Safari, a word that has gotten a very derogatory connotation over time. One immediately imagines a group of rich tourists dressed as “hunters” who are looking for a new trophy for their country house. Fortunately for travelers, it is possible to make a real safari for an affordable price while respecting the African fauna and flora.
Let’s go to Africa!
The evolution of the African safari
The word safari comes from the Swahili term meaning “a journey”. If the safari was once an opportunity for wealthy Westerners to decorate their living room, it now offers a unique opportunity to discover Africa in an eco-responsible way. Travel agencies are much more aware of the fragility of the African ecosystem and offer observation-oriented expeditions. Nowadays, the term safari is most often used to describe tourist stays in national parks in East Africa (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania) or Southern Africa (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana , South Africa) for a photo safari.
Safaris remain relatively expensive. Why? Animal reserves are generally located far from major centers. And often at hours of difficult road. Specially adapted 4 x 4 type vehicles are therefore required, which are expensive to maintain.
Entrance fees to the reserves are quite high (around US$80). And since it is better to sleep indoors and you have to bring all the equipment (water, food, gasoline, etc.), accommodation is necessarily expensive.
Expect to pay at least 2000 euros ($3000) for ten days.
Five tips for a successful safari
Organize your safari before leaving
A successful safari in Africa is a question of organization.
The best recipe is to split your trip into two or three segments combining several activities. If only to have the chance to meet Africans, who, despite the many challenges they face on a daily basis, take a look at life that transforms anyone who takes the trouble to to know.
Thus, after spending days tracking down the Big 5 in national parks, the more adventurous can take the opportunity to climb Kilimanjaro. Fans of idleness, to discover the beaches of Zanzibar. And the most altruistic, to devote themselves to solidarity tourism.
Because Africa is much more than a trip. It’s an adventure in the heart of your imagination.
Leave during the good season
Generally speaking, traveling in the country is easier in the dry season (July to the end of September, then November to February, for the North and Center parks). In many parks, this is the time when animals are most easily seen near waterholes and rivers. The foliage is also less dense, which favors observation. However, this season partly overlapping the high tourist season, lodges and camps are crowded and prices are at their highest. Please note: some lodges and campsites, mainly in the Selous Game Reserve and in the Western Parks, close for about a month around April-May.
The rest depends on the affinities of each one. For bird watching, all seasons are favorable, even if the rainy season (October-November and April-June) remains the best from this point of view. For a hiking safari, it is best to go in the dry season.
The departure period also depends on the choice of the park: important sections of that of Katavi, for example, are only accessible in the dry season (when huge herds of buffaloes, elephants and other animals jostle near rare water points), and almost all the camps close during the rainy season. Tarangire National Park, although accessible all year round, is more interesting in the dry season, as the animals there are more numerous. In the Serengeti, on the other hand, it is during the rainy season that one can observe herds of wildebeest and zebra in the south-east of the park (the dry season remains the best time to observe lions and zebras there). other predators). If you time your safari around special events like the Serengeti wildebeest migration,
Find reliable transportation
Climatic conditions can change drastically during the “hunt” for the Big 5s . The expression comes from the name that was once given to the five most dangerous beasts to hunt in these regions: the lion, the rhinoceros, the leopard, the buffalo and the elephant.
With its four million heads, the Serengeti is the second largest animal park in Africa, which is best known for the great migration. Between July and September, millions of wildebeest cross the crocodile-infested Mara River before being greeted in the savannah by lions and leopards.
Heavy rains routinely pound southern Kenya, filling its parched rivers with water and causing floods to inundate roads. It is in this context that 4 x 4 take on their full meaning. Provided it is in good condition, and in good hands, of course. If there are things you shouldn’t skimp on, it’s the reliability (and comfort) of the vehicles and the skills of the guide. The success of a safari directly depends on it. An experienced guide knows the parks and their water points, knows how to track the animals and positions his jeep so that you can take the most beautiful photos possible. He shows composure when unforeseen events occur, such as flooding.
Do you want to secure the services of a good guide? Bombard your travel agent with questions. Is he familiar with Africa in general and the organization of safaris in particular? Which tour operator does he work with? What is the name of its “local receptives”, that is to say the people who will welcome you on site? Do they have a good reputation? Have they been established for a long time? What is the training of the driver-guide who will accompany you? How many years has he been practicing his profession? Does he speak French?
Type of accommodation
The choice of accommodation will satisfy all budgets. As the animals live in the natural parks (far from the cities…), the smartest thing is to sleep there too. And for that, the choice is not lacking: the nomadic tent, the luxury campsite or the lodges .
For adventurers, tents offer minimal comfort, but excellent value for money. We sleep on the ground in igloo tents, and the sanitary facilities are often limited to what nature offers. Going to bed at night hearing the animals around the campsite is a great time.
The luxury camping option allows you to sleep in spacious (since permanent) tents with beds, bathroom and private shower. This is the type of accommodation that suits adventurers by day and homebodies by night.
More chic, the lodges , with their traditional-inspired architecture and also their swimming pools and quality restaurants, offer comfort comparable to that of starred hotels. And since they are often located at the gates of the reserves, they are a very convenient stopover between two parks.
Choose your animals well (the regions that will be visited)
The objective of a safari is often to see the famous Big 5 . But there is no guarantee of seeing all the animals. African reserves and parks can be huge (the Tanzanian Serengeti is the size of Belgium!) and wildlife knows no borders. For a first adventure, we often recommend the Masai-Mara in Kenya, the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania and the Kruger in South Africa, because the fauna is abundant there. The other side of the coin, you may not be alone! You can see nearly a dozen minibuses framing a lion taking a nap in Amboseli Park!
Specialists prefer to look for less publicized species. To get off the beaten track, we recommend Samburu Park in Kenya, Tarangire in Tanzania, Moremi Reserve and the Linyanti River in Botswana and, in Namibia, Etosha and Damaraland. One of Africa’s most extraordinary sights remains the annual migration of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest between Kenya and Tanzania. “Special migration” safaris are offered by the “nature” agencies. They generally take place in January and February, in the Tanzanian Serengeti and, from July to September, in the Kenyan Masai-Mara. Crossing the gaze of a gorilla in the middle of nature is undoubtedly one of the most fabulous encounters you can have. These rather expensive trips take place in Uganda in the Bwindi park and, in Rwanda,
Here, you are ready to go on an adventure in the African savannah. While waiting for the big departure, discover other destinations on our travel blog !