The African safari is a gold standard when it comes to vacations. It is exotic. It puts you in touch with raw nature and typically lets you see animals found nowhere else. However, there’s a lot you need to do to prepare for the trip. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
Know What You’ll Get Out of Each Type of Safari
You’re not going to see cheetahs in the mountainous rainforests where gorillas live. You’re not going to see gorillas on the savannah along with the elephants and lions. Know what you’ll get out of each type of safari and choose accordingly. Choose an African Safari with Naturetrek that lets you see the type of animals you want to observe. This will determine everything from the time of year you will visit to the travel visas you’ll need. For example, the best time to visit the African savannah is in October and November, though you’ll have to be here in January or February to see the great animal migrations. The best months to see birds may differ from the best time to see mammals like the aardwolf or buffalo.
Get Your Paperwork Ready in Far in Advance of the Trip
Get your travel papers ready in advance of your trip. You will probably need at least one visa for your trip, and you may need several. This is in addition to a valid passport; most countries want the passport to be good for another six months before they’ll issue a visa. You may require proof of vaccinations for everything from yellow fever to COVID-19. Get your paperwork ready at least a month in advance if not several months in advance. Ideally, you’ll have time to cancel the trip and get a refund if you can’t get the necessary visas.
Take Care of the Medical Issues in Advance
No one wants to suffer a medical mishap and be evacuated; this ruins your vacation. However, it is that much harder to get proper medical care if you’re on a safari where you hike from campsite to campsite or are a 10-hour drive from the nearest hospital. That’s why you need to have that tooth ache or knee problem addressed before you step on the plane to Africa.
You also need to take care of everything on your medical checklist done. You’ll probably need a few vaccinations like the one for yellow fever. The COVID vaccine is increasingly required, too. Get your own supply of anti-malaria’s and have more than enough to last the whole trip. Do you take any kind of prescription medication? Pack a large enough supply to carry you through the whole trip plus some reserve, since you don’t want to jeopardize your health if you throw up a day’s worth of meds or lose a pack of pills. Bring copies of your prescriptions. There is no guarantee you can fill them while in Africa, but these documents also prove that you’re not drug smuggling.
Mosquito repellant is only the first thing you need to pack. You also need to bring clothes that resist mosquitos and other biting insects. Wear clothes that will get dirty and that will withstand rough conditions. Wear clothing that acts as sunscreen in addition to packing sunscreen but won’t cause you to overheat under the hot sun.
Take Care of Your Insurance Coverage
Get travel insurance. Make sure the travel insurance covers flight cancelations and hotel cancelations and will give you the resources to make alternate arrangements. Don’t just assume your credit card will cover it. Furthermore, you should investigate your medical insurance coverage. Will they pay for your hospital stay if you get malaria or need to see a doctor for a severe stomach bug? Tell your insurer when you’ll be abroad, so they don’t think it is identity theft when you try to refill your prescription when on another continent.
Be Willing to Ask Questions
Be willing to ask questions about the accommodations before you book the trip. They may expect you to be ready to spend the night in the bush in a tent, while you’re expecting to stay in a rustic hotel. Know how much physical exercise is involved, because some places have you hiking through the savannah, so you don’t scare the animals instead of riding in a jeep or bus.
Be Strategic When You Get the Most Out of Your Trip
In general, travel costs are the biggest line item in an African trip. Consider giving yourself an extra few days to see various sights. On the other hand, it can take a long time to get from destination to destination, so only visit the must-sees like big cats on the savannah or the pyramids of Cairo. If you want to immerse yourself in a local culture, choose a safari that gives you this opportunity as part of the package deal, whether you want to spend time with the Masai or tour Johannesburg.
Africa is huge. It is the second largest continent. You could fit the United States, China, Europe and a few more countries in Africa and still have room left over. And while Africa has experienced rapid development over the past twenty years, the game preserves have very little infrastructure so that it can be as wild as possible. That’s why you need to plan on several hour bus and jeep rides to get anywhere. That’s why you should plan on a long trip from the airport to your hotel and from lodges to campsites. Furthermore, things often go at a much slower pace. Breakfast will be ready when it is done, not 6 AM.
Obey the Rules
Know the rules and obey them. If the driver says to stay in the car at all times, stay in the car. If you’re told not to feed the animals, don’t feed the animals. Don’t get too close to the animals, because you could be killed by anything from a spooked elephant to an angry hippo. (Fact: more people are killed by hippos than sharks each year.) These rules are there for your literal safety.