1. Select a reputable “destination expert”
Why? Because they can provide a guiding hand to ensure you get the very best out of your safari. While Africa can be a good value for money destination with the South African Rand weak against most first world currencies, safari accommodation tends to be relatively expensive (at least when compared to holiday resort accommodation.) So you want to get best value for your budget – bearing in mind that paying top-dollar does not necessarily assure you of the best experience! A reputable African travel specialist knows how you can best accomplish that without completely compromising your experience!
Another essential aspect that a destination expert will take care of is the logistics of getting around a continent where public-transport is almost non-existent!
Booking through a destination expert should cost you no more than booking directly – at least that is the case with Destinations Africa!
2. Take the advice of your destination expert
A conscientious destination expert should have visited most if not all of the places (including lodges) that they are recommending which puts them in a position of comparing the various offerings. Friends on the other hand are unlikely to have visited a sufficient number to make a sensible comparison. But rather than discounting friends’ recommendations, seek your destination expert’s opinion on their recommendations. Then again perhaps you count among your friends, clients of ours who we have labeled “Africa tragics” because they have booked a return trip to Africa with us at least once a year for the last eight years – but Africa is like that – it keeps calling you back!
3. Plan well in advance
The better, more authentic wildlife safari lodges are small and intimate with a total capacity of under 30 people. The better value ones tend to book up well in advance. So best to start your planning 12 to 18 months in advance. As well as having less difficulty with availability at the preferred lodges, you will have longer to look forward to your “trip of a lifetime”. One of our regular client’s starts planning his next year’s trip before he has even embarked on this year’s – his logic being that it provides the motivation to keep working the grueling hours he normally works.
4. Figure out your priorities
Get provisional reservations in place before you book your international flights – otherwise you may have to settle for second or third choice because of lack of availability.
If your budget is limited, consider excluding some activities or destinations from your itinerary. For example gorilla treks tend to be very expensive with Rwandan permits alone costing US$ 750 per person per trek. Add to that the cost of getting there and accommodation and you will be left with little change out of US$ 3 000 per person.
Botswana is one of the more expensive wildlife safari destinations in Africa. So if your heart is set on a visit there then you might consider travelling out of high season (basically between mid-June and mid-October) or a (more affordable) mobile safari.
Finally, in terms of budget, South Africa is probably the best value (and indeed greatly underrated) wildlife safari destination in Africa.
5. Invest in a warm jacket and sun hat
Weather is unpredictable all over the world – Africa is no exception! I once (only once) made the mistake of leaving my jacket at home. As the temperature on the day of arrival was 42 deg centigrade, I had hoped I would not need it. The high of 19 degrees the following day proved just how unpredictable the weather can be – and there is little protection from the temperatures in an open 4 x 4 WD. Normally though not long after the sun has shivered over the horizon, you will also need a hat and long sleeved shirt as it can get pretty hot and intense!
6. Effect Travel Insurance
The final tip for preparing for a wildlife safari is to effect travel insurance as soon as possible as life has a way of interfering with our best laid plans