About Africa Safaris
I created this About African Safaris information as so many clients of mine when they hear the word Tented Safari,they immediately think of some small dome tent.
Its easier for potential travelers to Africa to see pictures and read about what a Luxury camp is.
This section covers Lodging,clothing,meals,land versus water activities.
My hope is that once you have read this,you will have a better understanding of the incredible experiences that await you on a Africa Safari.
Image above is of me in Safari in Botswana. Some of the planes used are bigger as in this image, and or smaller planes.
Tented Safari Camps:
Many travelers when they hear the words Tented Safari Package,may think of a dome budget tent.
The traditional African Safari started with mobile tents, and now have evolved into permanent tented Safari camps,as well as permanent lodge structures.
A tented Safari experience usually depending on the level or class of the package, will mean a permanent,usually semi screened very large tent with it own en suite bathroom, and usually a outdoor Balinese type shower facilities.
An outdoor private deck usually be part of this structure as well.
The permanent Safari tent usually will be built into the ground on a usually large wooden support,usually a large A frame structure within a safari camp.
These tents are large spacious canvas tents with larger window areas,that roll up and down ie day or night use.
The level of comfort and luxury,that some of these tented camps is to be experienced.
You have all the luxury you want,for the level of package you purchasing,in a beautiful natural setting.All the tented camps have full electricity,heaters for winter,all the amenities you may need.
The furnishings that go into a safari tent are quite unique,with much focus onto working with the environment,rather than destroy,the end result being a very distinctive design feature.
Mobile camping tented safaris are different. Usually set up by the camp staff.Here the tents are set up every night,as you enjoy yourself on a day Safari.Even these luxury Mobile Safari tents have proper beds,and your own en suite bathrooms.
In a multi location like on a Botswana Safari or even a Zambia Safari, its usual to spend at least 6N on a Mobile Safari,spread across the various eco systems.
As a example, below is a description and image of Jao camp luxury camp in Botswana:
Jao camp has nine large and spacious suites.These uniquely designed twin-bedded canvas thatched rooms have all been individually constructed according to high levels of eco design.
All these Luxury suites have been specifically located under a canopy of shady trees. They are all contain:
- En-suite bathroom,
- Hot and cold running water,
- Large bath and double vanity.
- Outside shower
- Outdoor sala .
All the suites have been raised off the ground, which offer views of the surrounding flood plains.Your own private Safari from the deck of your lodging.
Deluxe lodges offer that higher quality service,larger variety of food,larger rooms,and more amenities.
Permanent Safari Units
A Tented Safari means a permanent tent,built into the ground on a usually large wooden support,usually a large A frame structure within a safari camp, vs a lodge style unit that has the same large wooden support A frame structure.
The permanent lodge unit will have the same structure, however will be finished off with generally wood, they too are generally very spacious,large with both inside and sometimes outdoor Balinese type shower facilities.
Both types of lodging have private en suite bathrooms, beds with mattresses,some if not all of them have private decks.They both types have their own unique ambiance,décor,and unique features.
The furnishings that go into the design and decoration of a safari camp are quite unique and my clients are generally so impressed with the distinctive design features.
Land Safaris vs Land/Water Safaris
South Africa Safaris are generally land based Safaris.Some of the game lodges,like Phinda offer birding boating trips as part of the Safari package.The land safaris cover very many eco systems.
In the Phinda private game Park for example, you can traverse through various eco systems all in the same game drive ie through dense forest,open plains,and scrub land.
Botswana Safaris on the other hand offers both land and water activities.
Due to the permanent waterways in the Okovango Delta, Botswana Safaris offer a variety of land Safaris, as well as the opportunity for Delta boating trips. This is a exciting way to see vast of this Wilderness area, that would be otherwise unreachable.
As well, Botswana safaris have the opportunity for Mokoro ride.The Mokoro being a traditional canoe, a means of transportation, is used as a Safari vehicle, paddled by a trained guide. you can go a mokoro trail safari, camping on small remorse Islands.
This allows for a very relaxing safari, coupled with walking possibilities.
Depending on the Safai lodge you are going to,we arrange scheduled air transfer or private air charters.
Depending on what area you are going to, you may have to have 2 air transfers, which is normal.Bush planes range from very modern small planes to older plane..all quite safe, no worries, or as they say in South Africa..moenie worrie nie local Afrikaans term for dont worry, everything is A OK, another local saying.
At your destination,you will be met by your Safari Lodge representative, and road transferred to your lodge.
Safari lodges are generally small,could be 4 lodge rooms up to about 10 or so in a area.
They are beautifully decorated,with private bathrooms,and all the essentials of home, in its elegant simplicity.
Considering that South Africa Safari Lodges are usually on the top of the Worlds list like Travel and Leisure, Harpers, Conde Nest, the knowledge and skill to present a unusual experience is rooted in a South Africa or Botswana Safari Package.
From Hand written welcome notes, to early morning hot water flasks for tea or coffee, you will treated like a special person, as you truley are a guest, and in the South African Culture, a guest is to be treated well.
The vast majority of Safari packages include:
- All Inclusive meals,most drinks
- Transfers from the airport to the lodge round trip,
- Twice daily game drives,
- Morning bush walk,
- Some after Laundry services.
Game drives are conducted in a open usually about 10 seater Jeep.
Here is a hint about where to sit on the jeep…mm actually I am not going to say. I want to see if you have read this,ask me and i will tell you.
Early morning wake up call is usually between 430am and 530am,depending on the season, etc.
A cup of tea,coffee, light snack, and then a 3 to 4 hour game drive, return for breakfast, some offer a afternoon lunch, free time until afternoon tea time,and then afternoon evening game drive.
Back at about 730 to 830pm,a beautiful meal,and then sleep, to repeat the asme schedule the next day.
On both game drives,you will stop for tea/drinks, a sundowner in the bush…a wonderful time of day.
Remember to drink lots of fluids, the game lodge supplies water,take your sunscreen if you are sensitive to the sun,a hat.
A safari meal may be as big as the wildlife itself….incredibly presented with taste,and variety, Vegetarian or special meals no problem, just let me know.
Believe me, I enjoy to eat….the love and service that goes into a meal in a Safari lodge is a experience.Soft drinks and alcohol are available,and depending on the lodge are included in varied degrees.
These are very professionally well trained and adequately licensed men and women.
One does not get to have the responsibility of peoples lives in your hands, in an environment like a wild African game park,without earning it.
Many of the lodges,in South Africa and Botswana utilize locally born guides and trackers.These people have a unique history of working with and understanding nature.
I have met some amazing guides,and have my own list of guides/trackers,that I will try and get my clients onto there jeeps for the game drives.However guides move around as well.
I also have a list of private, experienced freelanced guides that I can obtain to guide your Safari. These are the old timer safari guides. Very,very experienced individuals
Tipping is appreciated when you leave the lodge.
South Africa Summer is from aprox Nov to May, Winter from May to October.
Summer rain in South Africa is to be expected…usually afternoon thunderstorms.
Botswana…Rainy season November to March, hot and dry the remainder of the time, but a great time to see the great Zebra migration,and to see the desert comes alive.
Safari Clothing List
What to Wear On Safari?
Above all, clothing on a safari should be practical and comfortable. Roads can be dusty and the temperature can fluctuate as much as 20 degrees during the course of the day. Safari clothes should be worn , and as such packed as well. Mornings are generally cooler – and in some areas cold. As the day progresses and the sun rises higher in the sky, the temperatures rise. The cooling process begins again in the late afternoon, as the sun sets.
Therefore we have some suggestions as to your Safari clothes and what to wear and pack for a safari.
Packing light layers will help you adjust to any climate condition, as you simply remove layers as the temperatures rise.
Safari clothing should be light in color – both for reflecting the suns rays, and for blending in with the natural environment.
Avoid dark colors such as brown, black and navy that absorb the heat.
Neutral colors such as beige, khaki and bush green are particularly suitable. Try to stick to cotton or other natural fibers. Cotton breathes and allows the cooler air to circulate, thus keeping you cool and comfortable.
Avoid Safari clothing that needs to be dry-cleaned, as these facilities are not generally available at lodges and camps. Remember that casual dress is acceptable everywhere.However some Safari camps and lodges do have laundrey facilities.
Often, Safari clothing double up as dinner clothes.
Recommended Safari Clothing List
T-shirts/polo shirts/long sleeved shirts
Warm winter sweater
Windbreaker or other light jacket
Good walking shoes
Sunglasses, Hat, and the most important aspect of a Safar a pair of binoculars.
For Summer Safaris bring a light rain jacket(Summer for SA Nov to March/April, for Botswana Nov to March)
For some destinations ie upmarket Safari lodges, Luxury hotels, more formal clothing would be appropriate.
Packing for A Safari
Packing light is essential on safari. Luggage capacity on safari vehicles – as well as light aircraft – is limited. Hard suitcases cannot be taken on safari.
Whether you travel by road or by air – or a combination of both – please advise them to leave their hard-sided suitcases at home. Because Safari luggage capacity is so limited both on vehicles and in light aircraft, Safari luggage must be carried in soft-sided bags that can be molded and fit into small areas..
If you are on a longer safari and will be visiting several countries with different climate conditions, we recommend they pack in two bags – splitting their trip in half. One bag can be left in a major city airort luggage storage hotel while on safari, picking it up prior to departure for the next leg of their journey.I can help with that as my clients do that all the time
If you are traveling by road, and the vehicle is full, they may be charged for their excess luggage. OR, you may be asked to repack their bags, leaving larger bags behind. In the worst case scenario, if your are not returning to your originating point, they may be charged for the cost of an additional vehicle to carry your excess luggage.
If you are traveling by air, and the aircraft is full, the pilot may tell you that your excess Safariluggage will have to be left behind. Or, he may advise you that you need to travel on another flight, incurring extra charges for either chartering an aircraft or paying for additional seats to compensate for their excess luggage.
Casual attire is appropriate on all safaris. Fancy clothing is not necessary, and laundry facilities are generally available at all camps and lodges. With proper planning, you can limit your luggage to one soft-sided bag and avoid any inconvenience along the way.
Recommended Miscellaneous Safari Check List
Plenty of Film!!!
Extra batteries for all equipment (camera, flash, shavers)
Extra pair of glasses.
Eyeglasses for contact wearers – windy, dusty conditions can irate contact wearer’s eyes
Plastic zip lock bags – great for soiled clothes, protecting camera equipment from dust, etc.
Sufficient underwear (in some countries, underwear cannot be laundered due to local culture and customs)
Scarf and gloves for colder months
Light rain coat/umbrella for rainy months – and visits to Victoria Falls!
Personal hygiene items (expensive and not always available in lodges)
Hard candy (great for thirst quenching on dusty rides)
Leopard in the Kruger National Park that walked out of the bush next to our vehicle June 2013
Questions & Answers
The following questions and answers include a variety of topics from Visa, Clothing, Destinations, Vaccinations, Tipping, Choosing a Destination, and more. Hope it helps.
Is this a first time tour to Africa?
Is this your first visit to Africa? Have you chosen a destination? If Not..
How do you choose a destination?
Is your goal to game view exclusively?
Do you want to incorporate cultural events and big cities in their holiday?
How much time do you have?
What is your budget?
We find that most people who visit Africa for the first time are “bitten by the bug” and want to return again and again.
Generally speaking, Botswana and Zambia will provide game in more concentrated numbers.
If you are more a avid bird-watcher and prefer game viewing by water activities, Zimbabwe and Botswana would be a good choice.
South Africa private reserves provide the unique opportunity for night game viewing as well as non-safari experiences such as touring the Garden Route and enjoying the beautiful waterfront area of Cape Town.
Because of the distances involved in Africa, time is probably the biggest factor in planning a safari. It’s impossible to combine two countries in 10 days and do them any justice.
If you have only a short period of time, concentrate on one country and see it fully it gives your client the opportunity to return and see more of this diverse continent.
When is the best time to visit Africa?
Because of generally temperate climates, both East and Southern Africa are truly year-round destinations.
In East Africa, you will find the rains during the months of April, May and November. Rains in East Africa can be short, starting in the early morning or afternoon, and lasting for perhaps an hour or so. Longer rains (generally in November) can last most of the day.
Game viewing in the “rainy” season can be excellent, although a little more challenging, as the grass can get longer and more green.
In Southern Africa, with their reverse seasons, April through August will be the cool, wetter months. Again, rain can be sporadic and last only a short time.
Is a safari strenuous?
No. In fact, a safari is one of the most relaxing types of holidays you can take.
Many facilities now offer walking safaris, generally 3-4 hours in duration. Most of the walks are on level ground, or on gently sloping hills.
Your Ranger can tell you the type of terrain you will cover before you decide to take a walking safari.
With the exception of South Africa, you will not spend too much time in the larger cities.
Cape Town is a main exception, and you will find the city easy to navigate on foot. The Waterfront offers a wide array of attractions plenty of shops, restaurants and the Aquarium are all within easy walking distance of most waterfront hotels.
What about tipping?
We believe tipping is a very personal matter. Tipping to porters will vary, but you should plan on between $.50c and $1.00 per bag each time the bag is moved.
In East Africa, you will have a Driver/Guide, who will be with you throughout your safari. On some trips, particularly where you combine Kenya and Tanzania, you may switch driver/guides in each country. We recommend the tip to your Driver/Guide be commensurate with the level of service provided and how you would like to show your appreciation. In general, we suggest $5.00 per person, per day.
In Southern Africa, you may have a Ranger and a Tracker while in the bush. Again, tipping is discretionary, but we recommend $5.00 per person, per day for your Ranger and $3.00 to $4.00 per person per day for your Tracker.
In Southern Africa (particularly in Zimbabwe and Botswana), you may stay at small, intimate camps. A husband and wife team, who are the Camp Directors, generally run these camps. In addition, you may have a Camp Hostess, who is available to help with shopping tips and generally answer any questions you may have.
To make gratuities easier to handle, these camps have a “gratuity box”, generally located in the front of the camp. We recommend $5.00 per person, per day be deposited into this box, which will be distributed to the entire camp staff.
Visa requirements vary for each country. Please remember it is ultimately you the traveler’s responsibility to ensure they you have the correct visas upon arrival into each country.
Since visa regulations can change without notice, it is best to contact a visa service or the individual consulates. If you ask we can help with this matter. While it is not obligatory to use a visa service, we do recommend using a visa service, as these services specialize in processing visas efficiently and quickly.
Inoculation requirements vary by country of origin and country of entry. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) maintains an excellent web site.
Check the site for up to date inoculation information.
Remember that malaria is endemic to most regions of Africa, and anti-malaria medication is strongly recommended.
This is a individual choice, some traveler’s take nothing, others get every shot and tablet there is.
We strongly recommend that all expensive jewelry be left at home. While on safari, you will be dressed casually, and your expensive jewelry may not always be appropriate. Wear simple jewelry while traveling a plain wedding band and an inexpensive watch work well almost anywhere. Carry only small amounts of cash and take the rest of your reserves in traveler’s checks or use credit cards, both of which can be replaced if lost or stolen.
Be vigilant about your belongings at all times.
Don’t leave your camera or binoculars unattended in either your room or in the vehicle.
When traveling through airports, never leave your bags unattended.
Always lock your luggage before checking it in.
When walking down the streets of any city, be sure to keep your handbag close to your body and don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket, a pickpocket’s dream!
In the unlikely event someone tries to steal your wallet or bag , let go! Your personal safety is more important than belongings.