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African Safari Recommendations

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Can anybody provide good recommendations for an African safari?

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    Once we had completed our research and decided where we wanted to go (Northern Circuit, Tanzania), we contacted ~8 tour companies to create an exact itinerary and give us a quote.
    We used EASY TRAVEL, based in Arusha, and they were fabulous. Answered all of our (many, many) questions to our satisfaction, always seemed very interested in our having a great trip. The general manager, Musaddiq, was a pleasure to work with and our guide, Emmilian, was amazing.

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    When I started planning my first safari back in 2010 I picked up a copy of Fodors Complete Safari Planning Guide and reviewed all the many, & there really are many, options available.

    With a pretty good idea of what I wanted and what my budget could afford a few tour operators were contacted for quotes.

    This forum was invaluable for answering specific questions and between here & the advice of the operator an itinerary was born. :)

    If you can I would try setting your own itinerary rather than joining a group tour as these tend to move alot so much time is spent in transit. I prefer to stay a minimum of 3 nights in each camp and keep the number of camps visited to a minimum.

    How many in your group? What is your budget? When will you be traveling? What are you interested in? Wildlife obviously however some parks have more elephants while others more cats.

    Read some of the trip reports posted here -:

    Enjoy the research process - it's the favourite part for many and know that once your heels have touched the dust of Africa it will never leave your heart.

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    Hi dcguy477,

    Thanks for the post! I think the critical thing to understand here is that “Africa” is vast. And within this vast land, there are varying degrees of experiences to be had. Thus, defining a “good” safari becomes entirely subjective. I think the most valuable thing you can do is to seek out an independent safari consultant who can spend some time with you over the phone to identify your priorities. Time of year you wish to travel may dictate where you go. Budget may play a factor. Exposure to cultural component and specific wildlife species may play a role. Landscape, activity level/options and access to Cape Town or Victoria Falls maybe important as well. There are a number of well-established safari operations in countries including South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda – all offer something different and unique from one another.

    One poster mentioned northern Tanzania. I agree that northern Tanzania, if done well, can be a stunning destination. However, for the vast majority of trips booked into the region, I think it’s done too commercially and takes place in areas dense with other tourists. However, if you have the budget, you can get yourself into less commercial sectors of busy parks in places like Tarangire or Serengeti. If you are restricted by budget, Tanzania becomes a very commercial destination.

    I’ve travelled across Africa for several weeks to several months per year for the past 15 years. I have had many “great” experiences, but if I could choose to return to any one country today, I’d probably opt for Kenya. Kenya can also be inundated with people, but if you have an expertly crafted itinerary, you can avoid crowds, have inspired landscape and stunning cultural experiences (lots of wildlife too – goes without saying!). Because Kenya’s tourism is down (negative press), many camps are offering special promotional rates/deals to make the destination more enticing. I’ve included a sample airfare from Dulles to Kenya in July – airfare into NBO is very reasonably priced as well. I picked a month in peak season to show a higher price.

    BA 216 01JUL IAD LHR 630P 650A 02JUL
    BA 65 02JUL LHR NBO 1015A 845P
    BA 64 17JUL NBO LHR 1115P 555A 18JUL
    BA 217 18JUL LHR IAD 1045A 145P


    Some safari destinations, including Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe are very seasonal – so much so that many camps close during a certain period of the year. If you are seeking to travel Nov – March timeframe (excluding Christmas period), Botswana becomes a very enticing destination. During the “shoulder” season, many Botswana camps go on special to fill empty beds. What is normally the most exclusive/expensive safari destination becomes much more affordable.

    In short, there are no shortages of options. The key is finding a well-informed consultant who can pair you with the right camps, destination and experiences. Good luck!

    Sincerely yours,

    Kota Tabuchi – Managing Director: Africa – Travel Beyond

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    Hi dcguy477!

    Great advice from other posters here! Africa is huge and incredible safari experiences can be achieved in so many places! You have lots of options, that's for sure!

    Your first step really is to outline your trip. For example, when would you like to travel and for how long? Do you have a budget? How many people are traveling with you? Are any of them children? And, is there anything specific that you want to do or see? For example, do you want to game view by water as well as land or are you really keen to see certain animals, even birding? These are all good starting points and would certainly help identify the places best suited for you. As others have said, many destinations are seasonal and so your travel time may not work well for certain places. Also, some places/countries may cost more than one's budget.

    Further considerations include your preferred style of travel and whether you would like to stay in a mix of lodges, perhaps even some tented camps? Tenting can be very luxurious if you want it to be! Also, your game viewing experience can be different depending upon whether you are in a Private Game Reserve vs a National Park. For example, would you like to be able to drive off road into the bush to track or stay with an animal? There are some big differences between safaris conducted in Private Reserves vs National Parks and I always think that it's important for my clients to understand these differences as well as others. Also, have you thought about whether you would like some interesting cultural experiences?

    Right now, South Africa has an incredible exchange rate (about R13 to $1). It's truly at a historic low. This can really be quite advantageous for those thinking of a safari. Now, a luxury safari is more attainable. Now, an extended trip is more attainable. There are certainly many ways one can benefit by the conversion rate right now...

    You will have lots of options available to you. Any info that you can share will help generate ideas.

    I think it's great that you're considering a safari! It's an incredibly moving experience and one that will resonate with you long after you return home. Most crave to go back!

    Africa Direct USA

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    If you have not read the Tanzania forum on I would highly recommend that you do. It was due to the expert advice that I was able to plan our safari. The private safari (my husband, myself, and our guide) was less expensive than going with a tour group. We went with Basecamp Tanzania, a company run by a local man from Arusha. We did the Northern Circuit starting in Arusha in November, 2013 - Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Norongoro Crater, and the Serengeti. For us, that was the perfect time of the year. The grasses are low and the wildlife plentiful and easily seen. We did not care about seeing the Great Migration. The price goes down a bit from October prices the first of November and goes back up again in mid/late December. I believe May is really a bargain because of the heavy rainy season. After many postings, private messages, and research I chose where we wanted to go and where we wanted to stay. I sent the itinerary to 6 different companies in Arusha then started eliminating until I chose Basecamp. On the Tanzania forum on there is a link that will help you learn of other good, reputable companies. Read the many trip reports and postings; it will help you in your planning. We have looked into a 2nd safari. So far, we think we may redo the same safari adding Arusha National Park and eliminating Lake Manyara at the same time of the year.

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    Kenya and Tanzania generally have a mild, tropical climate, with moderate changes of temperature throughout the year. There are no winters or summers as such for the whole of East Africa and parts of Southern Africa. There are 2 distinct rainy seasons, one from April to early June and the other from October to November. December to February are generally warm and sunny. However, due to the great climate in East Africa, visitors can enjoy a safari or beach holiday virtually all year round without the climate being a factor.
    In terms of wildlife, July to October presents a good time to see the annual wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara in Kenya when the reserve is literally teeming with wildlife. However other times of the year yield great wildlife sighting too, not least in part because other parks and reserves do not experience fluctuations in animals numbers due to migration.

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    I've done two East African safaris so far. The first was private safari (me and three friends) in Tanzania. We did the pretty common tourist route through the north: Arusha, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, Ndutu and Serengeti National Park. I loved it and got hooked on safari. And then I went to Kenya.

    My Kenyan safari (also private) was in private conservancies outside the national parks. Access to them is limited to the camps that are in them, vehicle numbers are much lower, there is less crowding around wildlife and off-roading is allowed. In the Serengeti (not Ndutu) in particular, we were one of 50+ cars at the only leopard sighting on our trip, who was in a tree over a football field away. Whereas in Kenya, we were one of three vehicles, the other two were also from our camp. We got to sit and watch this leopard walk right by us, close enough not to need any zoom lens at all, or even binoculars. I visited Ol Pejeta, Ol Kinyei and Olare Motorogi conservancies, with day trips in the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

    The importance of being able to go offroad cannot be overlooked. It is beyond frustrating to see a pride of lions 400 yards away and you can't get any closer. I'm not talking about getting close enough to have tea with them, but you do want to at least see they well enough to appreciate them, and being limited to what you can see from the road does hurt. Animals figure out the road = cars and people and they tend to stay away from that.

    My third safari is booked and I'm going back to Kenya. I'm visiting two other conservancies (Naboisho and Selenkay), one that abuts the Mara Reserve and one near Kilimanjaro and Amboseli National Park known for its elephant populations. I'm also spending time in Nairobi National Park at the tail end. While I loooooved my Tanzanian safari, it's the Kenyan experience I'm looking to relive. Everything about it was just *better*.

    One recommendation I will make is to skip the lodges and hotels that require that you drive to your game rides every day and stay in tented camps. Your game ride starts the minute you walk outside your tent. In Kenya I had a leopard on my front porch as I left for breakfast one morning. I heard elephants and lions in the middle of the night. No sense wasting any precious safari time driving to the game. In tented camps, it comes to you!

    I definitely agree that you should shop your proposed itinerary around, and be completely honest about your hopes and expectations. I used Access2Tanzania for Tanzania and Gamewatchers for Kenya. I had frank, honest discussions with both operators about what I wanted, and I got exactly what I wanted from them at my budget.

    Time of year: both of mine have been in February (and the next one will be as well), which I picked because it was wildebeest birthing season in Ndutu. We saw quite a few births, and consequently a few easy lunches for cheetahs. It was a spectacular sight. Airfare from Boston works out well, as does escaping winter here for an African summer!

    Good luck and have fun!

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    we used wildwings safaris and could not have possibly been happier. (gavin was our contact.) look at our trip report from last may/june to get an idea of what they planned. we gave them our budget and they stayed below it. i know some of it was just good luck (like seeing leopards the first 3 days of our trip).... so much of the safari experience is having great guides... and much of that is based on being booked into lodges that have great guides.

    this forum is the place to get the information you need.

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