really give you a sense of immersion in the countryside.
There are many other ways to get around in the savannah as well. You could canoe alongside crocodiles on the Zambezi River, race zebras on horseback, or hot-air balloon over the Serengeti Plains. It all depends on your budget and personal preference.
4. Getting into shape.
Even if you plan on being shuttled from your hotel to a nearby wilderness and then being back by nightfall, you are still going to want to be physically fit for this journey. Not only will this help you if you are doing a lot of physical activity, but a healthy body means a healthy immune system and you don’t want to get run down and catch a cold.
Start planning at least nine months to a year in advance and join a gym as soon as you’ve set a date. Get on a good program of eating healthy and exercising and make sure you stick to it.
To take full advantage of this trip you should be in the best physical condition you possibly can be. If you smoke it’s time to quit. If you are a drinker it is time to moderate. “Great adventures are had by great human beings”, so if you are planning an African safari you need to prepare to be the best person you can be.
5. Thinking outside the box.
When most people go on safari they go for a package deal. These are in no way a cop-out to your own independent safari. In fact, you will probably get a whole lot more out of it when traveling with guides who know the area and where to see the best wildlife.
However, if you are planning on going on one of the pre-planned safaris, there is nothing stopping you from going a little early or staying a little late to do some exploring on your own. After all, you’ve already suffered through the plane ride. Might as well make the most of it!
Do some research on the surrounding areas where you are traveling. If you are going on a rugged backpacking safari in South Africa, why not spend an extra week at the end of the trip pampering yourself on a beach in Cape Town or enjoying the Johannesburg nightlife? There are plenty of other things in Africa than just animals and jungles. It is just a matter of finding them.
As was said earlier, a trip of this caliber is not to be taken lightly. And yet it should not be so intimidating that you are scared to just go for it. Sometimes it takes being put in a dramatic situation for a person to realize just how incredible they really are.
It is important that you don’t get in over your head when planning a safari like this. If you have never camped before you might not want to plan a two-week hiking trip through the jungle. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push yourself. By planning ahead and getting yourself into shape you will be able to make the most out of what could be the greatest adventure of your life.