If you’re reading this page, you’ve probably already been convinced of the life affirming beauty and wonder of an African safari. Knowing how to book an African safari so there are no surprises when you’re on the ground can be unnerving given the range of tours, destinations, agents and tour operators around. Looking for direction? We’ve got it right here, with our point-by-point guide to how to book your African safari!
Step 1: Know When You’re Going
It may sound counter-intuitive to start a guide to how to plan an African safari by saying you should first decide when you are going to go rather than where you might go. But most of us are limited to certain times of year because of school vacation periods or other life commitments.
Like most parts of the world, there are good times to visit Africa’s safari destinations and less good times. We recommend you travel during the best time to visit. Although lodges and national parks may be busier, you’ll be able to get the top wildlife viewing opportunities of the year.
For example, just a few weeks can separate seeing the incredible spectacle of two million wildebeest, zebra and impala in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, and missing the herds entirely as they move on again. You wouldn’t want to arrive and find you’re too late!
Thankfully both the long school vacation period of June through to October and the Christmas period correspond with east Africa’s dry seasons. It makes these months ideal for destinations within Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda.
Step 2: Decide How Long You Want to Spend on Safari
It’s possible to safari with as little as three hours spare, the average length of a game drive. Just one example is the ability to take a game drive or self-drive safari around Nairobi National Park on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital close to Wilson Airport, where there are lion, giraffe and hippo within sight of the city’s skyscrapers.
However, you’ll only get a true sense of the splendor of a safari with several days. We’d usually suggest somewhere around eight days, perhaps split between two or three different national parks. If this sounds like a long time to be animal spotting, remember that national parks can offer very different experiences beyond game drives, from gorilla trekking to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak.
Park lodges are also designed to be a place for relaxation, with many offering facilities as varied as swimming pools and spa treatment rooms.
Step 3: Choose Your Destination
Another thing to consider when wondering how to plan an African safari is exactly what do you expect?
Are you looking for luxury or mid-range? Are you keen to tick off the Big 5 (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) or are you more interested in the region’s bird life? Do you want to head out on foot with a walking safari, which are only offered at certain parks? The answers to these questions will help you decide on the right destination for you.
For an introduction to the top destinations for safaris in Africa, check out our thoughts on our page dedicated to all things planning!
Step 4: Book Early
Top destinations, including the Serengeti during the Great Wildebeest Migration and Rwanda and Uganda at peak gorilla trekking times book up incredibly quickly. Don’t be surprised if your chosen lodge is already fully booked 12 months ahead of your departure date at the most popular times of year.
Booking early is therefore an essential part of knowing how to plan an African safari. A travel agent can be a great source of information to narrow down precisely what you’re looking for. However, by now you should already have a good idea. Going directly to a tour operator – the company actually running the safari – can also have several advantages.
Firstly, only a tour operator such as Home to Africa will be able to personalize your tour to your exact specifications. An agent can’t do this. Looking to spend more time in one particular location than a normal tour allows? No problem.
What’s more, booking securely directly with a tour operator might well save you some cash too, since there will be no agent’s mark-up included! Be sure though that you choose a local tour operator who knows their region well. Ideally, they will be located in the region.
Step 5: Purchase Flights and Travel Insurance
There are various online tools for working out the cheapest time to purchase your flights, which will not be included as part of any tour package. At the same time, we say it’s best to know you’ve got a confirmed flight booked even if you end up spending a little more.
Just as important is purchasing travel insurance. You should do this as soon as you have confirmed your tour or flights. You should ensure your policy covers you in the event of cancellation as well as for medical expenses. Medical cover should have a minimum value of $1 million dollars to ensure you receive the medical expertise you require in the unlikely event the worst should happen and you need to be repatriated on a medical flight.
Step 6: Consider Yourself an Expert on How to Plan an African Safari
An relax! All the hard work is done – almost. With tour package and flights fully confirmed, all you have to do is worry about small practicalities such as currency conversion and visas. You can find out all the information you need to know on these subjects in one handy place with our important information page, which covers everything from what sorts of clothing to take on safari to information on WiFi and internet access while away.
Planning an African Safari has Never Been So Easy
The good news is that today everyone can be an expert on how to plan an African safari. No longer a mystery, follow our simple six step plan and you’ll soon be marveling at the circle of life on the plains of east Africa or delving into its jungles in search of gorilla just as you’ve always wanted to!