10 Steps to The Perfect African Safari

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Looking for the best African safari tips?  To help you craft the perfect trip, I’ve rounded up ten quick and easy steps to planning an African safari.  You’re in for the trip of a lifetime, but safaris can be tough to plan, especially if it’s your first time.  I’ve got you covered – these African safari tips will make planning a breeze!  And if you’re looking for South African safari tips (my favorite!), I’ve got a few special pointers for you, too.

African safari tips | Things to know before your first African safari | Safari vacation tips | Planning the perfect safari honeymoon | Travel on an African safari

African Safari Tips: How to Plan

Planning an African safari can be completely overwhelming.  How long should you go for?  What do you need to do ahead of time?  Here’s some of my best African safari tips that will help you as you’re starting to plan your trip.

Tip #1: How Long Should you Go on Safari for?

This is probably my most important tip when it comes to planning your African safari: think carefully about the duration of your trip.  It can be tempting to extend your time on safari as long as possible, but you may actually need less time than you think.

African safari tips

How Many Days to Go on Safari

A good friend from South Africa first gave me this safari tip.  He suggested that 4 days is typically enough time for the majority of people on safari.  At first, I was surprised, because I had originally envisioned a week-long safari, and was worried that the safari deserved more time, or that staying only four days would feel rushed.

The Perfect Safari Duration

Turns out that he was completely right.  Obviously, this just goes as a general rule of thumb.  Everybody is different, but for many people, I agree that 4 days is the right amount of time to be on safari.  Typically, days on safari are long (see my description of a typical day on safari below), and accommodation on safari can be relatively expensive because it is generally all-inclusive.

Four days on safari is also enough time for you to see a variety of animals.  If you do two game drives each day, you’ll likely have had the chance to spot many of the “big ones”, and also see them in a variety of environments, too.

Pro Travel Tip: These days, travel can be more uncertain than ever. Check for any COVID-related restrictions at your destination, and never travel without travel insurance! I recommend SafetyWing, because they have flexible + affordable insurance plans, and also cover COVID-related impacts on your trip (not all companies do)!

Tip #2: Check what’s included in your accommodation

When you’re planning an African safari, choosing the right accommodation is one of the most important decisions you’ll make.  As you compare different options, an important tip is to make sure to take a look at exactly what your lodge will include in its nightly rate.  Not only will this help with budgeting, but it will also help you determine which lodge is the best fit for you.

South African safari tips 1

What’s Included in Your Safari Lodge?

Many lodges include all meals, but check beforehand that this is the case.  Optional things that some hotels include are things like alcoholic drinks, game drives, bush walks or walking safaris, bird watching, spa treatments, and transportation to and from the lodge.

Knowing what your lodge includes in its nightly rate will help you pick the best lodging for you and your group.  Also, all of these things can add up, so it’s important to know beforehand what to expect.

Tip #3: What Vaccines are Needed for Safari?

Another important tip when it comes to preparing for an African safari is to check ahead of time what vaccinations or medications are recommended for the area you’ll be visiting.

How To Find Required Vaccines for Safari by Country

The best place to look for this information is the Traveler’s Health page from the CDC.  Here, you can select the country you’re planning to visit.  Based on your selection, the site will tell you which vaccines are required, and which vaccines are optional, but may be important to have.

Schedule a Pre-Safari Consultation with your Doctor

Schedule a “pre-travel” consultation with your doctor, and during your appointment you can discuss what you might need.  Don’t forget about things that you might need just in case – like antibiotics or medicine to avoid motion sickness.

how to plan an African safari

African Safari Tips: How to Pack

One of the most common questions I get about safaris is: how should I pack for my African safari?  Admittedly, packing for a safari was one of the greatest packing challenges I’ve ever had!  Here’s a few tips as you  start to think about packing for your safari.

But, first….

The One Thing You Will Need to Pack for Your African Safari

One of these.  Seriously, don’t leave home without it.  Many kits don’t include versions for countries in Africa, but the one I’ve linked to has ’em ALL.

Tip #4: The Best Clothes to Pack for An African Safari

Packing clothes for an African safari can actually be quite simple.  I’ll do another post in the future that is dedicated specifically to what clothes to pack for safari, but for now I have two key tips: 1) pack warm clothes, and 2) dress casually.

Pack Warm Clothes, No Matter What time of Year Your’e Going on Safari

You’ll want to pack warm clothes no matter what time of year you’re going on safari.  Why?  It’s because you’ll be going on game drives at dawn and at dusk, and it can get downright cold when you’re cruising along in a jeep with no roof or windows!

It’s also a good idea to pack lots of layers.  While you might start the day with a pre-dawn chill, in a few hours you might be roasting in the sun.

things to know before going on safari in Africa

South African Safari Tips

And if you’re headed to South Africa for your safari, I’ve written an entire post on things that you’ll want to pack.  Check it out here.   You’ll also probably find my perfect 4 day Cape Town itinerary to be useful!

Tip #5: Bring the right camera equipment for safari

If you only bring one thing on safari, make it a camera!  Seeing animals up close in their natural environment will be life-changing, and you’ll want to make sure that you have the right equipment to capture it.

Not everybody is a professional photographer, so don’t worry – you don’t need to go crazy buying special equipment!  But at the very least, you’ll probably want something that is better than the camera on your phone.

Photography Tips for Safari

I’ve gotten a few questions about the photos in this post – and yes, they’re all ones that I’ve taken while on safari.  I could probably write an entire post on photography while on safari, but for now, check out all of my best tips for travel photography that I’ve rounded up in this post.

first time African safari

Tip #6: Only Bring Soft-sided luggage for an African Safari

This is a really important safari tip – you will likely be required to pack for your African safari using only soft-sided luggage.  This means you’ll need to bring a duffel bag or canvas bag – this is the one that I’ve used in the past.  I love it because it wasn’t a huge investment, but it was large enough to fit two weeks worth of clothes.

Don’t Bring Hard-Sided Luggage on Safari

What you can’t bring on most safari trips is a hard-sided, or even regular suitcase.  This is because, at some point during your safari, you’ll probably be flying in a tiny plane.  The operators of these little planes have to be able to squish everyone’s luggage into the cargo compartment, so hard-sided luggage won’t cut it.

Chic Soft-Sided Luggage For Safari

Looking to splurge on your safari soft-sided luggage?  Check out one of my favorite brands for travel pieces, Cuyana.  Their carry-on bags would be the perfect finishing touch to an elegant travel outfit!

planning a safari trip to Africa

African Safari Tips: What to Expect During Your Trip

Congratulations – you made it to your African safari!  Here’s a few tips to keep in mind that will help you make the most of your stay while you’re on safari.

Tip #7: Know the safari daily schedule

Before you head out on your African safari, it’s a good idea to get a sense for how your days will be scheduled.  Most often, your daily schedule will be planned for you, so having a rough idea of each day’s activities will help you with packing and planning.

Morning Game Drives on Safari

Most lodges follow a similar schedule, due to the times of day when animals are most active: dawn and dusk.  Typically, you’ll wake up around 6:00am and have a quick snack or cup of coffee before heading out on a morning game drive.

Game drives generally last for about two to three hours, depending on the weather and your luck with spotting animals.  Halfway in to the drive, your guide may stop and set up coffee and morning snacks for the group.

how to pack for an African safari

Breakfast and The Day at Leisure on Safari

After a morning game drive, you’ll likely head back to the lodge around 9:00am for breakfast.  Once you’ve eaten breakfast, the rest of the day is yours to spend at leisure.  Hang out by the pool, take a nap, read, or just relax – it’s up to you!

Evening Game Drives on Safari

Around 6:00pm, you’ll head out on a second game drive of the day.  This trip might include a stop for “sundowners”, or evening cocktails out in the bush.  This is one of my favorite parts of safari!  Toasting to a day of experiencing wildlife in its natural environment is quite the celebration.

Return from the evening game drive in time for dinner and an early bedtime – tomorrow will be another full day!

The above schedule is typical for many African safari lodges, but it’s likely that yours will vary somewhat.  Make sure to check with your accommodation ahead of time so that you know what to expect.

Tip #8: Bring something to do during the day on safari

You might have gathered from the safari daily plan that I’ve outlined above that there will be some downtime each day.  If you’re the type who likes to keep busy, you may want to bring something to do during the day.  Packing some playing cards or a good book is definitely a good idea.

safari packing checklist

Many safari lodges have swimming pool or spa facilities for exactly this reason.  Your lodge may also offer optional activities such as bush walking or birding for guests during the day.  But if you’re worried that you might get bored, make sure to pack something that’ll keep you occupied – because you’re likely to be pretty far away from the nearest town!

Tip #9: How to Dress on Safari

This safari tip is an extension of tip #4 above, but it’s worth remembering in its own right.  It’s important to wear the right clothes while you’re out on safari game drives.

The Best Colors to Wear on Safari

In general, wearing white or black while on safari isn’t the best idea.  Why?  Well, for starters – they’ll both get pretty dirty!  When you’re driving around in a Jeep with no doors, expect things to get pretty dusty.  Black colors can also attract tsetse flies which have nasty bites.  Instead, try to stick to neutrals such as olive, grays, or khakis.

Tip #10: Listen to your safari guide

One of the most important African safari tips I have is to listen to your guide while you’re out on game drives.  He or she is there to keep you safe and to help you experience everything there is to see out in the bush, and following their lead will help you make the most of your safari experience.

If your guide asks you to be quiet, do it.  If your guide tells everyone to stay seated, don’t stand up!  There’s a reason he or she is asking you to cooperate, and it’s probably a good one.

what to bring on safari

How to Stay Safe on Safari

Most often, guides make requests to help keep you safe.  Safari guides are well-trained, generally have years of experience, and they can spot signs of potentially dangerous animal behavior before you can.

Safari guides know how to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation, and it usually requires the cooperation of everyone there, including guests.  So do yourself a favor and make sure to pay attention to your guide when you’re out on game drives!

There you have it – 10 African Safari Tips to help you have the perfect trip!

Where are you heading for your African safari?  Let me know in the comments below!

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Things to know before your first African safari | Safari vacation tips | Planning the perfect safari honeymoon | Travel on an African safari

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