Safari Planner

How to Choose your Safari

Safari Vehicle and African Bush Elephant, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
••• Christina Krutz/Radius Images/Getty Images

When you plan an African safari, there are a number of things you need to consider, from the animals you want to see, the best time to go on safari; and what kind of safari you would like to experience; luxury, tented, mobile, budget camping -- there are plenty of options.

If you have questions about planning your safari, you can see all my safari articles here. If you are interested in booking a bespoke luxury safari in Africa you can also contact me to discuss your options.

Mammals, Birds or Reptiles

The first thing you need to do is decide which animals you want to see.


  • Birding: If ornithology is your passion then you will be very happy to know there are many birding safaris available in East and Southern Africa.

Adventure Safaris

Next you need to decide just how close you want to get. If you're not satisfied viewing wildlife from a 4x4 vehicle, there are plenty of alternative options available.


  • Elephant Safari
    The best offer I can find for an elephant back safari is at Abu Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. There are some elephant rides available in Zimbabwe but not an entire safari. Since elephants generally crash through the bush you may not see a lot of game, but the experience of sitting high up on this great beast would be worth it.


  • Walking Safari
    If you are fit and appreciate an adrenalin rush, then go on a walking safari. The Guides are extremely knowledgeable and being on foot will enable you to get truly close to experiencing the sights, smells and sounds of the African bush.


  • Mountain Bike Safari
    An excellent option for cycling enthusiasts, the bike safari offers excitement, flexibility and exercise!


  • Canoeing Safari
    Floating along the Zambezi River among the hippos and crocodiles; camping under the stars and listening to lions roar deep in to the night; seeing elephants cross the river trunks held high - that in a nutshell was my canoeing safari experience. Magical.


  • Balloon Safari
    Not for the budget-conscious, but a balloon safari is a once in a lifetime experience and several large National Parks offer this popular option. The best place for it has to be the Serengeti Plains watching the annual migration of Wildebeest. You will be pleased to note that all balloon flights include champagne.


  • Camel Safari
    The good thing about a camel safari is that your guides are likely to be local tribesmen. Less gainly than a horse, a camel is nevertheless a fun and relaxing animal to ride and there is something romantic about camping next to your steed at night. You can enjoy camel safaris in many African countries including: Kenya, Tanzania, Mali, Tunisia, and Namibia.


  • Horse Riding Safari
    You can race zebras and antelope on horseback - what fun! A great way to experience the African bush but you have to be quite fit and an experienced rider to enjoy these safaris.


  • Hunting Safari
    If you wish to travel to Africa and shoot with a gun rather than a camera, there are lots of options available. For the right price you are guaranteed a trophy of your choice for your living room wall.


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Safari Options and Recommendations.

Finally, once you've chosen the type of safari you're interested in, your next step would be to choose the best way to experience it. Within most of the categories below you will be able to opt for luxury, basic and somewhere in between.


Traditional (Mobile) Tented Safari

A mobile camp is one that will travel with you as you move from location to location. Camp is often set up for you in advance and at the luxury end of the scale, will come complete with hot showers, gourmet food and plenty of servants to cater to your needs. If you wish to follow in Hemingway's footsteps this is the safari for you. Mobile safaris also enable you to get to the more remote parts of the African bush.

Nomad Safari Guides: Tented safaris in Tanzania.
Abercrombie & Kent: Try their famous Kenya Hemingway Safari Tour.
Outback Africa: Participatory camping safaris.

Guided Safari

You will usually travel in a group often using 4x4 vehicles or overland trucks. The itineraries will be set on a day by day schedule which you will know in advance and includes meals, lodging and activities. A tour guide will stay with you to coordinate and manage the trip. A guided safari is wonderful if you are looking for a relatively hassle free trip. They are often well researched, the guides are very well informed and it can make travel possible in some of the more remote parts of Africa.

Taga Safari: Offers an excellent guided safari in Malawi.

Explore Tanzania: A good example of a 7 day guided moderately priced tour.
Botswana Explorer: Luxury guided tour includes the best parks of Botswana and a night at the Victoria Falls.

Package Safari

Similar to a guided safari, a package tour offers a set itinerary with lodging and meals included, but you do not travel in a group. Your bookings are made for you in advance so you don't have the hassle of planning your trip but other than that you are an independent operator. A package safari is a good option for first time travellers to Africa and those on a budget since they are often a little cheaper.


Kenya Discovery Tour: 8 Day package to Kenya's prime wildlife parks.
Northern Tanzania: A 2 week tour of national Parks and a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro.
The Luangwa Explorer Safari: The best of South Luangwa National Park in Zambia including a walking safari.

Independent (Self-Drive) Safari

You basically plan your own trip, rent a car and drive yourself through whichever game park you choose! It is a good idea to research and perhaps copy some itineraries that are to your liking. Parks and Reserves are often in very remote locations so always bring an extra supply of food, water and gasoline. It is worth using a travel agent or tour operator to help you book your lodges and rent your vehicle in advance. Self-drive safaris are great in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia but countries like Malawi and Zambia really lack the infrastructure, petrol and even roads to make this a good option. Unless your idea of a fun drive includes dodging potholes the size of trucks, strolling people, goats and dogs it may be better to go with a tour.

Wildlife Africa: Self-drive tours in South Africa.

Namibian.Org: See Namibia in your own time and at your own speed.
Safari Drive: Covers Safari-drives in several African countries and highlights Kenya.

Fly-In Safari

For the ultimate convenience charter operators can now fly you directly to a game park. Fly-in safari's enable you to visit reserves and parks that are inaccessible by road, offering a true adventure in to the wilderness as it were. Flying around obviously saves you travel time on the ground and allows you to not waste a second of wildlife viewing fun.

Fly-in safaris options throughout East and Southern Africa.
Skeleton Coast, Namibia: Experience shipwrecks in the desert, it's a little eerie but fascinating at the same time. Not a lot of wildlife viewing on this tour.
Elewana Sky Safari - small group safari in northern Tanzania - lovely properties and excellent value.

Botswana Fly-in safaris: A good way to get around quickly and some of the best camps are only accessible by air.


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What animals would you like to see and how would you like to see them?


If you have questions about planning your safari, you can see all my safari articles here. If you are interested in booking a bespoke luxury safari in Africa you can also contact me to discuss your options.