Safari Booking Agents

African Safari Bookings

 
"The Darkest thing about Africa has always been our ignorance of it!" -(George Kimble)

Elephant Bedroom Camp, Samburu National Reserve, Kenya.

Set on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River in Samburu National Reserve surrounded by Doum palms and other beautiful indigenous trees and shrubs.

Elephant Bull, Jao Concession, Okavango Delta, Botswana.

Jao offers an excellent all round Okavango experience, with game drives, mokoro excursions, short guided walks and boating available.

Chongwe River House wins The Good Safari Award for the Best Safari House in Africa AGAIN!

Game viewing is done from a vehicle in either the Lower Zambezi National Park or from a boat on the Zambezi. Canoeing, walking and fishing are also offered.

African Lion - The predator everybody wants to see on Safari!

The African lion is one of the most popular group of cats in the Wild. Its popularly known as the King of the jungle due to impressive mane

Ngerende Island Lodge (Olchoro – Oirogua Conservation Ranch, Masai Mara, Kenya.)

The lodge is surrounded on all sides by water, but for a 100 yard wide section where the river has not quite joined up, to become a true island.

Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa.

Cape Town is a city of culture, built on a history that reflects in the architecture, cuisine, music and dance. An ideal holiday destination throughout the year.

The African Leopard - Stealth, as best as can be!

Leopards are easily recognized by their stunning rosette patterned coats. But why are they so difficult to spot when you are on your game drive?

Lion Sands Ivory Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa.

The Lodge comprises six generously sized privately situated villas, each with a separate living room, heated swimming pool and an open plan en-suite bathroom.

Madikwe Hills Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa.

Situated on the Botswana border, just three hours' drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria, Madikwe is one of the largest private game reserves in South Africa.

Louis van Tonder and Terri New - Your Hosts on Safari!

Louis and Terri at Vic Falls Hotel, Zimbabwe. The best location EVER to enjoy HIGH TEA!

Chiawa Camp, Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia

Set deep inside the Lower Zambezi National Park, Chiawa Camp enjoys the prime location in the Lower Zambezi. This area is still unspoilt as it is new to Tourism.



The Red Lechwe is a semiaquatic antelope that practically lives in shallow water.

With hooves designed to stand strong in soft and muddy ground, the red lechwe is extremely fast when running through water, but awkward running on land..

Leroo la Tau - Set on the banks of the Boteti River, Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana.

Populated by up to 30,000 zebra and wildebeest accompanied by predators, guests can experience the exhilaration of seeing large concentrations of game!

Sanctuary Swala Camp - Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Sanctuary Swala is located in an exceptionally private section of Tarangire National Park, offering visitors a luxurious and very exclusive safari experience.

Sanctuary Olonana Camp - Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya, Tanzania

Sanctuary Olonana is located in an exceptionally private section of the Masai Mara, close to where the movie Out of Africa, was filmed.

Savute Elephant Camp - Chobe National Park, Botswana

The camp is located on the Savute Channel in Chobe National Park, which is in the rugged, semi-arid wilderness region of far northern Botswana

Elephant Bedroom Camp, Samburu National Reserve, Kenya.

Set on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River in Samburu National Reserve surrounded by Doum palms and other beautiful indigenous trees and shrubs.

Stanley's Lodge - Okavango Delta, Botswana.

Stanley's Lodge is located in a private concession in the Okavango Delta, Bordering the Moremi Game Reserve

Singita Boulders Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa.

Experience the ultimate year-round South African safari in an exclusive wildlife sanctuary beside the Kruger National Park.

Tongabezi Lodge, Livingstone / Vic Falls, Zambia.

Tongabezi Lodge is an exclusive lodge, away from the crowds, on the banks of the Zambezi River, 15km upstream from the magnificent Victoria Falls.

Wilderness Air - Connecting you to the Wilderness!

Wilderness Air is proud to be the air support of Wilderness Safaris, with private access to nearly all of southern Africa’s finest wildlife areas.

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African Safaris - www.africansafaris.travel

Where Adventure Meets Luxury!

Planning a Safari - The Fun Starts Here!


The initial stages of planning an African Safari, with its many options and decisions, may seem confusing at first, but when one approaches the planning stages practically and chronologically, the excitement of the trip has already begun!

For the person who has never had opportunity to visit it, Africa is a continent shrouded in mystery. Its vast expanses of land make up the second largest continent on the planet, and is comprised of over 50 different countries, in which more than 2000 languages and dialects are spoken!

There are three main safari regions in Africa:

A) East Africa: (Tanzania and Kenya).

B) Southern Africa: ( Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia & Botswana).

C) South Africa.

 

Each individual country within the three regions offers the visitor unique adventures, whether it be enjoying the scenery, viewing game, or becoming acquainted with new peoples and cultures. In order to make an informed and rational decision, a person has to establish his / her priorities, and this can only be done by asking oneself a few questions, which will eventually contribute to, or indeed be, the deciding factors in planning the safari.

Questions to ask yourself...
 
1) How much time do I have available for my safari?

2) What are the limits of my budget?

3) What are my particular interests?

4) Are there any special activities I would like to incorporate into my safari?

5) Which part of Africa do you recommend - Southern or East Africa?

6) Are Kenya and Tanzania over-commercialized? They appear to be from some materials, but are they still the best place for game viewing and cultural experiences?

7) What are the advantages on selecting Southern Africa?

8) What are the main advantages of East Africa compared to Southern Africa?

9) How do Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa compare with East Africa for game viewing?

10) What animals will I encounter in the different countries?

11) What is the bird-watching like?

12) Is Vic Falls in Zimbabwe somewhat overrated?

13)
How long does game viewing stay interesting? Should we select a tour that mixes cultural experiences and game-viewing or stick with game-viewing only? (We are thinking of a trip of about 14 days)

14) Should I go with a small group, or simply go by myself?

15) Is it worth paying $550 and more per night per person for a fly-in safari?

16) What do I look for in selecting a local operator?

17) Who are the best operators and who has the best guides?

18) How safe are light aircraft transfers / flights. Should we plan on them or avoid them?

19) Are safaris dangerous?

20) What are the things to watch for as far as price is concerned?

21) When is the best time to go?

22) Any other tips?
 
Safari destinations:

Looking at the map above, the most popular safari destinations are indicated with numbers. These destinations are listed individually, or country by country. Within each country, we have identified the major National Parks and Private Game Reserves, as well as country lodges and the more popular tourist hotels, with a description of location, available accommodation, and activities offered. This information will help you decide on the country or countries you wish to visit and to fulfill that dream of a lifetime - a Safari in Africa!

Bringing you into the picture with suggested itineraries...

We have compiled suggested itineraries to give you a little more perspective, after you have viewed the various safari destinations and accommodations. These include the suggested order in which to visit the different parks and camps, usually based on logistics, plus the suggested number of days you should spend there to adequately see, enjoy and absorb the experiences the area has to offer.
 
Let's go back to the initial questions you asked yourself, and address them...

1) How much time do I have available for my safari?

The average safari duration is between 16 and 21 days. However, safaris can be of a shorter duration, e.g. from as few as 7 - 10 days, or to as long as you would like to stay.... However, It is important to always bear in mind when you plan a safari, that the journey to and from Africa will take at least 3 days of travel. Going for too short a period (less than 10 days) is not recommended, as you will hardly have recovered from jet lag, before you are already on your way back home again!

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2) Am I limited to a budget?

This will determine to a large extent what kind of safari and accommodations you will participate in - accommodation varies between budget and the very luxurious, and differ from region to region and within National Parks and Private Game Reserves.

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3) What are my interests?

Do you have special interests in, e.g. bird watching, wildlife photography or experiencing local cultures?

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4) Are there any special activities I would like to incorporate into my safari?

Do you have your heart set on witnessing the wildebeest migration or staying on an island in the middle of the Zambezi River - right on the lip of the Victoria Falls? Do you want to go on a hot air balloon safari? What about fishing for the Goliath Tiger Fish or Golden Perch in Lake Tanganyika? Would you like to explore the bush on a walking safari? Go on a horseback safari? Ever thought about game viewing from the back of an African Elephant?

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5) Which part of Africa do you recommend - Southern or East Africa?

Undoubtedly, three of the five most impressive sights in Sub-Saharan Africa are in Southern Africa, namely Cape Town, Table Bay and Table Mountain in South Africa, the largest dunes in the world to be seen at Sossusvlei in Namibia, not to forget the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The fourth and fifth ones? Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania as well as the Wildebeest Migration, which can be witnessed in either the Serengeti (Tanzania) or the Masai Mara (Kenya) - depending of the time of the year...< p align="left">BOTSWANA is the place to go for excellent game-viewing and remarkably diverse scenery, especially if you really want to 'get away from it all'; most of the lodges there are on private concessions where there are few other visitors. The Okavango Delta is unsurpassed by any other destination in Africa. It is not inexpensive when done the right way, which, in my opinion, is to fly in and stay at two or three first-class camps / lodges. A couple of days at a 'mixed-activity' camp (offering both game drives and water activities (mokoro outings) and three more at a good game-viewing camp in the Moremi Game Reserve, as well as a visit to the Chobe-Linyanti area should suffice.

The Moremi Wildlife Reserve is rated as one of the top two eco-destinations in the world by the editors of the authoritative Weissmann Travel Reports. Here's what they say: "What makes this park so spectacular is that it features an 'ark'-full of big game -- lions, leopards, hyenas, giraffes, elephants -- as well as a dramatic array of bird-life. The reserve encompasses the ecologically unique Okavango Delta, so visitors can go on a game drive in the morning, then, in the afternoon, glide along narrow, papyrus-lined streams to watch eagles, herons, storks, egrets and cranes soar overhead."

Ideally one should combine Victoria Falls, Chobe / Linyanti Game Reserve and the Okavango Delta / Moremi. If you're on a budget, consider a camping safari from Maun, Botswana to the Victoria Falls or vice versa. Please review the section listed as CAMPING SAFARIS on the green scrollbar to the left of your screen

Camping safaris will be enjoyed by people who are sociable and who love to have other people around to share the experience. The camping safaris in Botswana (as well as in Zimbabwe and Namibia, for that matter) are definitely the most "educational" trips available, as one has the same professional guide for the duration of the trip.

For the independently-minded, savvy traveler, a fully independent fly-in safari is the way to go. You decide - in consultation with your African travel specialist - how long you want to stay in particular areas & lodges and choose the activities you like, whether it's game-viewing, walking, bird-watching, fishing or all of these. A single guide does not accompany you all the way, as you go on game-drives and other activities (such as mokoro rides or foot safaris) with knowledgeable local guides. The fly-in safaris are quite sociable too: even though you are not part of a group as such, you meet up with interesting people at the various lodges, where meals are taken together and there is ample opportunity for socializing.

This is the best choice for someone who does not mind paying a bit more for quality accommodations (all with en-suite facilities) throughout. It has been my experience that game-viewing (especially for big game and cats) is best on a fly-in safari, or at least it is more consistent. The guides at the camps pretty much know where game is concentrated at any particular time, and the various vehicles out on game drives are in radio contact, so everyone is alerted to sightings of special interest.

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6) Are Kenya and Tanzania over-commercialized? They appear to be from some materials, but are they still the best place for game viewing and cultural experiences?

Too many mini-buses chasing predator sightings is not an uncommon occurrence in some areas of East Africa, but it can be avoided by selecting a good operator and staying away from the crowds, in smaller camps. The Serengeti, for example, is so vast that crowding is hardly a problem, even in high season.

There is no doubt that areas such as Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve and Tanzania's Serengeti Plains and Ngorongoro Crater offer a spectacular wildlife-viewing experience, especially if a visit can be timed to witness the annual wildebeest migration. The Ngorongoro Crater harbors the greatest concentration of wildlife species on the continent, including herds of wildebeest, antelope and zebras which attract the large predators in considerable numbers. The Serengeti is unrivaled for sheer number of migratory animals and big game. With over 35 species of large game and 350 species of birds, the Serengeti is a must for any Tanzania Safari. Here you'll find antelope of all varieties, huge herds of gazelle, zebra and wildebeest; more lions than any other park in Africa, as well as leopard, cheetah and other predators.

Compared with the great Southern African game parks, the Masai Mara has a greater abundance of animals, including large predators, and the wide open plains make game-viewing more rewarding. If you visit during the August wildebeest migration, you can see as many as 150,000 animals in one area. The same is true of the Serengeti

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7) What are the advantages on selecting Southern Africa?

  • The use of open safari vehicles for game drives in many areas (much better for photography than enclosed mini-vans).
  • Walking safaris with experienced guides (less commonly undertaken in east Africa).
  • Night drives with spotlights, a wonderful way to see nocturnal animals such as leopard, genet, civet and African wild cat. This is also not a common practice in east Africa.
  • Game drives by boat and mokoro (dug-out 'canoe') afford a different avenue to see some of the rarer animals and big game drinking or crossing rivers.
  • In general the overall quality of the guides in Southern Africa is higher due to better training standards.

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A Professional Guide license in Zimbabwe means you have completed a rigorous course through National Parks and under apprenticeship which takes anything from 2 - 4 years to complete. The training is diverse and covers all aspects of wildlife, insect life, trees, grasses etc. and usually the guides have to know the scientific, local and English name of the flora and fauna in which they work. They also have to complete a ballistics course and the final part of their exam is to shoot an animal such as an elephant or buffalo (part of the controlled hunting and parks management program). This is not a blood-letting exercise and is very strict - not all guides have to actually shoot, however they are put in the situation. This is to ensure that in a 'client on a walk' situation, the guides will be capable of protecting guests. Only about 20 people pass every year out of hundreds taking the exam. In Zimbabwe, Professional Guide should be written with capitals as it is a world-wide recognized profession.

8) What are the main advantages of East Africa compared to Southern Africa?

Primarily, there are three good reasons to select East Africa:

  • If you are intent on combining culture and wildlife, East Africa has no equal. Nowhere else can you see Masai herdsmen with their cattle side by side with wild animals such as buffalo. In Tanzania's northern circuit, for example, their are many opportunities to visit Masai homesteads or cultural bomas, experience market days in the towns and villages, and to generally experience how wildlife and people co-exist. This is not nearly as prevalent in Southern Africa, where wildlife areas are often practically devoid of human inhabitants.
  • East Africa has a wider range of accommodations in the prime game-viewing areas, such as the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, ranging from small exclusive camps to moderately priced larger lodges. In some Southern African countries such as Botswana (especially in the Okavango Delta) accommodation options are largely limited to expensive private tented camps.
  • The migration. This spectacle of seeing hundreds of thousands of animals congregated in one area has no equal in Southern Africa

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9) How do Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa compare with East Africa for game viewing?

You could go on safari to any of these countries - or Namibia, for that matter - and see enough game to last you a life-time. The trick is in selecting the right venues, time & operator.

ZIMBABWE:- The Game-viewing in Zimbabwe is generally excellent in late winter to early spring (July through October). You simply can't beat Hwange for elephant, at the right time of the year. Zimbabwe also has many small safari camps which offer a high quality, personalized service. And it has Victoria Falls which offers not only the spectacle of the famous falls, but also lots of adventure activities such as white-water rafting, canoeing, bungee jumping & flights by helicopter and micro-light aircraft.

BOTSWANA is the place to go for excellent game-viewing and remarkably diverse scenery, especially if you really want to 'get away from it all'; most of the lodges there are on private concessions where there are few other visitors. The Okavango Delta is unsurpassed by any other destination in Africa. It is not inexpensive when done the right way, which, in my opinion, is to fly in and stay at two or three first-class camps / lodges. A couple of days at a 'mixed-activity' camp (offering both game drives and water activities (mokoro outings) and three more at a good game-viewing camp in the Moremi Game Reserve, as well as a visit to the Chobe-Linyanti area should suffice.

The Moremi Wildlife Reserve is rated as one of the top two eco-destinations in the world by the editors of the authoritative Weissmann Travel Reports. Here's what they say: "What makes this park so spectacular is that it features an 'ark'-full of big game -- lions, leopards, hyenas, giraffes, elephants -- as well as a dramatic array of bird-life. The reserve encompasses the ecologically unique Okavango Delta, so visitors can go on a game drive in the morning, then, in the afternoon, glide along narrow, papyrus-lined streams to watch eagles, herons, storks, egrets and cranes soar overhead."

Ideally one should combine Victoria Falls, Chobe / Linyanti Game Reserve and the Okavango Delta / Moremi. For the independently-minded, savvy traveler, a fully independent fly-in safari is the way to go. You decide - in consultation with your African travel specialist - how long you want to stay in particular areas & lodges and choose the activities you like, whether it's game-viewing, walking, bird-watching, fishing or all of these. A single guide does not accompany you all the way, as you go on game-drives and other activities (such as mokoro rides or foot safaris) with knowledgeable local guides. The fly-in safaris are quite sociable too: even though you are not part of a group as such, you meet up with interesting people at the various lodges, where meals are taken together and there is ample opportunity for socializing.

This is the best choice for someone who does not mind paying a bit more for quality accommodations (all with en-suite facilities) throughout. It has been my experience that game-viewing (especially for big game and cats) is best on a fly-in safari, or at least it is more consistent. The guides at the camps pretty much know where game is concentrated at any particular time, and the various vehicles out on game drives are in radio contact, so everyone is alerted to sightings of special interest.

SOUTH AFRICA is without doubt the best place for rhino - both black and white. At the rate these animals are disappearing elsewhere on the continent, my advice would be to go and see them first! In terms of value for money I don't think you can beat Kwazulu-Natal's Hluhluwe-Umfolozi or Itala Game Reserves. Combine this with a few days at Rocktail Bay Lodge on the Indian Ocean & Ndumo Wilderness Lodge and you've got yourself much more than 'just another safari'. Several affordable luxury game lodges in the Mpumalanga (formerly Eastern Transvaal) Lowveldt, adjacent to Kruger National Park, offers full board and activities for about $200 per day. At Mala Mala, arguably the best private game lodge in the world, Kirkmans Camp and the newly rebuilt Harry's Camp offers world class game-viewing (All Big Five species seen almost every day of the year) at very reasonable daily rates.

Game-viewing in South Africa offers more in the line of variety than in quantity, although South Africa has a lot more going for it than just wild-life though....Rather spend a couple of days in Cape Town and surround - e.g. the Winelands area!

ZAMBIA is generally quite a bit wilder than other Southern African destinations: the Luangwa Valley has terrific game-viewing, not too many other travelers. Zambia offers many options for walking safaris, as well.

Tongabezi, a charming lodge on the Zambezi about 10km upstream from Victoria Falls, which has some of the finest accommodation in all of Africa. Livingstone Island, which belongs to Zambia, arguably has the best view of any in the world. As a travel writer put it, "... only when you have stood on the precipice of ... Livingstone Island and gazed into the deep, raging gorge below, do you realize that you have looked right into the heart of the continent."

NAMIBIA should be added to any Africa travel list. The magnificent dunes at Sossusvlei, the Skeleton Coast, driving across the Khomas Hochland into the Namib Desert, the vast expanse of the salt pan in Etosha, the fort at Namutoni and many other places are delightful and easy to get to. Namibia is definitely my personal favorite because it has the unique combination of excellent game-viewing in Etosha and the true desert experience of the Namib.

Namibia has vast areas of true wilderness and it also offers some of the best opportunities in Africa for cultural experiences such as meeting the Himba people, one of the continent's least disturbed and most traditional tribes. Swakopmund - which is a little bit like a slice of Germany in the desert - is a delightful holiday destination with many activities. Wilderness Safaris now also offer 4 and 5-day trips inside the Skeleton Coast Park, one of Namibia's most intriguing areas. Another very popular trip is their 6-night
"Best of Namibia" wing safari which includes the massive dunes at Sossusvlei, the fascinating Damaraland Camp and Ongava.

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10) What animals will I encounter in the different countries?

The animals you are likely to see during a week's stay in Botswana, for instance, include elephant, giraffe, lion, zebra, buffalo, black-backed jackal, hyena, warthog, hippopotamus, wildebeest, impala, puku, tsessebe, kudu, reedbuck, waterbuck, lechwe, steenbok, duiker, baboon, vervet monkey, tree squirrel, mongoose and crocodile. Animals that you may see with a bit of luck and some night or water drives include leopard, cheetah, sable antelope, sitatunga, bush baby, African wild cat, bat-eared fox, side-striped jackal, wild dog, honey badger, genet, aardwolf, and more. A lot depends on which ecological areas are visited and on luck, but all these animals inhabit the regions we visit.

In a week in Northern Tanzania your list should be very similar, but with subtle differences: elephant, giraffe, lion, wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, black-backed & golden jackal, hyena, warthog, hippopotamus, impala, eland, topi, Thomson's Gazelle, Grant's Gazelle, Kirk's Dikdik, waterbuck, steenbok, duiker, baboon, vervet monkey, Sykes monkey, mongoose and crocodile. Animals that you may see with a bit of luck include leopard, cheetah, lesser kudu, gerenuk, black rhino (Ngorongoro Crater), wild dog, klipspringer, honey badger, bat-eared fox, and more.

11) What is the bird-watching like?

The birding is wonderful in Southern Africa with about 600 species being present. Southern Africa offers some of the most diverse habitat - especially in northern Botswana and Zimbabwe - while Namibia has a wealth of endemic bird species. The area is covered by a selection of excellent field guides (detailed information provided upon booking). Wilderness Safaris is renowned for emphasizing more than just the 'big mammals' on safari, and their guides are all familiar with the birds of their particular areas, while some are bird experts in their own right. The bird-watching in East Africa is every bit as good though, and in this regard the birdlife in the Great Lake areas in nothing but fantastic!

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12) Is Vic Falls in Zimbabwe somewhat overrated?

Victoria Falls is to Zimbabwe what the Grand Canyon is to Arizona: a definitive travel destination, but one night is probably sufficient, unless you're interested in some of the adventure-type activities. Some people in the business actually go as far as saying that if you haven't see the Falls, you haven't really seen Southern Africa... The area immediately surrounding the Falls has so far been spared from development. For sheer spectacle, nothing can touch the Falls at peak flood in April or May. Nice weather at that time of the year, too. The white-water rafting experience in the Zambezi down from Victoria Falls is awesome: true Class 5 rapids when conditions are ideal. Not for the faint at heart!

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13) How long does game viewing stay interesting? Should we select a tour that mixes cultural experiences and game-viewing or stick with game-viewing only? (We are thinking of a trip of about 14 days)

Game-viewing can get repetitive if you stay in the same habitat too long, which translates into seeing pretty much the same vegetation, animals, birds, etc. The key is habitat diversity: look for an itinerary which has a mix of three or four major habitat types such as wetlands, highveld savannah (open grassland dotted with trees), acacia or thornveld savannah (also known as bushveld) and riverine bush. By all means select a tour which will look at all aspects of the natural history of an area, not just game. Try not to get too caught up 'Big Five' fever, i.e. sightings of lion, leopard, rhino, Cape buffalo & elephant. There's much more to be discovered about the African wilderness, particularly its incredible bird-life, smaller mammals, reptiles & amphibians, even insects and butterflies. Not to mention the trees and other plants... If you are receptive to learning about all aspects of the natural history, your trip will be much more meaningful and enjoyable. Please don't set yourself up for disappointment by focusing on just one or two of the big cats: especially leopard and cheetah. They are not always seen.

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14) Should I go with a small group, or simply go by myself?

It all depends. For a first visit to Africa - unless you're young, adventurous & traveling as a backpacker - my advice would be to go on a small group safari. You really have three main options (and may opt to combine two or more of these):

a) Join a small-group safari (scheduled departure).

These safaris, which range from luxury fly-in trips to more basic, 'participation' safaris, are for people who enjoy the camaraderie of traveling with a few other like-minded people and who appreciate the many advantages of having a professional guide on hand at all times. I highly recommend them for first-time visitors to Southern and East Africa. Sharing the experience often makes it much more rewarding & having a guide to identify birds, trees & mammals can make all the difference. The cross-country safaris are also ideal for single travelers of either sex. Overland guided safaris can be tailor-made for private family groups or friends who'd like to travel together. The ideal group size is eight.

If you will enjoy the group experience, if you do not mind an occasional long drive to get from one area to the next, and are looking for a broadly educational trip (not just big game!), you will enjoy the overland safaris. Standards of accommodation varies: even on the more expensive trips such as the Jacana in Botswana, there are some fairly basic camps. However you get close to nature, you are invariably the only people in the camp, and you have a guide who can answer just about any question you may have.

b) Fully independent fly-in safari.

For the independently-minded, savvy traveler, this is the way to go. You decide - in consultation with your African travel specialist - how long you want to stay in particular areas & lodges and choose the activities you like, whether it's game-viewing, walking, bird-watching, fishing or all of these. A single guide does not accompany you all the way, as you go on game-drives and other activities (such as mokoro rides or foot safaris) with knowledgeable local guides. The fly-in safaris are quite sociable too: even though you are not part of a group as such, you meet up with interesting people at the various lodges, where meals are taken together and there is ample opportunity for socializing.

This is the best choice for someone who does not mind paying a bit more for quality accommodations (all with en-suite facilities) throughout. It has been my experience that game-viewing (especially for big game and cats) is best on a fly-in safari, or at least it is more consistent. The guides at the camps pretty much know where game is concentrated at any particular time, and the various vehicles out on game drives are in radio contact, so everyone is alerted to sightings of special interest

c) Self-drive safari

The more cost-conscious traveler may consider a self-drive safari in South Africa, Namibia or Zimbabwe. These three countries (and especially South Africa) have an excellent road & air network, which makes it easy to get around quickly and relatively safely, without having to resort to 4-wheel drive vehicles. Just plan your trip carefully & book well in advance, especially for the July & December holidays.

Follow these Lion tracks to the best African Safaris you will ever imagine!  South Africa in particular has a terrible road safety record and road deaths there are amongst the highest (per vehicle-miles traveled) of any country in the world. Keep in mind that you are most likely to be injured in a road accident, than through any other activity, in Africa or practically anywhere else. We do not recommend extended driving around the major cities in South Africa, or long-distance travel cross-country. Night-driving should be avoided.

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15) Is it worth paying $550 and more per night per person for a fly-in safari?

Why would anybody pay $550 to $900 per person per day for a safari? There are the obvious reasons such as staying in an elegant, romantic 'out of Africa' style tent, enjoying all the comforts of a hotel, including excellent food and personalized service. In my opinion the two most important factors, however, are privacy and the quality of the guiding.

The most expensive lodges are almost always located in private concession areas where access is limited to the guests staying at the lodge(s) on the property. Ask anybody who has spent some time on a fly-in safari in Northern Botswana, and they will invariably mention seeing few other vehicles. The privacy and exclusivity of these camps create a wilderness experience that cannot be compared with a stay at a public reserve. I've had some wonderful (inexpensive) experiences in places like Etosha, Kalahari Gemsbok Park, and Kruger Park - which I have visited dozens of times - yet I have also had visits there marred by foolish behavior on the part of other visitors, such as illegal off-road driving, hooliganism and overcrowding, with sometimes dozens of cars converging on a 'kill' scene. Every visit is different and you can have the most sublime wildlife experience in a public reserve (I sure have), but by spending the dollars to stay in a private concession, you do not run the risk of having your vacation spoiled by some idiot throwing a beer bottle at sleeping lions. Most people do not return to Africa year after year, so for them it is a wise investment to spend a bit more in order to enjoy the proverbial trip of a life-time.

At private game lodges such as Mala Mala in South Africa and Mombo in Botswana, or at Kampi ya Kanzi and Borana in Kenya, the game viewing, not to mention the quality of the accommodation, is absolutely unsurpassed.

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16) What do I look for in selecting a local operator?

I'd suggest that if you get a 'NO' answer on any of the following three questions, you should think twice before dealing with a particular operator or his/her local agent:

Follow these Lion tracks to the best African Safaris you will ever imagine!   Is the departure guaranteed? There is nothing as frustrating as booking for a trip, spending months in keen anticipation only to be given back your deposit with a lame excuse that the tour was not fully supported or whatever. It happens, so make sure.

Follow these Lion tracks to the best African Safaris you will ever imagine!   Does the company legally operate an office within the country where the tour is going to take place and does it own the vehicles & equipment and employ the guides? It is essential to go with a group which has in-country back-up, IN CASE THINGS GO WRONG. I cannot adequately stress this point:- (Very recently, due to a glitch with the bookings at Mala Mala, clients of mine were offered upgraded accommodations (at no cost to them),and Mala Mala absorbed the additional costs in total - every single penny!)

Follow these Lion tracks to the best African Safaris you will ever imagine!   Is everybody guaranteed a window seat / Will there be 7 or less persons in the group? I am perhaps over-sensitive about this, but believe me, "nature tour" with more than 7 or so people becomes an oxymoron. More like "survival of the fittest" in terms of space in the vehicle, positioning for photographs, enjoying nature peacefully and quietly and so on.

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17) Who are the best operators and who has the best guides?

On an African safari, the quality of the guide is a make-or-break factor, so don't compromise on this: a good guide will make a safari interesting - even excellent - no matter the weather or how much game you see.

In Botswana our preferred operators are Wilderness Safaris, with their head office in Johannesburg where they operate a full-service travel agency, with affiliates in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi. We also work very closely with Desert and Delta Safaris as well as Orient Express Safaris.

In Kenya our preferred operators are Pollmann's Safaris, while in Tanzania our preferred operator is Ranger Safaris, both with whom we have had a working relationship for a good number of years, and who are both well established and well known in the safari industry.

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18) How safe are light aircraft transfers / flights. Should we plan on them or avoid them?

Safari flights in the Okavango Delta are probably as safe as similar light aircraft operations most anywhere in the world: much safer than ground transportation but not as safe as commercial jet aircraft. The aircraft are well-maintained and - just like in the USA - completely overhauled after a pre-determined number of hours. You'll find that the so-called "bush pilots" are, like the vast majority of their colleagues all over the world, very concerned about safety, that they follow correct procedures and that they will not operate an unserviceable aircraft, or overload it (so watch that luggage limit!) After all, their lives are at stake, too.

If you can afford it, I'd definitely recommend choosing an itinerary that includes charter flights - for example - into the heart of the Okavango Delta.

Flying serves a three-fold purpose:

  1. It gets you to the prime game-viewing & birding areas without wasting time on bad roads;

  2. You'll be able to cover much more ground so your itinerary can be more diversified and;

  3. You will gain an overall perspective of the area that is only possible from the air.

It would not be possible, for example, to fully appreciate the complexity of the Okavango Delta's channel systems and vast number of islands without an aerial view. Many Delta pilots are expert guides in their own right. You'll be amazed at their ability to spot and identify animals from the air!

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19) Are safaris dangerous?

Obviously, there is a certain degree of danger when you are in the bush with wild animals. However, you will always be accompanied by an experienced guide. Accidents are infrequent and the camps have excellent safety records. Provided you use common sense you should be perfectly safe.

As your safari will bring you into relatively close proximity with wild animals, you will no doubt want to be sure that you are protected by insurance, should something unforeseen happens. Too many lodges and safari operators in southern Africa do not have enough liability insurance. Wilderness Safaris has recently taken out an additional $10 million top-up liability cover. This is to help cover both ourselves and themselves in the event of a liability claim. This is in addition to the normal insurance cover which is already in place for each vehicle. This cover is valid for all Wilderness Safaris guests whether they are staying in Wilderness Safaris camps or not: as long as Wilderness Safaris books the service, the coverage is there. From 2001 Wilderness Safaris' prices will include trip cancellation, curtailment and emergency medical evacuation back to the guest's country of origin.

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20) What are the things to watch for as far as price is concerned?

The most important thing is to make sure that all the essential things associated with the trip are included in the quoted price: ground transportation, accommodation, meals, excursions, guide/driver service and transfers. Some operators tend to confuse the issue with a very low up-front quote for a bare-bones trip which is not what you want and not what you end up paying for, once all the 'extras' are added in.

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21) When is the best time to go?

It depends. Generally speaking, game-viewing peaks from July through September, but it is good year-round. October through February can get very hot in northern Botswana and Zimbabwe, especially in the Zambezi Valley. For bird-watching, the summer months are better, i.e. October through February/March. Victoria Falls is at its best in April/May, while Cape Town's nicest weather is February, March & April. Namibia and other arid areas (such as the Kalahari) are at their best in March, April & May, just after the 'rainy' season (what there is of it). Low season safari prices are available from November through June.

In East Africa, it rarely gets unbearably hot, although some people prefer to avoid the 'long rains' which fall in April & May. The dry season from July to September is considered the optimum time for the western & northern Serengeti & Kenya's Masai Mara, while December, January and February are arguably the best three months for the southern short grass plains of the Serengeti. The months of March through May and June are low season in East Africa, and offer excellent value for money.

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22) Any other tips?

Look for quality and value for money. Don't end up spending $2,000 or more on airfares only to be disappointed by a poorly run, inferior safari. Ask for references from previous clients and make sure that the trip has been operated before (don't be a guinea pig!). Repetition equals knowledgeable guides, no unpleasant surprises and finely tuned itineraries.

Above all, take the best pair of binoculars you can afford, forget about your cell phone and office, and go and enjoy the vacation of a lifetime!

Follow these Lion tracks to the best African Safaris you will ever imagine! We do realize that all this information is a lot to consume and digest at once, in order to make an informed decision. For this reason we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions for you to review, and if there are still other questions you would like to address, please feel free to contact us - we will gladly assist with the planning of your safari!

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