Heading to Africa to go out on safari is on the bucket list of many people, but financial and practical concerns often mean that it’s a dream we never get around to realizing. That’s a shame. You may have seen some of the continent’s majestic wildlife up close in a zoo, but that doesn’t compare to seeing them out in the wilds of their natural environment where they belong.
For many of us, the closest we get to a personal safari experience ourselves is by coming across it as a topic of entertainment. There are many fantastic nature documentaries which can give you a taste of what life’s like out there. There’s the ‘Jumanji’ film series, which borrows heavily from safari elements. There’s even a whole series of online UK slots such as ‘Stampede,’ ‘Africa Goes Wild’ and ‘Hot Safari.’ The fact that so many slot games use the idea of a safari as a theme points toward a strong public interest in the topic, but while the slots might put money into your pocket, making the trip will only take money out. That’s a significant barrier.
Not every safari costs you your life savings though. Africa is a large place, with safari opportunities available in different nations for different costs. There are also differing seasons, with some being busier and more expensive than others. We’re about to tell you not only where you should consider looking, but what you need to know before you set off.
Which park to go to
Some people reading this article won’t have any budget concerns at all, and we appreciate that. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to spend what you want and go where you want, then all of Africa’s beautiful nature reserves and safari parks are open to you. At last count, there were 138 safari parks in Africa, although CNN recently tried to help by whittling that number down to the best 8.
If price is a motivating factor for you though, Kruger National Park in South Africa is known for being a popular choice with budget tourists. It’s a vast reserve containing most of the animals you’d expect to see, and can cost as little as $100 per night for accommodation. Chobe National Park in Botswana also has a reputation for being a good budget option.
In broader terms, knowing precisely where to go depends a little on what you want to see. How do you want to get there? What standard of accommodation would you like to be living in while you’re there? Most importantly of all, what kind of animals do you want to experience seeing on the plains? Decide on that first, and then take the time to look at the individual websites of safari parks, and see if they’re capable of matching your expectations. You should find that your list of options narrows quite quickly.
Finding the right animals
This ties a little into the point we just made, but not enough would-be safari goers give this topic proper consideration. In the West, we can sometimes lazily think of Africa as being one large, broadly similar place. It’s not. Africa is a massive continent covering an enormous area of land, with entirely different weather systems in the north than those that exist down south. Because of that, no one park will have every type of animal grouped together; ecology doesn’t allow for it.
Most ‘quality’ parks contain what’s known as the big five; elephants, leopards, rhinos, lions, and buffalo. If you search Google for big five tours, you’ll find that many travel companies specifically offer package deals to parks that host these animals, which is another way of saving money. South Africa (which, as we mentioned, contained Kruger Park) is one such destination. Chobe National Park in Botswana is also on the list, as are parks in Zambia and Kenya, among others.
What you won’t see in any of those parks are gorillas though, and gorillas in the wild are worth going out of your way to see! In terms of regions, you’ll only find African gorillas in Rwanda Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The latter of those options, the Congo, is the only country in the whole continent that can offer you the big five and gorillas at the same time. They’re very aware of that fact, and they charge accordingly.
The best time to go
When it comes to safaris, there are only really two kinds of season; ‘dry’ and ‘rainy.’ There’s no argument that the dry season is the best time to go, as it’s easier to guarantee seeing animals that way; with fewer water resources available they congregate around the ones that don’t dry up in the heat. There’s also physical navigation of the terrain; when the wet weather comes in Africa it comes in a deluge, and tracks can easily be washed away, making some roads usable until the drier weather returns.
That’s not to say that you won’t see animals if you go during the wet season; they may just be harder to access and to find. As you may expect, the dry season is more popular with visitors and therefore more expensive.
The things to take with you
Here’s the most obvious statement you’ll read all day – Africa can get very hot. Even if you come from one of America’s sunshine states, you won’t have experienced this kind of dry heat before, and it can take you by surprise. Take strong sunscreen with you, and apply it regularly. Partner that with a suitable hat and good quality sunglasses, and you’ll minimize the risk of sun damage. Aside from that, pack as you would for any holiday in the sun, but do take some warmer items with you, too. It can be surprisingly cool in the evenings after the sun has gone down.
There are a few boring-yet-logistical things you’ll have to consider too, for example, visas. Your passport isn’t enough to get you everywhere; states like Kenya have their own visa systems and won’t allow you through customs without one. Double check the entry requirements for the country you’re considering visiting, Also look into vaccinations. There are diseases in Africa you won’t encounter anywhere else in the world, including yellow fever and typhoid. As with the visa, you’ll want to get your vaccinations taken care of well in advance, as some of them take several weeks to become active within your body.
If you can take care of all the above, you’re in a position to go, and possibly for much less than you imagined. Don’t forget to take a camera, and look forward to a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience!