The 6 Secrets You Must Know Before Booking Your Solo African Safari
Everything you need to know about travelling alone on African Safari, especially the things travel companies won't tell you!
Solo safaris are one of Africa's best kept secrets and we've got a few more to share with you...
We’ve all read the books of Cheryl Strayed who walked eleven-hundred miles of the west coast of America, Anne Mustoe a sixty something headmistress who cycled the world’s historical trade routes and Tracks, Davidson’s account of her trek across the Australian desert with four camels and a dog in tow. These solo adventurers capture our imagination, awaken our taste for adventure and remind us of how much of the world and ourselves there is still to discover when we do something by ourselves, for ourselves and with only ourselves to make happy.
Travelling alone doesn’t have to be a grueling expedition it can be as adventurous as you are, as luxurious and as brave, once in your life if you have the chance you should be a little selfish, you should take yourself somewhere wild and you should do it solo style.
Every year we take people who want more than a holiday, they want adventure, excitement and beauty and they want it their way. A solo safari in Africa isn’t about being left to organise routes, lodgings and liaise with locals, we do all that, a solo safari is about not having to share or compromise.
If you're a solo traveller thinking about your first or next safari, we've got a list of secrets to share with you:
Avoiding the crowds and what THEY want to see
Safaris are all about timing, being in the right place at the right time means anticipating nature’s cues, knowing when to wait, when to change location and when to get a little closer. As a solo traveller you might have to endure other people’s bucket lists, you could end up being shepherded onto a bus of insect enthusiasts just to make up the numbers, that is unless you book with an agency that values independent travellers. They should organise your own vehicle, your own driver and your own private guide for you, this is your safari and real explorers make their own maps.
Hellish transfers made peaceful
Arriving in an unfamiliar airport on your own can be a little daunting, language barriers, queues and visas, then you have to find the bus that’s headed to your hotel. Your holiday should start when you leave your house. Transfer flights are all part of getting you to your destination, navigating terminals and making sure your luggage comes with you can be a stressful experience, hire a private guide who will meet you at the international airport, personally escort you through the transfer nightmare and accompany you to your lodge where they will be staying too. It’s this sort of service that only a private guide can provide and only the best safari agencies supply as standard. Just because you are on an adventure doesn’t mean you should have to deal with the unexpected.
Not being sold to the highest bidder
Travelling as an individual means getting a room all to yourself. You’ll spend your day surveying the savannah, driving off road under the African sun and witnessing the drama and spectacle of the natural world, we are going to be honest with you, it’s an early start, the last thing you need is the children of the family nextdoor watching TV late into the night, or the large group of busy busy business people on their phones at dinner. At the end of a satisfying day you’ll want to slip between fresh sheets under the African azures and you won’t want to share. Unless your travel operator has other ideas, single travellers can often find themselves at the mercy of the deals struck between mainstream safari providers and hotels, because agencies take a finders fee you’ll go to the highest bidder. Select an agency that deals with the more exclusive lodges, lodges that offer no more than twelve rooms, this ensures that facilities are not congested and that service is personal.
Your guide works for ONLY you
The lone traveller is the liberated traveller, instead of your itinerary falling victim to a committee, you can state your desires and change them freely. You can insist on living your dream; meet a curious lion cub, see hippos idle in the cool of the water while thousands of blushing flamingos wade the shore, watch a cheetah stalk a grazing impala at sunset or a herd of elephants teach their young to wash. It’s rare in life to have such a good reason to be selfish. This will only be possible if your guide is working for you, just you and only you. The solo traveller must select a guide that talks your language, literally and spiritually, you will be spending plenty of time seeing the wild treasures of Africa with this person, you’ll need to be able to communicate and trust them to seek out and track down the experiences that are most important to you. As a solo traveller you’ll want to secure a private guide that takes the time to get to know you in the run up to your holiday, this means that when you’re out there in the wild they can anticipate your wishes and make the decisions that will spark the encounters you desire. Your choice, your rules.
Guide who can read the situation for YOUR benefit
Speaking of languages, It is essential to work with a private guide who can speak the language of the region and yours. Lots of drivers communicate via radio in their native tongue, understanding the radio chatter and being able to interpret the reports of animal behaviour and predict an imminent kill or hunt is crucial. If your guide instructs your driver to go racing after the same sighting as everybody else in the vicinity you may get a glimpse of the animal, but you’ll be in a queue of cars full of squabbling tourists. Instead make sure that you see the real Africa, select a guide who is passionate about wildlife and has an eye for detail, someone who can read scenery, tracks and trails, animal behaviour and speaks the local dialects so that you can be free of the circus taking place a mile down the road and in the hush of the savannah, spot a lion in the brush.
Enjoying your down time how YOU want
After watching the animals feast, you’ll want to sit down to a hearty supper. Make sure your lodge has a top chef that prepares fresh food and delectable delicacies for its valued guest, if there’s one thing we’ve learnt on safari it’s that great company makes great food. Smaller lodges offer communal spaces to eat and as a solo traveller you can share stories, tips and delicious food with like minded people. Africa is a destination for the stars, you never know who you might break bread with in the evening.
Solo safaris are a unique opportunity to indulge yourself in a world that is still wild, beautiful and not choreographed or staged. It is as merciless as it is honest and if you book with a provider that won't keep these secrets from you so that you can be there in the middle of it with no distractions, except for of course your senses.