Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Juan Ruiz
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African safaris are growing in popularity and are more accessible than ever. There’s much to consider when planning a safari adventure, from the destination to your packing list.
The safari experience varies widely depending on how you like to travel, whether that’s in luxury or traditional safari camping. No matter your travel style, there’s a safari option for you.
Learn about your options in our African safari adventure guide.
Cost is the most common question that people ask Google about safaris. Traditionally popular amongst retirees, you might assume safaris are so expensive that you need to save your entire life for the experience. That’s not (always) the case.
According to The New York Times, a safari can cost between $200 and $1,000 per person, per day. That’s a big range but means you’ve got a great chance of finding a safari within your budget.
Many factors contribute to the overall cost of a safari, including your preferred travel style, the length of your trip, and the season. For example, witnessing the Great Migration at any point in its cycle is more costly than visiting in the off-season.Hot Tip:
During the Great Migration, more than 2 million animals migrate continually clockwise across the Serengeti and Masai Mara in Eastern Africa. This event happens throughout the year with June and July presenting the best opportunity to see the famous wildebeest crossing of Kenya’s Mara River.
Park fees are usually included in the tour operator’s fee. However, if you’re DIY-ing your safari, you can expect to pay anywhere from $27 per adult at Kruger National Park in South Africa to $80 at Masai Mara in Kenya.
Lastly, airfare can also bring up the overall cost of your safari vacation, but this is a great opportunity to reduce your expenses by using points and miles. Here’s our guide to the best ways to fly to Africa with points and miles.
There are 2 regions in Africa where you can go on a safari: Eastern Africa and Southern Africa.
Eastern African countries where you can take a safari include Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Southern African countries to visit for a safari are Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Each of these countries has a unique landscape and experiences that differ from one another, but you can’t go wrong no matter where you decide to go.
Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and gorilla trekking in Rwanda or Uganda are unique to East Africa. It’s also easy to add-on a visit to the tropical island of Zanzibar in Tanzania. Seychelles in the Indian Ocean is another island option in East Africa.
In Southern Africa, you can experience dramatic landscapes on a desert safari in Namibia or aquatic safaris in Botswana. Popular stop Victoria Falls borders Zambia and Zimbabwe and is almost twice the size of Niagara Falls. Mauritius, east of Madagascar, is an island getaway option on a Southern Africa safari.
You can choose either overland or fly-in safaris. The difference between these 2 options is that you either drive and spend more time in transit from park to park or save time by flying. Fly-in safaris are common on both Eastern and Southern African safaris.
Overland or driving safaris are much more common in Eastern Africa.
While on a safari, most people hope to see the Big 5 (African bush elephant, African buffalo, leopard, lion, and black rhino), which you can see in Eastern and Southern Africa.
In Eastern Africa, your best bet to see all 5 is in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, Masai Mara in Kenya, and on some private reserves also in Kenya. In Southern Africa, you can catch sight of these animals at Kruger National Park’s private reserves.
A private reserve is also known as a conservancy and has more safari activities than national parks, which are public.
The Great Migration takes place in Eastern Africa’s Serengeti and Masai Mara. Wildebeests, gazelles, zebras, and more migrate by the millions from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania through the Serengeti, across the Masai Mara in Kenya, and back again.
The animals follow this path instinctively throughout the year. The migration takes them through the circle of life (mating, birthing young, and even death by predators during the most vulnerable portions of the migration).
Whether you elect to see the Big 5 in Southern Africa (or Eastern Africa) or witness The Great Migration in Eastern Africa, you can’t go wrong.
Each day of your safari vacation will likely start with an early morning game drive to see animals such as lions that prefer cooler morning temperatures. The morning drive lasts for several hours, so be sure to dress comfortably.
You’ll have a break in the late morning and afternoon before an opportunity to take another game drive at night to see the nocturnal animals. When you aren’t on a game drive, you can enjoy cultural immersion opportunities with locals, enjoy a bush meal (a meal eaten in the bush), or even high tea. It all depends on your safari.Hot Tip:
Each safari itinerary is different, so be sure to ask your guide and the company exactly what your day will look like before your trip.
A safari is not the time to overpack. You’ll be required to weigh your luggage before you can board if you’re arriving for your safari by shared charter plane, which is common for Southern Africa safaris.
A duffel bag without wheels is recommended to save some weight. The smaller bag will also guarantee that you don’t overpack.
Now that you’ve got the right luggage, what should you bring on a safari?
Earth tones that help you blend into the natural scenery and landscapes are the best colors to wear on safari.
Don’t forget to bring sunscreen as well as a sun hat for protection during daytime game drives. It’s also a good idea to bring lightweight long sleeve shirts for further sun protection. Comfortable shorts or cut-off pants that can go from day to night will save you room in your luggage.
A lightweight jacket or sweater is essential for evenings no matter what time of year you go on a safari. Temperatures can drop below freezing in South Africa.
While some smartphone cameras can rival the best traditional cameras, you may want to invest in a camera with a powerful zoom lens.
Lastly, binoculars are a must-have on any African safari. Your lodge or campsite may provide binoculars that you can borrow, but you should pack your own to be safe. You wouldn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to see as much as you can.
Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about what vaccinations you’ll need before traveling to your chosen country. In addition to the yellow fever vaccine, they may recommend taking malaria pills before you leave and bringing malaria medication with you.
In your first aid bag, bring anti-nausea medicine, bandages, an antihistamine, and pain medication such as Advil or Tylenol.
Bug spray is also a must. Look for a spray with the highest concentration of DEET you can find to avoid unwanted bug bites.Hot Tip:
DEET is in many insect repellants and could help you to avoid malaria-carrying mosquitos during your African safari. Bugs don’t like the taste or smell of DEET and it “repels” them from biting you.
There are a few camping options to consider for your African safari accommodations.
True adventurers might consider what’s sometimes called adventure camping. During adventure camping, you help your guide pack up the jeep, set up camp, and cook all the meals. This is a great way to get to know your guide and avoid the higher price tag of luxury accommodations.
Another option is full-assisted camping, which is a slightly less labor-intensive option that sometimes includes an en suite bathroom inside of your tent. If there isn’t a bathroom included, there might be a bush toilet or bucket shower for you to use.
2- to 4-star accommodations are something between camping and lodges. They might be huts, bungalows, or even hotels, and the amenities vary from place to place.
The main difference between these accommodation types and camping is 4 walls and indoor bathrooms. At a 2- to 4-star accommodation, you won’t be expected to cook your own food.
Safari lodges are essentially hotels that you can stay at while on a safari.
Lodges often have dozens of rooms and can accommodate many more travelers than other accommodation options. Thanks to their solid builds, lodges are a great option for those who don’t want to sleep outdoors or worry about wild animals at night.
Lodges are fully staffed and sometimes include a spa, fitness center, and pool.
Tented camps are considered the truest way to experience a safari. They feature full beds and en suite bathrooms in a canvas tent. In a way, tent camps are the best of both camping and lodge accommodations.
Travelers can look forward to some camps offering dining options, including 3-course meals.
If you’re interested in this kind of experience but still want to travel more sustainably, there are eco-tented camps. Eco-tented camps are designed to have a minimal environmental impact by using solar power for electricity and not having any permanent structures.
Choosing a safari tour company for this possibly once-in-a-lifetime experience can be a difficult task. To get you started and to give you an idea of what’s out there, consider these 5 highly-rated safari companies:
Travel + Leisure rated Micato Safaris the #1 best safari outfitter in the world 10 times.
Micato Safaris specializes in luxury safaris, both custom and classic, in Africa and India. A classic safari is a small group with specific departure dates. A custom safari is a private tour for just your group, flexible with your schedule needs, and designed around only what you want to see and do.
Each safari includes either a single country or several countries across Eastern or Southern Africa. For example, The Hemingway Wing Safari tour starts out in Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau and the Masai Mara-Serengeti before heading to Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara.
Micato Safaris include all meals, a 24/7 concierge team, all gratuities, airport transfers, game and national park fees, and conservancy fees. You’ll also get a safari swag bag that comes with a bush hat, a specially-designed duffel bag, a flashlight, and more.
Travelers can join a small group tour for anywhere from 10 to 17 days. The price range for these tours is between $19,700 and $29,350 per person in 2024. Accommodation options include lodges, hotels, and tented camps.
&Beyond is another luxury safari operator that ranks highly among the best safari companies. Like many safari companies in Africa, &Beyond strives to promote conservation through responsible tourism through partnerships across its tour locations in Africa, Asia, and South America.
In Africa, travelers can choose between a number of safari tours such as a family safari in Namibia. Other exciting tour itineraries include a visit to Sabi Sands Game Reserve in Zimbabwe or a gorilla trek in Rwanda.
&Beyond has 29 privately-owned lodges throughout Africa in both safari and beach locations such as Zanzibar, Tanzania. You can choose to stay at one of these lodges independently where some rates include game drives as well as full board. Or you can elect to join a small group or tailor-made journey.
Small group journeys present a unique opportunity for safari-goers to go beyond watching wildlife from the safety of their jeep. Tour topics include conservation and wildlife research, and a WILDeconomy Masterclass in partnership with African Leadership University. In the latter tour, travelers partake in an interactive and educational safari to learn about sustainable tourism in the safari industry.
Be sure to check out &Beyond’s otherwordly desert safaris and lodges in Namibia.
&Beyond’s small group journeys are as short as 5 nights and start at $4,755 per person for 2023 tours.
Thomson Safaris has been a trusted safari tour company in Tanzania and Kilimanjaro for 40 years. Its tours feature custom Land Rover Defenders, guides born and raised in Tanzania, and luxurious camps that move in sync with wildlife patterns.
The company also owns an eco-resort in the Ngorongoro highlands in Tanzania.
In addition to classic safaris, Thomson Safaris offers family safaris, photography workshops, private safaris, and specialty safaris. Culinary, honeymoon, and flying safaris are all considered specialty safaris.Hot Tip:
Thomson Safaris’ Signature Safari is 12 days and 11 nights and takes safari-goers to Serengeti Nature Refuge, Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and more. This itinerary is priced from $10,890 per adult.
For those seeking an especially challenging experience, you can trek Kilimanjaro with Thomson Treks. Treks range from 6 to 10 days with varying pricing, amenities, and physical challenge. Prices start at $4,290 per person for double occupancy.
Opened in 2015, Tangulia Mara is the first Maasai-owned camp in the Mara. The Masai Mara in Kenya is known locally as simply the Mara, but named in honor of the Maasai people who are the region’s ancestral inhabitants.
Tangulia Mara offers game drives, guided walking safaris, Maasai village visits, and more. The camp is on the western boundary of the Mara Reserve and is ideally situated to witness the Great Migration when it crosses the Mara River.Hot Tip:
The closest airport to the Masai Mara is Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) in Nairobi, Kenya. It is about a 6-hour drive from the airport to the closest park entrance.
Volcanoes Safaris is a leading gorilla and chimpanzee ecotourism company located in Uganda and Rwanda. The company offers lodges and safaris for travelers to learn more about the gorilla and chimpanzee populations in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
An active community partner, Volcanoes Safaris has partnered on several community projects in its 25-year history, including the Kyambura Women’s Coffee Cooperative. The cooperative works to train women in a sustainable income source through coffee production.
As far as its lodges and safaris, travelers can choose between 5 lodges and 4 safaris. Bwindi Lodge, featuring views of the impenetrable forest — named for the dense bamboo and other foliage that makes it nearly impossible to enter on foot — might be the company’s most unique lodge and is a starting point for heading out on a gorilla trek.
Safaris offer the chance to see mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, and the famous tree-climbing lions of Ishasha in Uganda. The 4- to 10-day safaris start at $4,035 per person for double occupancy.
Tour package safaris might give you sticker shock. But you have options if you’re not ready to invest in a luxury safari.
You can do a safari independently on a self-driving tour through Kruger National Park in South Africa or Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park between South Africa and Botswana. Rent a car through Avis Safari Rentals or Drive Botswana. Drive Botswana is located in Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe as well as Botswana.
You can also independently reserve a suite at the all-new JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge in the Masai Mara National Reserve. Rooms come with meals (both on-property and bush meals), game drives, airstrip transfers, and more. Rates start at $1,414 per night. At the time of writing, there were no award nights available.Hot Tip:
Traveling in the low season for your preferred destination, choosing accommodations outside of the national park, and joining a group safari versus a private safari are ways to save money on an African safari.
Whether you choose to book your safari through a safari company or plan a do-it-yourself/driving safari, you have options when it comes time to book.
If you’re making a significant investment in your safari vacation, you might want to use a travel agent with expertise in this type of trip. In fact, some safari companies, usually the higher-end ones, will only work with travel agents or designers.
A bonus to working with a travel professional is that it takes all the guesswork out of every detail and you have someone to answer all of your questions directly.
Lastly, a travel agent who specializes in safaris has likely gone on several safaris themselves. They’ve probably even worked with the exact company that will be handling your safari and can give you insider tips to make the most of your trip.Hot Tip:
UP’s very own Leigh Rowan can help organize the safari of a lifetime! From planning to management, Leigh and his team will make sure your safari trip is perfect, with 24/7 global support. Submit your request to email@example.com.
Websites like safaribookings.com let you search and compare hundreds of safari companies at once. Just choose your country and your preferred travel dates, and the website will return all the safaris that match your query. You can filter your results based on tour length, star rating, and even travel style.
If you’d like to experience a self-drive safari, you can book directly through Avis Safari Rentals or Drive Botswana.
With the right credit card, you can get benefits and protections that enhance your African safari.
Trip insurance — especially for a trip of this magnitude — will be the most valuable benefit of any credit card. Below are Upgraded Points’ best personal credit cards for travel insurance:
Each card’s coverage varies from up to $2,000 per ticket to up to $20,000 per trip, or $10,000 per covered traveler, for non-refundable travel expenses. Read the terms of your credit card’s benefits carefully to verify your coverage.
There is a lot to consider when planning to go on a safari, from experiencing Eastern Africa’s Great Migration to Southern Africa’s Big 5 and other draws. But whether you choose the luxury, planned-for-you route or do it yourself, you’re in for a treat. We hope that you’ve found this guide helpful as you plan your safari vacation.
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The best safari in Africa depends on your goals. If you’d like to see the Great Migration, you’ll want to do a safari in Tanzania or Kenya. To see the Big 5 or take a desert safari, you should visit South Africa’s Kruger National Park or Namibia, respectively.
The cost of a 2-week African safari depends on the type of safari you take. Considering that a safari average costs at least $200 per person, per day, you can calculate that a 2-week safari will cost $2,800 per person.
Yes, you can do an African safari on a budget. Travel during the off-season, do a self-drive safari tour, or spend fewer days on safari. Keep in mind that Kenya, Namibia, and South Africa are considered the least expensive countries to do a safari.
First-time safari-goers might find it easier to navigate South Africa. But if you only go on one safari in your lifetime, witnessing the Great Migration in Eastern Africa is highly recommended.
You can spend as little or as much time on a safari as you like. However, it’s suggested that you spend between 7 and 15 days on safari and visit multiple campsites or lodges.
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