Destinations: Africa

Top Tips For Planning an African Safari Trip

October 31, 2015
Ngorongoro Crater

Guest Post By: Peggy Wang
An African safari is a true adventure offering travelers around the world an opportunity to get up close to animals in their natural environment. Safari destinations are by no means cheap nor are they anything like a trip to the zoo. Planning is a must! Here are some tips based on my own research and experience.

Safaris are not limited to Tanzania’s Serengeti.
There is of course Kenya’s famous Maasai Mara, and South Africa provides safari trips as well. Nor do Safari trips need to be long. In Tanzania, a short safari trip can be done in 2-3 days if you don’t venture too far from the usual base town of Arusha and stick to parks like Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara National Park, which still boasts a fair share of animals.

Private Tour is worth it.
For a reasonable upcharge, rather than sharing ar safari vehicle with other tourists (depending on the safari operator, it is typically 4-6 to a vehicle), we had the vehicle and driver all to ourselves. This allowed us to set our own schedule, maneuver freely with plenty of space in the vehicle, take photos without other people obstructing, and stop and continue when we chose to do so. Definitely worth it.

Eat local food.
For safari lodges, meals are provided. After all, there aren’t that many restaurants in the wilderness (0 to be precise). Typically, the meals are their version of ‘western’ food such as sandwiches, cheese, pasta, steamed vegetables, or a protein that tends to be a bit dry or bland. All edible but nothing that’s quite mouth-watering. On our way to Ndutu, our driver informed us that tourists can request African style meals (what the staff eat) prior to arrival. Lodges typically don’t advertise this and even on request they may decline due to limited availability. Upon arrival at Ndutu Lodge, we crossed our fingers and asked for the local food. Thankfully they obliged; our meals were all delicious! Ndutu Lodge did gently chide our driver for not informing them earlier—then made him sit with us at dinner to explain how to properly eat their cuisine. Not only did we learn a little about the local culture and cuisine, but we got to experience some truly delectable meals. I would highly recommend anything made with Maasai beef (the cattle raised by the Maasai tribes). Just yum.

Bring some snacks.
Our driver informed us that most American tourists find that the food provided is insufficient for satiating their appetites, particularly the packed lunchboxes. That explained a lot! We were wondering why he kept offering his food to us in the beginning; he was worried we were still hungry! The lunchboxes also tend to be carb-heavy. So if you are particular about what you eat or have a large appetite you should definitely bring a supply of snacks. If you happen to have leftovers you can always share with the Maasai (semi-nomads) along the side of the road or your driver. We shared our granola bars and Slim Jims with our driver had never tried these products before.  It was quite fun to offer him a new experience! 

On a safari, you are observing wildlife. And they don’t care about your schedule or whether you are trying to hit points A,B, and C in a certain amount of time. I saw countless safari vehicles wait around only a few minutes hoping for a leopard in a tree or some other animal to shift itself into better view, then give up too quickly and leave. Some of our best photos happened to be after other safari-goers gave up and left. Be patient and wait for the animals to roam about at their leisure. You’ll get some of the best views with patience. 

Take some time to relax afterwards!
We tacked on some R&R in Zanzibar after our safari. SO WORTH IT. Don’t just go straight home. The beaches are beautiful and Stone Town has so many interesting little shops and buildings. Bonus: All those souvenirs they sell on the main land? You can find the same in Stone Town. But much cheaper.

Zanzibar - Pongwe

Pongwe Beach, Zanzibar


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