Many tourist who are not familiar with Africa ask the question – what is a safari? Well a safari is an exciting and adventurous way of seeing the ‘real Africa’ because it enables you to view a variety of wildlife in their natural habitat. As a result, going on a safari gives you an authentic experience of African culture.
Safaris can involve walking through the wilderness, driving in 4×4 vehicles or by flying in light air craft. The purpose of a safari is to allow you to get intimate with the landscape and scenery.
While mostly challenging, you need to be young at heart and open-minded to get the best out of a safari trip. All safari vehicles are custom-built to travel to remote places. Thus allowing you to view wildlife from a safe distance in comfort.
Why should you go on a Safari?
- Slow down and get in touch with the earth
- Experience wildlife in their natural environment
- Engage with local cultures and learn about their traditions
- Take part in adventurous outdoor activities
The accommodation on safaris vary depending on your trip. Anything from basic two man tents through to tented camps and luxury lodges with en suite bathrooms. Certainly there is something to suit everyone!
Types of Safaris can you go on?
The term safari is a type of experience where you have the opportunity to observe and photograph wildlife. An African safari in an overland truck is an adventure with lots of sightseeing and activities. Specialist forms of safaris cater for a variety of needs and budgets.
Some examples include migratory safaris, birding, medical safaris, hiking, culinary, family, horse back and photographic safaris. A safari tour can range is length from a couple of days to longer overland trips. While the longer safari tours traverse over numerous countries and include 1-2 months of travel.
What is a Camping Overland Safari?
A camping overland safari is for travelers who want a hands-on experience of Mother Nature. Either setting up your campsite or helping build a campfire whilst surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and scenery. During an African camping safari you will stay in large dome canvas tents which are spacious enough for two adults and your luggage.
Most camping safaris include a sleeping mat and you only need to bring your own sleeping bag, pillow and towel. The African campsites are basic and comfortable. Most have warm showers and flushing ablutions, while others may have natural ablutions.
What are Accommodated or Comfort Overland Safaris?
Accommodated safaris are designed for travelers who prefer extra comforts. Most importantly, it is comfort without the price tag! Our accommodated safaris make use of a combination of lodges, hostels, bungalows, chalets, permanent safari camps, hotels and traditional huts.
Our properties are ideally located at each destination for an authentic experience with incredible views. The standard of the properties varies along the trip. While Southern Africa properties are much more established than the East Africa accommodation. They vary from basic comfortable accommodation to breathtaking properties.
What is a Lodge Safari?
Lodge safaris allow travelers to access wildlife over a shorter period of time. Therefore the lodges are located close to the wildlife and allow you more comfort. Most lodges can be accessed by air or by land transfers thus allowing you to maximize your time and experience. Also the quality of lodges vary for budgets and level of comfort.
What is a Mobile Tented Safari?
Mobile tented safaris are designed to allow for less impact on the environment. Tents are set up for your accommodation and then dismantled when you leave to ensure only footprints are left behind. Guides will drive the support vehicles ahead of the travelers and set up the camp. As a result the entire camp is all set up before your arrival.
By the time you arrive all you have to do is unpack, sit back relax and wait for dinner to be served. You will sleep on stretcher beds with a sleeping bag and a pillow provided. Bucket showers are provided with heated water for you to freshen up.
Luxury tented camps
Some of the camps are luxury camps which are spacious tents with beds and crisp good quality linen. Resident chefs will prepare all your meals and there is a designated guide to organise and maintain the campsite.
There are a few permanent tented camps which are erected seasonally in wildlife-dense areas for the best game viewing experience. Once the season is over these tents are dismantled and moved to another area for optimum game viewing.
What is a typical day on a safari?
Early mornings are frequent so that you can enjoy a hot beverage and a light breakfast before heading out on a game drive. The mornings can be crisp and cold while refreshing, with the reward of watching nature awaken.
The morning game drives can be between 2 to 3 hours long. Allowing you plenty of time to explore the area before returning to the campsite for lunch or enjoying a picnic in the bush. You might go on another game drive in the afternoon or take part in an activity such as canoeing, birdwatching or white water rafting.
Dinner will be prepared for you to sit back, relax and chat to your fellow companions over sundowners while a crackling fire is ready to keep the chill off. Early nights are usually encouraged so that you wake up refreshed and ready for a another adventurous safari.
When is the best time to go on a safari?
The Winter months of June to October offer the best game viewing throughout East and Southern Africa. The best wildlife viewing is when the herds of game graze on the dry Savannah during the day. Whilst watering holes and riverbeds are the main attraction at sunset.
Winter is also the best time to see and experience the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara Game Reserve. The migration is definitely one of Africa’s greatest phenomena and well worth the trip.
It is ideal for a beach vacation on the East coast of Africa with moderate daily temperatures. Naturally these conditions are perfect to soak up the sun.
In the Summer months of November to March the bush transforms with lush green vegetation. The African sky offers up a dramatic backdrop of dark thunderstorm clouds. It is therefore the ideal playing field for energetic young grazers, with intensified predator action. Also the most popular season for birding enthusiasts with big flocks of migratory birds returning south.
East Africa Safari vs Southern Africa Safari – Which is best?
Southern Africa includes the countries of South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Malawi and Mozambique. While East Africa includes the countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. These are the two main regions for safari holidays in Africa. Each region offers different landscapes, wildlife experiences and attractions.
Therefore lets dive into the pros and cons of a safari in each region to help you decide on your African safari tour.
The East African Landscape
When people think of images of an African safari, they usually have scenes from an East African safari in mind. Countless nature documentaries are set on the vast savanna of Kenya and Tanzania. These two countries boast postcard-perfect landscapes of rolling savanna dotted with acacia trees and are home to the wildebeest migration. The annual migration of millions of animals that takes place between the Masai Mara and the Serengeti. This is truly one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth.
Both East Africa tours and Southern Africa tours have the Big Five wildlife and an amazing diversity of other animals. However East Africa has a higher concentration of game than in Southern Africa. Wildlife are also easier to spot on the open savanna plains. Due to East African national parks not being fenced the wildlife move freely in their migratory patterns.
The East African Wildlife
While Kenya and Tanzania are the top countries in East Africa safari tours, Uganda and Rwanda have their own attractions as they are known for wild mountain gorillas. Along with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda are the only places where you can see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
Tracking mountain gorillas is thrilling and hugely rewarding. Undoubtedly a bucket-list wildlife experience to try and tick off your ever growing list. The experience of coming face to face with a huge silver-back gorilla is truly unforgettable! You can also go chimpanzee tracking in Uganda and Rwanda, which doesn’t get you as close as you do to the gorillas, but it’s still an amazing wildlife encounter.
Another main attraction of a safari tour in East Africa is a hike up Africa’s highest mountain in Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro. Tanzania and Kenya have beautiful coastlines and idyllic islands for some relaxing beach time, snorkelling and diving.
A few downsides of east African safaris are the number of vehicles at sightings in the popular parks, such as the Masai Mara and the Serengeti. With no limit to the number of cars, you will likely be sharing the view with 10 other vehicles.
Ready to plan an East Africa tour? Check out our range of East Africa Safaris, including:
The Southern African Landscape
While Southern Africa doesn’t have the same concentration of wildlife as East Africa, it offers greater diversity of landscapes. Southern Africa highlights include the vast wetland of the Okavango Delta in Botswana as well as the beautiful Kalahari Desert in Botswana and South Africa. In addition, the tallest sand dunes in the world in the Namib Desert in Namibia and Africa’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls, which straddles Zambia and Zimbabwe.
No forgetting Mozambique’s long and beautiful coastline with its beautiful palm lined archipelagos. Mozambique safaris are popular for their picturesque scenery and rich cultural experiences.
With incredibly varied landscapes and climates, South Africa is the most popular safari destination in southern Africa for good reason. Not forgetting an amazing Big Five safari holiday visiting the country’s flagship park, Kruger National Park allows you to experience a wide diversity in a short time. Certainly South Africa offers so much from city sightseeing in beautiful Cape Town to a beach holiday on the Garden Route. Mountaineering in the Drakensberg or wine tasting in the Cape Winelands are also popular attractions.
The Southern African Wildlife
Apart from Etosha National Park in Namibia, many of the national parks and reserves in Southern Africa have dense bushveld unlike in East Africa, making game viewing a little bit more challenging. An advantage is you can often get much closer to the wildlife in Southern Africa. Therefore you’ll get to see those elephants or lions up close.
Private reserves or concessions in Southern Africa have strict rules about how many vehicles can be at a viewing. This means that you get more of an intimate experience at a sighting than you might do in East Africa.
If you’re looking for a malaria-free safari destination then east Africa is unfortunately not an option. Africa’s only malaria-free safaris are in South Africa and Namibia (here is our list of the best malaria-free safaris in southern Africa).
Inspired to go on a safari tour in Southern Africa? Here are our budget overland Safaris to southern Africa. Some of the most popular Southern Africa tours are:
If you can’t possibly choose between East Africa and Southern Africa for a safari tour then explore both regions on one of our long overlanding tours?
Our 58 day Nairobi to Cape Town overlanding tour starts in Kenya and takes you through Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia before coming to an end in Cape Town, South Africa. Along the way you will visit most of the best national parks and reserves in both East and Southern Africa.