Ernest Hemingway said it best when he described his time on the African continent, "I never knew of a morning in Africa, when I woke up and was not happy." This is the euphoric feeling chased by millions all over the globe and what has made African safaris what they are today. You can call it a bucket list item but that doesn't do the journey justice. That is the essence of African safaris, a journey, to one of the world's most untamed and magical places.
As with anything unfamiliar, there is always hesitation and a plethora of questions, the mind seems boggled with excitement coupled with anxiety. We have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions to shed some light on African safaris:
A valid question, however the enemy of the African continent is the international media. They have a tendency to portray all 54 countries as a single entity and logically, you can understand that each country has its own unique character. Some people are surprised that there are countries that are less developed than some in Africa.
There is no place in the world that is one hundred percent safe and when you're on your travels you know the importance of taking certain standard security precautions. Keeping an eye on your personal belongings and not venturing into areas that are unseemly. While revelling in African safaris, you will often find yourself in lodges and camps that are quite far from any human settlement. This is after all, a bush experience.
This is a broad question. Defining the regions helps when considering where to go for African safaris. Southern Africa includes South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia while East Africa is essentially Kenya and Tanzania. Central Africa includes Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo which are all very popular destinations for gorilla tracking safaris.
Malawi and Zambia are also sometimes classified as Central Africa.
These regions are diverse in terms of their landscapes and their highlights. East Africa is home to Mount Kilamanjaro, the Serengeti Plains/Maasai Mara Ecosystem and the world heritage site of the Ngorongoro Crater. Southern Africa has Botswana's renowned Okavango Delta wetland and the Skeleton Coast and Namib Desert of Namibia. The famous Kruger National Park is in South Africa with close encounters of the Big 5 and then there is Mother Nature's spectacle, the Victoria Falls along the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The major differences between East and Southern African for African safaris are the density of tourists, the accommodation and the vehicles. East Africa, generally speaking, is a hotspot for tourists staying in hotel-styled lodges. The most common form of vehicle is the van with a pop up roof, where you can stand and take pictures of the some of the most extraordinary wildlife that roams the plains.
On the other hand, Southern Africa is known for its luxury tented safari camps and vast tracts of wilderness areas with low tourist densities, making it a somewhat more intimate African safari.
Book right now! Alright we exaggerate, but when planning on going on African safaris, the best time is right now or as far as possible in advance. Several months at a minimum is best so that you can ensure a better selection of camp availability. The Southern Africa safari 'high season' months are from July through to October.
Most African safaris are customized to your individual requirements, timeframe and of course, budget. The rates for destinations cover a wide range and they typically vary significantly from the high to the low seasons.
For many people, besides the obvious draw card of seeing the wildest animals on the planet, African safaris are about disconnecting and plugging in to the natural rhythm of Africa. The remoteness of certain locations doesn't allow for very much connectivity but lodges in South Africa offer full telephone and internet services for those that don't want to disconnect completely.
All people travelling to the Southern African region need a valid passport that is valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay. Currently, holders of American passports do not need visas for South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. However, visas are required for Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia, all but Kenya's can be purchased at the point of entry for a small fee.
There are a wealth of cultural opportunities and visits to authentic African villages. Tours to local schools, markets and villages can be arranged and you can participate in activities like planting crops, brewing traditional beer, interacting with the locals and learning about their way of life. Local traditional healers are a delight as they teach you about the medicinal properties of certain plants and roots. As mentioned before, many properties are extremely remote and won't offer cultural interactions, it's best to check beforehand if it is something you would like to do.
The cuisine on African safaris is nothing short of spectacular, many first time safari explorers are often impressed by the variety and amount of food that is available. More upmarket camps provide food that rivals luxury hotels. Ambience is also an important factor in a dining experience. Picture tables set under starry African skies or in a boma.