Going on an African Safari is a bucket-list item for almost every traveler. We reached out to Edward Kiyungi, an expert on African Safaris from Maasai Adventures in Arusha-Tanzania. I picked his brain on what exactly a safari entails, where the best safaris are for different budgets and desires, what kind of accomodations and expereiences to expect and many other things. Mr. Kiyungi was gracious enough to answer all my questions below:
Africa welcomes over 30 million tourists each and every year. While there are plenty of once in a life time activities here, many make the journey for one main reason: to go on a safari.
What is a SAFARI?
“Safari” is the word from Swahili language meaning “Journey” and in colonial times, the implication was that big game would be hunted, shot, and then arduously lugged overland by a small army of local people.
Today the negative hunting connotations of the word “safari” are being rapidly replaced by more modern associations with socially and environmentally responsible travel. Safari travel in contemporary Africa typically implies that the journey will include game viewing and some time spent in wilderness areas (game reserves and national parks), but safaris are definitely not limited to game viewing.
What to expect during a day of safari
On safari, you wake up early in the morning in the African bushes and hear an interesting choir of animal sounds. Breakfast will be served at your room or at the common dining area of your camp/lodge. Sometimes, you will also have breakfast on the road (all food preparations will be handled by your tour operator). Then, you will start your day by driving to a wildlife sanctuary or park, enjoying a gorgeous sunrise slowly touching the Savannah with the sun’s golden rays.
Your guide/driver will take you to the most amazing spots to see beautiful areas and spectacular animal sightings. If you’re lucky, you can even catch predator-prey or predator-predator interactions.
Come lunchtime, you will have a picnic in the bush. Food will again be prepared by a chef and you will be able to enjoy a hearty meal right in the heart of the wild.
After lunch, you will continue with your game drive to see more animals and beautiful sights and then finally arrive at your lodge/camp usually just before dinner. You will have dinner at the lodge/camp and then you can either break at your own room or you can join other travelers for a bonfire, a small gathering or a few drinks at the bar.
TOP TEN BEST AFRICAN SAFARI PARKS AND DESTINATIONS
There are 8 major African Safari countries: Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. In a poll to recognize the best African Safari Parks/destinations, which was conducted by a famous online community for African Safari booking, SafariBookings.com, 139 parks in the 8 major African safari countries were in consideration for a place in the top 50. The analysis was based on 2,530 park reviews that were collected through SafariBookings.com website. 1,670 reviews were contributed by safari tourists from 72 countries around the world. The remaining 860 reviews were written by renowned industry experts, most of whom are guidebook authors working for Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Fromer’s, Bradt and Footprint. This was conducted in 2018, and resulted in the following is the top ten African Safari Parks/Destination :
Serengeti National Park (TANZANIA).
ACTIVITIES: Classic Safari, Big 5 present (rhino rare), many big cats, wildebeest migration
Mala Mala Game Reserve (SOUTH AFRICA)
ACTIVITIES: Classic Safari, Private Reserve, abundant wildlife including Big 5
Mana Pools National Park (ZIMBABWE)
ACTIVITIES: Walking, Canoe and Classic Safari, 4 of the Big 5 (no rhino), and wild dogs
Okavango Delta (BOTSWANA)
ACTIVITIES: Canoe, Boat and Classic Safari, waterway paradise, Big 5(rhino in moremi)
South Luangwa National Park (ZAMBIA)
ACTIVITIES: Walking and Classic Safari,giraffe, 4 of the big 5,Abundant wildlife
Moremi Game Reserve (BOTSWANA)
ACTIVITIES: Classic Safari, Big 5 present (rhino rare) partly located in the Okavango Delta
Sabi Sand Game Reserve (SOUTH AFRICA)
ACTIVITIES: Area consisting of multiple reserves, excellent Big 5, wildlife viewing
Masai Mara National Reserve(KENYA)
ACTIVITIES: Classic Safari, Big 5 Present (rhino rare), many big cats, wildebeest migration
Selous Game Reserve (TANZANIA)
ACTIVITIES: Walking, Boat and Classic Safari, Big 5 present, healthy population of wild dogs
Ngorongoro Crater (TANZANIA)
ACTIVITIES: Classic Safari, abundant wildlife in the volcanic crater includes the Big 5
WHY THE SERENGETI IS CONSIDERED AS THE TOP DESTINATION IN AFRICA?
Whether you are a newcomer to the African landscape or a veteran of the safari, there are fewer things harder to resist than an excursion into majestic game reserves. You get to immerse yourself in some of Nature’s finest scenes and mingle with the beasts of wild, cameras loaded. It is truly an adventure worth a spot on the bucket list.
But not all game reserves are created equal. One stands out above others with its scenic images of seemingly endless acacia-dappled plains, magnificent wildlife, and golden Savannah. This is the Serengeti, Tanzania’s oldest and most popular World Heritage-listed park.
Its vast plains and open horizons are home to some of the biggest populations of mammals on the planet. Situated in the northwest region of Tanzania, the Serengeti was established in 1951 and joins the Maasai Mara Game Reserve at its northern border with Kenya. In fact, its name is derived from the Maasai word Siringet meaning “Endless Plains.” It covers over 14,000 km² of grassland plains, Savannah, and an unfenced border, which ensures that the Great Migration continues unhindered each year.
FEATURES AND ATTRACTIONS IN THE SERENGETI
It’s not hard to see why the Serengeti continues to retain the top spot among game reserves on the continent. It delivers on all fronts, including:
THE VAST PLAINS: The southern area of Serengeti comprises great Savannah plains that provide ample grazing for the millions of animals during the rainy season, usually from December to May. This is the season for fattening up for both the herbivores and the predators. During the dry season, the lush greenery turns brown and the waterholes dry up, signaling the beginning of the Great Migration.
THE GREAT MIGRATION: This is surely the biggest attraction to the Serengeti. It is a breathtaking spectacle of hundreds of thousands of animals kicking up a dusty trail as they move across the crocodile-infested rivers and endless plains. This event begins in the Serengeti Park between July and September and progresses along to the Kenyan border.
On this route, the animals have to cross both the Grumeti and Mara Rivers, home to large crocodiles. They remain in Kenya until the short rains start around November, and then they make their way back down south.
VAST AND VARIETY WILDIFE& PLANTS: The Serengeti offers a panorama of game-watching to the fullest. It currently hosts a wide variety of animals, wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, topi, elands and other antelope species. It is also teeming with lions, cheetahs, hyenas, and leopards. It also boasts a good number of plant species
THE BIG FIVE: Get out your camera and be prepared to capture some of the most sought-after animals in their natural habitat. The Big Five are the lions, leopards, rhinos, Buffaloes and elephants.
BIRDLIFE: There are over 540 bird species, so birdwatchers are guaranteed a delightful treat. From tiny sunbirds to lanky ostriches and large vultures, the Serengeti delivers an amazing sight to behold.
GREAT NEIGHBORS: The Serengeti have good neighbors, on the southern part of the Serengeti are found other famous national parks and game reserves, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park, and Lake Manyara National Park are found near the Serengeti which gives an opportunity for a classic safari with more variety in landscapes and wildlife.
Also in the Northern park is found the Masai Mara National Reserve of Kenya.
Whatever you may be looking for in a game reserve, the Serengeti doesn’t disappoint. It truly is a unique safari experience, and will without a doubt, be one of the main highlights of your epic African journey. Go for it today!
I have explained why a Safari in the Serengeti National Park is among the most and beautiful Safari destination in Africa, but Safaris in any other parks can be comparable to that taken in the Serengeti as many of the same activities are offered with just some differences on the landscapes and number of animals and activities.
ACCOMODATIONS ON SAFARI
The categorization of Safaris is mostly based on the type of accommodation and services provided while you are on safari. There are three safari categories in safari packages, and they differ in price accordingly.
With the budget category, it’s recognized that travelers to Africa have different budgets. Not everyone needs luxury accommodation on safari, so for the budget conscious, things are kept simple.
This category involves travelling with all your camping equipment, your driver-guide and expert-cook in your vehicle with you. This is economical and fun, Travelers on budget trips will enjoy the same wildlife adventures, but the accommodations provided might be at a public, rather than private, campsite. Bathroom facilities are shared with fellow travelers in campsites.
PRICE: This is a cheapest style of doing a Safari in Africa. For most options, it will cost from $200 USD to $300 USD Per Person Per Day. But the price will depend on whether you visit during peak, high or low season.
This is a comfort safari, small lodges and tented camps are used as accommodation, providing travelers with an excellent ratio between quality and price. With comfort category, accommodation always comes with private room facilities.
Tour operators compare the options available to give travelers the best accommodations in this popular category. Please note that in some areas, the lodges can be situated outside the National Park. Look for agencies who do not compromise on quality when choosing semi-luxury accommodations, and simply handpick the lodges and tents to provide you with the real value that you expect and high standards you deserve.
PRICE: The price in this comfort category is moderate, which ranges from $500 to $700 per person per day
Some travelers expect the very best, with quality being more important than price. If you are seeking that little bit extra in your accommodation, we can provide it. Accommodation on trips in the luxury category might be state of the art lodges or tented camps, with a level of facilities and services you would expect from a large hotel organization. Depending on location, camps can sometimes be situated outside the National Parks. If you want the very best in your safari, you can also get it with a luxury package.
PRICE: The price in this comfort category is moderate which ranges from 800$ to 1200$ per person per day
Things you can add to a Safari
Africa is a land of superb landscapes and spectacular wildlife, but another attraction stands equally tall- the people. African people are among the most welcoming and approachable on earth, with a range of fascinating cultures ready to be shared with visitors.
Besides enriching itineraries and adding quality to the tours offered, the cultural tours are generating direct income to the local communities that are being visited, contributing to their development. Thus, by visiting the cultural sites, the guests would be giving support to community health, water supply, primary education and many other social and economic projects carried out at village levels as well as reforestation and protection of environment.
In your safari itinerary, ask your travel consultant to add a cultural visit to the Maasai, Hadzabe or any other tribe according to the country you’re visiting.
Floating on the Serengeti offers a most enchanting experience, enjoying the migration while on the hot air balloon is something that you can’t get anywhere else in the world. It is probably the most beautiful balloon flight you could ever hope for.
Flights by balloon take off as dawn breaks over the Serengeti, the perfect silence of the early morning plains broken only by the soft roar of the balloon. Far below, wildebeest scatter, giraffes stand next to acacia trees, and elephants drink from the water hole, untroubled by the airborne visitors. After the thrill of landing, a champagne breakfast awaits.
On your itinerary to Africa you can add a balloon flight in many of the National Parks.
A walking safari is normally designed to fit into your safari schedule, and can be scheduled early in the morning or late in the afternoon when tropical temperatures are cool.
The walks are guided and normally accompanied by an armed ranger. A walking safari is an excellent break from game drives, where visitors will learn some fascinating facts about nature, birds, reptiles, insects and medicinal uses of local plants, which you may not fully appreciate from the seat of your safari car.
While the scents and sounds of the African bush are better sensed on foot, it is without doubt an adventure and a thrilling experience especially when the walk extends into wildlife habitats where encounters with freely roaming animals are the norm in many parks.
Thanks again to Edward Kiyungi for the wonderful information and his willingness to share. Join the discussion over on Facebook and let us know why you want to go on safari or, if you’ve been, what you thought of it. Also, be sure to check out our Recommended Gear for lots of great things to use on a safari.