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A Safari Primer

Africa for "first-time" and seasoned travellers

A bit muddled for choice? Whether you're a first-timer or old hand in Africa this might help...

Africa's safari destinations: a review of the best safari spots in both East, Southern and Central Africa - some mainstream "touristy" spots but more importantly those remote places where you're in the company of some of Africa's top guides, with loads of wildlife, dramatic scenery and ideally no crowds.

Our safari seasons

  • if your annual break is already set then that timing may influence your decision on a destination
  • if you're flexible then choose the best time to match your interests 

Types of safaris: debunking the "marketing-speak" with some simple explanations on what walking safaris, mobile trips, fly-in safaris, self-drive safaris, privately guided safaris, canoe safaris, migration safaris and so on are all about.

Safari costs: Does "special interest" sound expensive?  How about "custom-made" safaris or "tailor-made" or even "bespoke safaris"?  Well they shouldn't be expensive!  Let's cut the hype - it's not a mission to put together a honeymoon safari, a family trip with kids or a photographic safari for professionals - without the premium.  Here's and explanation on the differences between cheap, affordable/reasonable and outrageous.

Safari Planning: keep it simple and get the detail out of the way - flights, logistics, insurance, paperwork, medical issues and more....

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How much does a safari cost?

If you're just looking for some prices then

The safari industry and how pricing works 

Camps, lodges and safari operators set their prices based on cost plus margin or in some cases on the price that the market will bear accounting for supply and demand.  

This is the rack rate (or "off the shelf" brochure price) and "usually" includes all land costs with accommodation, meals, guide fees and activities (often excludes parks fees).  Some safari operators sell directly to the consumer but they don't discount the rack rate - if they do they run the risk of alienating their trade support. 

The rack rates are discounted to tour operators and travel wholesalers by around 20% who then package with flights, market and sell to consumers and travel agents.  In some cases the "net" rates are discounted even further based on volume or reciprocal deals.  They apply to the trade only. 

Travel agents often purchase these packaged trips from wholesalers/tour and safari operators, and earn around 10% for distribution to consumers. 

Some alarming over-charging by tour operators in the USA has been matched by equally alarming under-cutting by a small handful of operators out of the UK and South Africa in recent years.   Market forces will ultimately rule...

Types of discount

The price to consumers is usually based on the rack rate and sometimes gets discounted.  (In some cases tour operators run the risk of alienating safari operators if they discount rack rates without agreement.)  When applied, discounts are offered as follows: 

  • Last-minute bookings: if a camp has unsold space or last minute cancellations then discounts are sometimes available (contact for last minute specials).  Some camps never discount on rack rates in which case the tour operators pass the discount to the in the green season 
  • Seasonal discounts: low-season and "shoulder" periods on either side of the high season are good times to look out for seasonal discounts. 
  • Group discounts: some camps offer discounts on volume of 6 or more guests and in the case of activities (eg river rafting) full discounts usually apply to the 10th person in the group 
  • Loss-leaders: New camps, especially those within a larger group come up with super special discounts from time to time. 

So what are the average costs of a safari? 

(with some comparisons between 2007 and 2014) 

Low-budget trips in Namibia can cost under $200 per person per night - set departures, fairly large groups, basic campsites.  

Overland trips in East Africa, or Victoria Falls/Botswana or South Africa/Zimbabwe/Botswana can work out at less than $100 per night.

We've had good value camping safaris in Tanzania's Serengeti run over 6 days cost $1700 (Dec '08) or $1900 (June 2014) including parks fees.

In all cases above these are well organised trips run by reputable companies in a very competitive sector of the market. 

They generally appeal to the younger set, are packaged and priced accordingly.

All-inclusive trips to small and remote bush camps with Professional Guides cost a fair bit more.  To illustrate, 

Medium budget trips in Zimbabwe's lower Zambezi valley might cost around $350 per night, a comparable trip in Botswana will cost around $550 per night.Bateleur (short tailed eagle) from the air with John Coppinger and Andy Hogg

Some of our best and most successful safaris which cover additional ground with a bit more exclusivity work out at $360 in Zimbabwe, $490 in Zambia, $650 in Botswana, Southern Tanzania and Kenya (2008 rates) 

Consider one or two of these trips with a specific Pro Guide and you may need to add 30% to the rates - and there's no question that these safaris are fair value for money.

Compare apples with apples as well - these "daily" rates could include

  • local charter rates getting you in and out of remote of our best trips in Zambia's Luangwa valley over 7 nights costs exactly the same as an equivalent standard trip in Zambia's Kafue over 4 nights - the difference being the helicopter used to get you into camp from Lusaka....
  • Parks Fees - in the Serengeti rates generally exclude National Parks Fees, in Kenya's Laikipia, Conservancy Fees are included in the "rack rates". 

Then in 2008/2009 the "credit crunch" shook the entire industry's prices.  It continues today!  Some prices have come down and we have regular "pay 5 stay 7" specials.  Even the occasional 50% discount.   

Why the big regional differences? 

In Botswana, we have a well established policy of "low volumes, high returns".  From a conservation point of view there's very little doubt that it's a good policy - especially since a large portion of the safari earnings go back into actual conservation.  So prices are generally higher, supply and demand is a big factor.African map

In the remoter parts of Zambia, southern Tanzania and Zimbabwe (the Luangwa, Kafue, lower Zambezi, Ruaha, Selous and Mana Pools) the camps are often very small (some with only 6 guests) and our safari season is relatively short (May to October at best).  Most of these safaris are a very fair deal when you start adding in logistical costs.

In Kenya we've seen groups of operators across the Mara, Laikipia, Amboseli and the coast standardise their charges at around $450 (excluding parks fees) - this hasn't happened to the same extent in Tanzania.

In Zimbabwe we saw politics turn market forces upside down.  Volumes dropped, prices came down and whilst the rest of Africa was booming up to 2008/9, Zimbabwe was in the doldrums.  

In South Africa you could have access to regional rates without having to prove that you're not an "international" Zimbabwe's "old days" you could get local, regional or international rates for the same product depending on who you spoke to...not fair at all. 

What variables will keep the cost of a safari down? 

Bear in mind that all of our safaris are based on land costs and exclude international airfares.  We're ATOL licensed for international flights out of the UK and are well connected to consolidators in the US (just let us know if you'd like us to take care of the international airfares with your safari)

One of the biggest cost drivers on a trip is in fact the logistical costs of getting in and out of remoter spots.  Typically a 7 day trip covering the South and North Luangwa is going to be far more cost effective than trying to cover the Luangwa, Kafue, lower Zambezi and Victoria Falls in the same period.  Aside from costs, you'll probably be too exhausted by the series of light aircraft charters to appreciate the latter trip.

Be careful when planning a multi-country trip in the region.  Typically, East Africa and Southern Africa don't combine all that well because of the lost time in transit and additional costs if you can't get code-sharing connections between the destinations.

Think about combining a bit of luxury with "participative trips".

For example a lower Zambezi canoe trail works well with a "luxury" lodge in Matusadona.  The canoe trail is a load of fun and relatively inexpensive, the lodge gives you a good walking safari and some creature comforts.

A simple camping trip in the Serengeti combines with a bit of lodge luxury on the coast.  

A word on card surcharges

Companies that accept credit and pre-paid debit cards hold merchant accounts for which they're charged transaction fees in addition to processing fees for SSL encryption systems.  These costs range between around 2-5% on every transaction.

Merchant agreements in the US and EU, as established by MasterCard, Visa, and American Express, generally prohibit passing on the cost of card processing (interchange fees) in the form of a "card surcharge" or "convenience fee".

This is not the case in the UK or Australia where the "no-surcharge" ruling is banned.

So if you deal for example with a US tour operator they would generally build the cost of processing cards into their pricing and will often offer a 2-5% discount for cash or wire transfers.

UK traders and tour operators are entitled to add a fee for processing cards.  Some build the cost into their pricing structures (in which case discounts should be giving for transfers and cheques), others treat the cost as an add-on. The guideline from the Office of Fair Trading covers

Transparency; clients should be told up-front what the relevant charges are if they apply.

Reasonable and practical alternatives to avoiding card charges should be made available.

Extra charges to clients should be consistent with processing costs incurred by merchants (they shouldn't be excessive)

A future ruling may restrict traders from applying any charges for pre-paid debit cards. 

In Africa it's not uncommon to be expected to pay a 5-7% card surcharge!  (Zanzibar has to be the worst)

We're transparent about administration fees associated with our secure booking system, we offer no-charge alternatives, we're in the business of selling safaris so don't profit by these fees.   

Some words of caution on safari prices

We've seen "packaged holidays" out of the UK for 2 weeks including international airfares on a full board basis in Kenya for "from £579" (around $1150 - January 2007) get what you pay for...big resorts, minibuses, extras...."caveat emptor" - that's 2 weeks, all in, just over $1000!  Those clients never saw real Africa - guaranteed. 

There's one spot in the Serengeti's Western Corridor that's on the migration path for about one week each year, usually around June, has poor resident game, has a lousy road network, is a 2 hour bone-jarring drive from the Seronera circuits but enjoys a 10 month "high season" and is practically full for 11 months of the year. The only explanation for this is that the market has been duped - there's very little chance that these visitors will ever admit to friends at home that they were disappointed especially since they would have spent $1375 per room per night (2007 rates)!  (Not far away in Grumeti area you'll find two small lodges where the comparable 2007 rate was $800 pppn and of significantly better value - we continue to support the latter strongly.) 

The Mara is an amazing place and there's capacity for several thousand people at any time - but there're only 6 camps and 2 lodges that are real value for money.  The Amboseli has capacity for just under 500 people at peak but in all honesty there's only 1 tented camp for 12 guests that's an absolute "must" and 1 other small lodge that's worth considering at all.  Don't follow the herd. 

The Tanzanian "Grumeti" option above is in an area of 1100 square km with 57 bednights which compares with 1500 square km and 4500 bednights in Kenya's Mara -  prices are comparable but the experiences are completely different. 

Don't use price to distinguish between excellent and rotten - you're unlikely to know before it's too late.

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Safari destinations in Africa

Africa's traditional safari spots are located in East and Southern Africa....

  • Southern Africa's main safari destinations - Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Malawi and South Africa.
  • East Africa comprises Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya with Zanzibar on the east coast of the continent.  Ethiopia is a special cultural and historical spot.
  • Central Africa - reserved for afficianados - we run a few special safaris in Gabon, CAR, Congo Brazzaville and Cameroon

Southern Africa's hot spots

Visit for great habitat diversity, some outstanding spots for big game.  Don't miss Victoria Falls and Cape Town.


  • Unquestionably Africa's best walking safari destination, remoter areas only accessible in the dry season May to October - nocturnal species are a very special attraction
  • The South Luangwa: home of the modern-day walking safari, one of the best places to see leopard, has some of the finest bushcamps and lodges in Africa
  • The North Luangwa: remote walking safari wilderness, practically off-limits for four decades, restricted access, "serious safari turf"
  • Kafue: best reserve in Africa for antelope, ideal for old hands and "birding" enthusiasts
  • The Lower Zambezi (Zambian shoreline): a relatively unexplored wilderness, Africa's real canoe safari spot with true wilderness lodges (canoeing tackled equally well from the Zimbabwean bank)
  • Victoria Falls: from Livingstone - World Heritage Site, largest curtain of falling water on earth, Africa's "adrenaline capital" - one of the seven Natural Wonders - offers better "adventure" and "cultural" options than the Zimbabwean shoreline 


  • Best tackled on a fly-in or mobile basis - best from May to October
  • Chobe: renowned for its elephant population, popular river front game viewing, zebra migrations in the Savuti and outstanding camps in the Selinda Reserve on the western front
  • The Okavango Delta: Africa's finest wetland - an oasis in the Kalahari, best accessed by light aircraft, usually explored from Moremi
  • Moremi Game Reserve: focal point for Delta safaris, makes up nearly 70% of the Okavango Delta, includes some of Botswana's best camps - best on fly in safaris
  • The Kalahari: home of the bushmen, one of the world's largest sand mantles, best tackled on a mobile safari, broadly encompasses the Makgadikgadi Pans 


  • Best tackled on a fly-in or mobile basis - best from May to October but fully accessible year round - allow lots of time if you can spare it
  • Etosha: Namibia's premier wildlife spot, accessible only on the southern rim, has some particularly well known game viewing spots
  • Central Namib: includes Namib-Naukluft, SandwichHarbour and the famous sand dunes of Sossusvlei - a scenic photographers ideal
  • SkeletonCoast: most of the area has limited access, best tackled on a fly-in safari in the north - very rugged, extraordinary wildlife
  • The Kaokoveld: Africa's last great wilderness, fascinating geology and ancient rock art - best tackled on a packaged safari


  • Best tackled with a walking and canoeing safari - safaris year round but best May to October
  • Victoria Falls: World Heritage Site, largest curtain of falling water on earth, Africa's "adrenaline capital" - one of the seven Natural Wonders - offers a wider range and selection of accommodation options than the Zambian shoreline
  • Matusadona: on the shores of Lake Kariba, home to a high concentration of wild lions, one of the last sanctuaries of the Black Rhino
  • Mana Pools: World Heritage Site on the banks of the lower ZambeziRiver, best canoe safaris in Africa, ideal for walking
  • Hwange: one of Africa's finest reserves, home to the Presidential herd of elephants  

South Africa

  • We use South Africa for simple international access into our main safari circuits via Johannesburg.  
  • Don't miss Cape Town for its rich cultural diversity, deep history, fine wines and the Garden Route.
  • Kruger National Park offers a quick fix if you're short on time - access is simple with a good road's like a big safari park.  If you're looking for wild places then go north! 

East Africa's big attractions 

Tanzania and Kenya are East Africa's most popular wildlife destinations and you'll find a host of expensive to cheap "safari packages" and "safari-beach combinations".  The annual wildebeest migration is the big event. 

The trick to a planning a successful safari in East Africa invariably comes down to guiding standards and achieving a balance between affordability and "crowd avoidance". 


  • Tanzania's "Northern Circuit": From Arusha, includes Tarangire, Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti
  • South and Western Tanzania: From Arusha or Dar es Salaam, access into Selous, Ruaha or the western gems of Katavi and Mahale 
  • Katavi and Mahale: Katavi is renowned for its outstanding resident game and lack of crowds; Mahale is home to a healthy population of habituated chimps...but there's so much more 
  • Zanzibar: Stonetown and the eastern beaches are the obvious draw but if it's diving you want then go to Mafia
  • In Tanzania - the crowd avoidance formula works easily in southern Tanzania (particularly in Ruaha and Selous but better still in Katavi and Mahale between May and late October) during which time we also have some great beach combinations. 
  • We regularly combine a Kilimanjaro challenge with our Serengeti trips.  We've partnered with specialists and offer both private and set date trips - 8000+ climbs since 1993 with a 95% success rate.


  • The Masai Mara: From Nairobi, access into the Masai Mara Reserve and Mara Group Ranches - best from July to October 
  • Nairobi, Amboseli and the Rift Valley: From Nairobi, part of the traditional Kenyan safari circuit 
  • Lamu and the KenyanCoast: Whilst Mombasa has provided the traditional coastal escape, Lamu tops it! 
  • Laikipia and the Northern Frontier District: Still wild and largely unpopulated this is really the region to explore if you've had a wildlife fix in the Mara 
  • In Kenya - there's a huge amount of diversity in terms of wildlife, cultural options and beach breaks especially when combining the Mara with Laikipia, Amboseli and the north coast.  Unless considering one or two very specific spots avoid Kenya in April, May and November. 


  • Bwindi Impenetrable Forest: Arguably the best mountain gorilla trekking in Central Africa.  Compare with Rwanda 
  • Queen Elizabeth National Park: part of a much larger conservation area including the Ruwenzoris, Kibale, Virunga National Park and Kigezi/Chambura.  Always included as part of a more encompassing Uganda safari. 
  • Kibale Forest National Park: Especially good for chimp trekking but renowned for some specialist guides whose penchant is for birds, orchids, butterflies and more. 
  • Semliki Reserve: Excellent for birding, its wild nature and lack of crowds

Central Africa

Our "emerging destinations" include Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, CAR and Cameroon.  We've done expeditionary trips since 2005 - better suited to seasoned travellers and available as guided set-date trips each season

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How the safari seasons work

Some basics...

  • Our seasons in Africa aren't as well defined by comparison with what you'll find in North America or Europe - year round the climate is relatively warm. The seasons become less defined as you move north from Cape Town towards Nairobi.
  • The southern winter (dry season) runs from around May to early August
  • Migrant birds join us during our southern summer months (wet season) from mid-October and then leave from around mid-March
  • Game movements are determined by the availability of fresh grazing and browsing sources. Rains will generally disperse browsers and their attendant predators, dry seasons inevitably lead to larger concentrations around remaining water sources.
  • So as a rule, game is best at the end of the dry season when temperatures are high. (Unless it's on the move as you'll find with our African migrations in the Serengeti, western Zambia and Kalahari.)
  • Our southern "green season" is marked by dramatic scenery, contrasting weather patterns and excellent light conditions for photographers, we're inundated by migrant bird species, the crowds don't exist and the African bush itself is most spectacular...

In Southern Africa - summer rains and dry winters...

The wet and dry seasons have a significant effect on game conditions. The dry season generally runs from May to October through the southern autumn, winter and into spring. Game conditions generally improve as the season gets drier and wildlife tends to concentrate near remaining water sources.

The summer wet season itself, also referred to as the "green season", generally starting with fresh rains in November heralds the arrival of migrant birds as mammals disperse in search of fresh growth - the bush gets thick, insects flourish, birding improves, game viewing deteriorates.

The summer rains are generally characterized by torrential downpours followed by sunshine during the day. Deep rains and flood conditions, if they occur, hammer us in January and February. The wet season generally makes the remoter areas inaccessible.

...still in the south... moderate winters, hot summers...

Temperatures during the southern winter in Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe are moderate and generally very comfortable by comparison with those experienced in the northern climes…as an example, a mid-winter lower Zambezi canoe safari can be tackled in shorts, rafters and T-shirt with a fleece and joggers to ward off the evening chill - temperatures at the time will rarely drop below 13 degrees Celsius. (At higher altitudes in Hwange or the Nyika Plateau night time temperatures normally approach freezing.)

On the other hand the Zambezi and Luangwa valleys experience extremely high temperatures just before the rains - we regard October and November as our "suicide months" with day time temperatures exceeding 40 degrees and not dropping below 30 degrees for nights on end.

This time of year is exceptionally good for game, but you have to be quite dedicated to handle the heat! (Some of us get excused from safari duties and go marketing in the northern hemisphere...with vigour and a touch of relief.)

In mid-November our rains usually start. It's a release from about six weeks of hell for local residents and insects alike! (We always arrange to gather bucket loads of flying ants and prepare for the tiger fishing season between December and March.)

In East Africa, long and short rains...

Southern Tanzania (Ruaha and Selous) is the real "transition zone" in terms of climate and in many cases game species between Southern Africa and East Africa. Weather in the south is very similar to what occurs in Zambia.

In the north, in the Serengeti and in Kenya, the short rains fall in November and December...actually light rains. In April and May we have the long rains. Characterized by violent thunderstorms and massive downpours and then the sun comes out!  This weather pattern has a very significant effect on the migration. [...see our maps and notes on the Serengeti migration]

Trade winds also affect the Kenyan coast:

The South-East trade (Kusi) blows from May to November, a strong gusty wind which brings the rains, rough water and mud from the Tana River. During this time most boat movement takes place along inshore channels.

The North-East trade (Kas Kazi) blows from December to April. This summer wind brings calm, clear water and the fishing season. Occasionally there are strong winds, but storms are rare.

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Types of safaris

The early exploits of Selous, Roosevelt, Hemingway, the early missionaries, explorers, colonial pioneers and great white hunters were conducted on foot and often only fully appreciated through the sights of their rifles. 

Nowadays the best way to do a safari is still on foot but emphasis is on game-viewing and the use of a good camera....

The modes of transport and accommodations have also changed!

  • When planning trips we concentrate on guiding standards and the use of small and remote camps (most of which are owner run and managed). 
  • Wherever possible, we steer well clear of resorts, hotels and mini-bus circuits. 
  • Locations vary but in most cases are either within or on the boundaries of National Parks and wilderness areas.

Walking safaris 

This is a very loose term used to define an emphasis on walking in game rich areas with an armed, qualified and experienced Professional Guide. 

These safaris usually make use of temporary bush camps or permanent lodges as a base from which vehicles and sometimes boats will get you into areas of game activity or specific interest, thereafter you're led by a Professional Safari Guide to sample all aspects of the environment. 

Walking safaris are unquestionably the best way to experience the African wilderness areas.  They range from simple trails not far from camp (similar to those you'll find in Zambia and Botswana) to "fly-camping" with backup crews (as you'll find in the Mara Triangle) to full blown backpack-toting expeditions (as we've done in Zimbabwe and Gabon). 

You can do it in luxury or at the other end of the scale really get back to basics.  The key however is the quality of the guides and location... 

The very best walking safaris are in the Luangwa and Zambezi Valleys, two specific areas in Botswana and three very special spots in East Africa. 

In East Africa, the best options are found in southern Tanzania with one very special area west of the Serengeti and another in Kenya's Mara. 

We've provided a far more comprehensive guide to African walking safaris elsewhere on our site. 

Mobile safaris 

Mobile safaris make use of 4x4 vehicles usually to cover larger areas or a variety of different habitats in a single trip.  The diversity and relatively large distances between the prime spots in Botswana and Namibia make mobile safaris the preferred means for covering these destinations.   More often than not, the driver is a fully qualified Professional Guide which means that some of the better stop-over points will include some time exploring on foot.  

Mobile safaris offer a high degree of flexibility taking in the full range of accommodation options ranging from temporary fly-camps to luxury lodges but more importantly enable far greater access to areas affected by constantly changing seasonal patterns (as in the Okavango) or game movements (as in the Kalahari and East Africa).  The migration in Tanzania's Serengeti is best done on a "mobile" basis using semi-permanent tented camps. 

These trips shouldn't be confused with overland expeditions or mini-bus tours ... we recommend Guerba, Kumuka, Dragoman and the host of overland companies you'll find by doing a simple search... 

Fly-in or "wing" safaris 

Fly-in safaris are regularly done in Botswana and Namibia in order to cover a large amount of territory with some very specific spots on the agenda in as short a space of time as possible.

Kenya is another area well suited to flying safaris particularly when combining the Mara with Laikipia, Amboseli, the Northern Frontier District and the north coast.  

Often the pilot serves as the guide for the duration of the safari.  The camps and lodges used for stop-overs are often the most exclusive available.  Six or seven night fly-in safaris are fairly popular with guests who're short on time.  

When faced with a shortage of time and a desire to see the best spots then you should expect to spend more money.... 

Canoe safaris 

One of the more popular means of experiencing Africa's wilderness, big game and warm weather.  Several of the large African rivers are run by canoe but it's the lower Zambezi that really holds centre stage.... 

Mana Pools National Park, a World Heritage Site is on the southern bank - the remote Lower Zambezi National Park is on the northern shoreline in Zambia.  

Our canoe safaris range from deluxe backed up trails using tented camps or permanent lodges for overnight stops to full participation canoe trails running over 10 days from Kariba down to Kanyemba.  

The latter trips make use of islands and river banks for temporary overnight camps. 

These canoe safaris are easily combined with walking safaris and have deserved a more comprehensive treatment in our guide to lower Zambezi canoe safaris - costs accommodate the tightest budgets..... 

Self-drive safaris

The most flexible type of trip that you'll find.  In a nutshell you hire a vehicle, plan your own route, pre-book accommodations of your choice and explore the region under your own steam. 

Generally speaking you need some extra time to do these trips and have to do a bit more research than most.  Namibia is the easiest to on a self-drive basis even if you're a first timer - a little bit more preparation and you shouldn't have much difficulty tackling anywhere else.  

Bear in mind that some areas most definitely need very current local knowledge - if you receive a specific local warning then heed that advice.  With a bit of digging around you'll have no difficulty establishing the right contacts. 

Privately guided safaris

If you're looking for exclusivity, special attention or have a very particular subject that you want to cover in more depth than most then you'll find a number of specialist guides who're more than up to the task - and in many cases equally motivated to indulge themselves in a favoured pursuit. 

Every year we have about 4 months worth of privately guided trips on the go.  In most  cases these safaris boil down to one guide and two clients.  

Some excursions are into the remoter parts, others are on well trodden trails simply exploring on a more casual and relaxed basis.  These privately guided trips are regular in Tanzania, when combining our southern destinations or when exploring some of our emerging destinations. 

Migration safaris 

Kenya and Tanzania provide the stage for this annual event.  Get your timing right and you're guaranteed exceptional action!

For Kenya, July to October is the traditional season for the main migration - plan on booking a year in advance for the right spots.

Tanzania is excellent from January to April and July to November.  July to early September are busy periods - book in advance.

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Basic safari planning checklist

Medical matters: We don't dispense medical advice! Instead we've included some brief summaries on things that you should consider plus web links to additional info sources ... 

Insurance is a pre-requisite for any safari - you simply can't join us if you don't have it. We've tried to de-mystify the topic with some basic explanations and web links to providers ...

Visas and documents - unless you've planned well in advance we strongly recommend the use of consular services to obtain visas (a small premium could save a lot of hassle)

Travel Gear - unless you plan specific shopping time at a large African centre before your main trip starts we recommend that you do your gear shopping before your leave home...


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Medical matters on safari

Speak to your doctor before you travel - get accurate and current advice on inoculation requirements and any recently recognized medical precautions that may be necessary. 

Common medical concerns on safari include the following: 

  • Malaria: caused by a mosquito borne parasite, malaria is endemic in all of our main safari areas. From experience we've found the worst time of year for malaria generally from mid February to the end of June. The incidence of malaria diminishes as the season gets drier and cooler but there is still a risk even at the end of the dry season before the new rains. The best precautions are physical barriers in the early evenings and at night (long trousers and sleeves, 30% plus deet-based repellents, mosquito nets). You need to watch for the symptoms for several months after your return home - it's important to get treatment very quickly if you've contracted malaria. If you develop flu-like symptoms then get a quick and simple blood test without any delay to be on the safe side.  
  • Diarrhoea: a common problem when travelling in Africa. We've seen advice recommending that even salads should be washed in bottled mineral water?! That's extreme, the reality is that food preparation and presentation in some of the remotest camps is better than the fare you'll get in many well known hotels in Europe and North America. Just be sensible about what you eat and drink, and bring suitable medication in case.  
  • Sunburn: The African sun even during our southern winter from May to July is fierce. Aside from the long term risks of skin cancer, a bad sunburn could spoil a safari. The greatest risk of serious sunburn is on the lower Zambezi canoe safaris, white water rafting at Victoria Falls and on walking safaris. There's no need to get extreme with precautions unless you're particularly sensitive to the sun. Be sure to bring a hat, long sleeves, strong sun barrier that suits your skin type and sunglasses. On canoe safaris a towel or "kikoi" covering the legs is essential. 


Medical services on the ground

Even the remotest camps are reasonably well geared to handle minor mishaps in terms of first aid practitioners, trauma kits etc. In the event of a serious accident, Johannesburg in South Africa is the only real option for immediate high care evacuation in Southern Africa. In East Africa a well established air evacuation service is available from Nairobi.

Ensure that you have adequate medical insurance - as a rule the remoter and less developed the destination, the more expensive the evacuation.    

Some valuable sources for medical guidance 

Fit for Travel: An excellent all round source of travel health information - used by our own doctor friends...

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Destination updates, reference materials, current news, special needs travel info, travelling with children, excellent checklist, hotline numbers...

WHO - International Travel and Health: the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.

US State Department: medical information for Americans travelling abroad, includes a very valuable listing of addresses of Med-Evac and Travel Insurance companies plus additional regional tips etc.

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Travel insurance

Insurance is a pre-requisite for any safari - you simply can't join us if you don't have it. We've tried to de-mystify the topic with some basic explanations and web links to providers ...

Irrespective of whether you're on a business trip or a high-risk adventure to a remote spot in Africa don't leave home without adequate insurance cover. If you're coming on safari, you need to understand that any safari activity is potentially hazardous and the Third World doesn't always run as smoothly as you might like - travel insurance is your responsibility and you must have it.

There're two types of insurance for which you must make provision

International Medical Insurance is short or long term medical insurance designed to reimburse you for medical expenses incurred when you're travelling
Travel Protection Plans will cover your non-reimbursed travel expenses if an emergency (death, sickness, airline strike, technical delays on flights, tour company/operator default/bankruptcy etc.) occurs right before or during your trip causing it to be cancelled, interrupted or delayed.

Some basic travel insurance tips

If your remuneration package, existing insurance policies or credit cards include international travel insurance then check the small print to ensure that you're adequately covered.

"Adequate cover" = how long is a piece of string.  Unfortunately this is your call, we don't define your needs. Appreciate that if you require emergency evacuation or urgent high care treatment for whatever reason, you'll need to be able to cover the costs without delay.

International travel insurance whilst on foreign travel is a prudent option under normal circumstances - it's an absolute necessity when planning a safari.

Ensure that your premiums are up to date and keep a copy of your travel insurance card or certificate of coverage handy.

Some valuable web sources for travel insurance

For US Residents: Access America, Travel Guard International, TravelSafe, World Medical Plan, Universal Travel Protection

For UK Residents: Travel Insurance Direct

For all others, see World Travel Center: read the newsletters, featured articles and global notes - valuable resource for simple facts on travel insurance

...also Global Travel Insurance: travel tips for the "travel weary and travel savvy" - simple, sensible stuff...

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Visas and documents

CIBTvisas is the recognised industry leader in international travel visas and passports. They provide services through a network of over 31 offices in 11 countries including the USA, UK, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland.

The State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs serves US residents.

Canadians should consider the Department of Foreign Affairs

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What to bring on safari

We provide a packing list as part of your final itinerary but you'll find a general idea on what to bring on safari at our parent site including some top tips and hints plus ideas on footwear, clothing, luggage, a toiletry/medicine bag and photographic equipment .  

Do your gear shopping in advance, here're some suggestions:

  • The Safari Store: Ideal for UK clients, safari and travel supplies (including clothing, "soft" luggage, binoculars, books, camera equipment and accessories) are available through our partner The Safari Store.  These high end products also make great gifts for your travel companions! Claim a 10% discount, quote "zambezi" at checkout. 
  • Passing through Johannesburg? Visit one of the Cape Union Mart outlets. 
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