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  • Writer's pictureSafari Sam

The best first-time safari

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

Now that travel has opened up and getting out into the world is a little easier, a lot of people are thinking about an African Safari for 2023 as they seek out rich experiences rather than just a holiday.

Many of our guests ask “where should I go for my first safari” or “where is the best place to go on safari” or even “when is the best time to go on safari” The answer is unsurprisingly not that simple – if it were we wouldn’t exist!

My answer is that your first safari will be amazing no matter where or when you go – it’s all in the planning. If you can go at any time of year then that leaves it wide open for choice, but if you can’t for whatever reason (work, school holidays, family commitments etc) then let’s start with when you can go and work backwards. We try to avoid the long rainy seasons in most countries unless you are looking for a super bargain and don’t mind the odd afternoon thunderstorm. Some parks get too boggy during these times so are in fact closed.

The peak seasons can be expensive and busy, sometimes costing double what it would a week or two before or after – so it all comes down to good planning! Budget plays a key part in working out what your first or best safari will look like. If you want to go all out and book that once-in-a-lifetime trip with a healthy budget, then your options are fairly open so your choice then becomes very personal about what you want your experience to be. If you are more limited on budget, we can advise different ways to get the most out of what you want to spend, which may include nabbing a shoulder season special, joining a small group tour, looking at self-drive options, or choosing a destination like South Africa which offers a lot of value for the quality of safari you can achieve.

Of course, some people already have their “must-do” list of destinations and experiences – the migration across the rivers between the Serengeti and Maasai Mara, the Ngorongoro Crater, the Okavango Delta, a hot air balloon flight, the Kruger Park, gorilla trekking – the list goes on. Our job is to work out what is the best experience we think you can get for your budget, when you want to travel, and in what style suits you.

Every type of safari destination offers a slightly different experience. National Parks often mean you cannot go offroad and there are more vehicles at sightings, but they are also home to some of the world’s most iconic places and sightings. The more remote you go into National Parks, the higher the cost because of the bush flights involved in getting to your destination and the premium you pay at each lodge for being so remote with low footprint tourism. Private game reserves offer a really special experience with some off-roading to get you as close to wildlife sightings as possible, and these reserves are especially good if they are unfenced to National Parks to allow for natural traversing.

Vehicle type also varies wildly between destinations – you may have a closed vehicle with a pop-up roof in the Ngorongoro Crater, and a completely open vehicle with no roof in the Greater Kruger. This might be a consideration if you are travelling with small children, or you may not be concerned at all unless you have a certain picture in your mind of what your first safari will look like.

Accommodation style and standard is often something we talk a lot about with our guests as we plan trips. Some people love unfenced tented camps, others love bricks and mortar lodges, some even request bedrooms with no thatching as that will help them sleep better. We do not judge – we just help you navigate the different options (and price tags) so that not only is the safari excellent, but you get that feeling of joy every time you walk into your room. Our main aim is to make sure the guiding is excellent as this makes or breaks your safari experience, but there is no reason you can’t also feel super happy about where you are staying too!

And finally, whilst we do love a good safari, there is so much else to see nearby that we encourage all our guests to think about book-ending your safari with another wow experience, simply because it is right there waiting for you. This might include Victoria Falls, the vineyards of the Western Cape, whale watching in Hermanus, snorkelling with whale sharks in Mafia, dipping your toes in the white sands of Zanzibar beaches, or the stunning views on the Panorama Route in South Africa. Our small group tours often provide inspiration for our tailor-made adventures as they suggest what a great itinerary looks like for you.

Many people think of their first safari as their only safari, because it is assumed to be the one time they will do a trip like that. One of our most recent guests messaged me after she had landed back in the UK to tell me “It was meant to be my ‘trip of a lifetime’, now I’m wondering where you will send me next”.

We think you should feel that way about every trip you take to Africa, not just your first!


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