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Making sure your first African Safari is one that will change your life forever

Planning your first African Safari can be a daunting experience. I guess I take it for granted, having been fortunate enough to travel to Africa on safari so often as part of my job. However, I can only imagine how difficult it must be if you have never been before, sifting through the hundreds of camps, lodges and destinations trying to figure out what is best for you.

Here are just a few simple tips that I feel will help ensure that your first safari will be everything you imagined an more and help you through choosing between hundreds of fantastic destinations. As well as a few recommendations of my favourite places to stay on safari.

1.Make sure you stay at an intimate Lodge/Camp. By this i mean a lodge/camp that has a very small number of rooms. I personally prefer places that have between 4-6 rooms. Why? This ensure that you lodge or camp does not feel like a hotel or resort. It keeps the experience personal. Managers, hosts and guides will all have time to interact with you on a personal level. You get to know the people working in the place you are staying as the number of other guests is low in comparisons to the number of staff members, which in turn increases the quality of service. You also get to interact with the other guests staying at the same place, should you wish to. You will usually all dine together which gives you a great chance to hear other peoples stories and experiences from there travels.

Here are a few of my favourite camps and ones that I like to use.

2. When you are selecting where to stay, check the maps of the national park/game reserve you are looking to visit. (usually found in google). Have a look at where the various lodges are located and how close to other Lodges/camps they are. Ideally you want to choose somewhere that has as fewer lodges/ camps surrounding it. Why? This will ensure that you are not constantly seeing other people whilst on your safari which will detract from the sense of “wilderness”. There is nothing that can ruin a safari than spending your entire time on game drive stopping for other vehicles to pass or arrive at a sighting and find you are the 100th vehicle to turn up, by which time Lion that were feeding on their buffalo kill are so fed up with vehicles moving around at such close proximity to them that they decide to go and sit under a bush and wait for you all to leave.

3. As it is your first time on safari, you will want to see the iconic species. Lion, leopard, elephant, giraffe and zebra etc. A good agent will or should know where to go to stand the best chances of you see all of the above. But if you are booking direct, check the various lodges websites you are thinking of staying at. Look at the blogs and from there you will be able to gauge how often they see various animals. If, on their blogs they are saying things like “we were so fortunate to get a rare glimpse of the elusive leopard” then that could be an indication that they do not see them that often. But if there are daily updates about specific leopards or Lion prides, then that is a good indication that they are seeing these animals on a regular basis.

4. Make sure you demand the best guide available. A guide can make or break your safari. A good guide will add immense value to your safari, but a bad guide will make the whole experience rather painful. When booking through your agent ask them to demand a top guide, any agent worth their salt will know the guides at the various lodges they are sending you personally and be able to ask for them to guide you. The other option is to travel with a private guide such as myself. Someone who has worked in the industry for a number of years as a guide/camp manager. However, please make sure you do your research on whoever it is you are looking to travel with. There a lots of "private guides" out there, many of whom have never guided a day in their life or hold any guiding qualifications. So just ask. Where have you worked before? Have you worked as a guide at a camp or lodge before? Do you have a guiding qualification? If the answer is no to any of these questions, i would recommend looking else where, otherwise you will just end up paying for someone to tag along on your safari taking pictures for his/her own purposes adding no value to your trip what so ever.

5. Visit a number of different locations on your first safari. I am yet to meet anyone who has been on safari and has not fallen head over heels in love with the experience and cannot wait to go again. I would suggest visiting 3 lodges/camps in various locations. This way you ensure you get to experience a wide variety of habitats and the different species that inhabit the various areas. Doing this will also help you when you plan your next safari, which I have no doubt there will be. You will get a feel for the areas your prefer and you can then think about exploring those areas in greater detail next time.

I hope this helps and gives you a tad more confidence when planning your first safari. If you have any other questions about planning your safari, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Cheers for now.

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