Going on your first safari

South Africa is the easiest choice for a first safari – Johannesburg is Africa’s busiest airline hub, and a South African safari is simple to combine with Cape Town. Kruger is the most famous South African safari area, but there are many other excellent options – Eastern Cape, Waterberg and Madikwe are malaria free, and KwaZulu Natal allows for a combination with time at the sea. South Africa is also easily combined with Victoria Falls, a 90 minute flight from Johannesburg.

If you’d prefer to look at East Africa, the Serengeti & Maasai Mara (they’re neighbours, sharing the same ecosystem and wildebeest migration) are the most famous, but check out Ngorongoro Crater & surrounds too.

What’s included? Almost all safari camps and lodges offer 2 game drives per day (one at sunrise and one in the late afternoon). During the heat of the day the animals rest – and so do guests, back in camp. All meals and drinks are included in the rate (excluding special wines). Many camps have a pool, gym and spa, but treatments will cost extra. Tips are expected, especially by your ranger.

Some terms which may help you:

  • “Big 5” is an old hunting term for lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard. Most large reserves have at least 4 of the 5, but other notable species include wild dog and cheetah, and rarer antelope like sable and roan.
  • “Private reserve” (and private concessions in public reserves) are generally better as you share sightings with few other visitors. You’ll also be driven in an 4×4 game viewing vehicle with a skilled ranger, unless you’re at one of the few specialist walking camps where it’s all on foot.
  • Tents on this site all have en-suite bathrooms and crisp white bedding, but vary from simple to quite palatial. They offer a a closer-to-nature feeling. Non-tented camps are generally more likely to have a/c, glam bathrooms and pools, but there are exceptions.
  • Camp versus lodge: The terms can be confusing so I’ve used the term “camp” throughout this site.
  • Private villa denotes an exclusive-use villa with its own dining facilities and staff, for those seeking complete privacy.

Hot tips:

  • Stay at least 3 nights in each camp (you’ll see more animals, and have time to chill too).
  • Safari regions are more different than you imagine – combine 2 different regions in your trip
  • Ask your ranger to take you for a bush walk to get an inspiring close-to-nature experience

Would you like someone to help plan your trip? Drop me a line and I’ll introduce you to a South African based tour operator who best knows the areas you’re considering.