If like us an African Big Game Safari is on your bucket list then this four part Safari guide is for you. It covers the following points:
- When and where to visit – Part 1
- Public or private park and group or private safari – Part 2
- Self guided or private safari and what type of vehicle – Part 3
- Accommodation and extras – Part 4
So when Grete Howard, a friend through blogging and the most well travelled person I know, got in contact and asked if she could write a series of articles regarding planning an African Safari for our site, we jumped at the chance.
Grete has travelled extensively in Africa over the last 30 years, including a number of safaris taking in most of the well-known parks in East, South and West Africa.
She is passionate about photography and obsessive about travel, with Africa being her favourite continent and animals being her favourite subject.
As you will see throughout this series, Grete’s photographs are phenomenal and if you would like to check out more of them head over to her Flickr account.
Public or Private Park?
Some countries have privately owned parks, with exclusive game viewing. These obviously work out more expensive, but they are very popular (with photographers in particular) as the numbers of tourists are far lower and off-road driving is permitted so you can get closer to the animals. Some of the parks also have trackers fitted to animals so that they know where they are at all times. While this can take some of the element of fun and surprise out of a safari, it is time saving if all you want is to photograph certain animals.
Group or Private Safari?
This, to me, is the most important decision of all.
Group safaris invariably work out cheaper than private arrangements, for obvious reasons, but you are then restricted to their choice of route and accommodation, and will be with a number of other people, sometimes in a convoy of several vehicles.
The cost of a private safari is not always higher, so it is worth checking out this option before deciding. You then have the freedom to make all the planning choices yourself, and are not encumbered by other people once you are in the bush.
Summary – my personal choice
Having been lucky enough to have taken numerous safaris over the last thirty years, both privately and in groups (small and large) my choice would be:
Private safari rather than in a group
Below I have highlighted some of the reasons we would always choose a private safari.
- You can choose where and when you travel, and how long for, to fit in with your work and other commitments.
- You have a choice of the type of accommodation you stay in, and can mix and match if you like.
- Each day you and the guide decide between you what time to start, where to go and how long to stay out for. You don’t have to abide by ‘majority rule’.
- Trust me when I say this: almost every group trip, safari or otherwise, has that ‘one’ person. By arranging a private safari you will not be stuck with them for 12 hours a day in a small vehicle.
- Space – this is an obvious one, with just two of you there will be more space to move around in the vehicle and room for bags etc.
- Time keeping – often you get that one person who is constantly late, much to the annoyance of everyone else. And if you are that person, you will not be antagonising others with your lateness. Also, just little things like if you have a safari vehicle with up to 12 people in it there is so much wasted time loading and unloading the vehicle, toilet stops (there is generally only one or two cubicles), lunch breaks etc.
- We are keen bird watchers and like to stop to look at / photograph birds, and group tours tend not to spend any time looking / stopping for birds. Majority rule again…
- If, like us, you are not into shopping, you can design the itinerary to focus on the safari aspect only, not – as most group tours do – spend any time shopping. Or vice versa.
- Convoy driving – if your group contains more people than will fit in one vehicle, you often end up driving in convoy. This poses a few problems such as dust created by the fist vehicle means subsequent cars have limited visibility; usually the lead vehicle gets a better view of a sighting; and can cause boasting competitions in the evening about who saw what, best and most.
- Noise level – it is hard enough to keep two people quite at an animal sighting, and with more people in the car, the greater the chances are that someone will make a sound to scare the animal away.
Photography – more passengers means more people to get in your photo or rock the vehicle to create camera shake. It also means more people fighting over charging stations for batteries.
- All photographs provided by Grete Howard