Going on safari can be a once in a lifetime experience. But there are many things that you need to check before booking your safari holiday. This is true of most holidays, but especially important when safaris are concerned. Find out my top 10 things you need to check before booking your safari.
When you plan a holiday it is essential to check what visas you will need for entry to your chosen country. Visas permissions will vary depending on your nationality and where you plan to visit. Although it is possible to obtain some visas on arrival, others must be done in advance. Some visas are complicated and costly. For certain countries, you will need to visit an embassy to obtain a visa in person. If you have not got a valid visa for your destination you could be denied boarding. Essentially ruining your holiday before it has begun.
You should always check with a doctor or a travel clinic what immunisations they recommend for your chosen destination. And if they are suitable for you. It is important to consider what is necessary for the area of the country that you plan to visit.
A great example of this is South Africa. If you visit Kruger National Park, then you should consider taking antimalarial medication. If you would prefer not to, then there are plenty of other reserves in South Africa that are malaria-free.
You need to check before booking your safari what mandatory vaccinations apply to your destination. Certain countries will require a yellow fever vaccination certificate for entry. Make sure that this is suitable for you before booking your holiday.
You should always check what the general weather is like in the destination that you plan to visit. In the month that you are visiting! Whilst weather can be unpredictable, there are certain patterns that it tends to follow.
People are different, whilst some have a high tolerance for soaring temperatures. There are those of us who prefer milder climates. Weather can have a huge impact on what wildlife you can expect to see on safari. We will look at that more in seasons!
Wildlife viewing can vary between wet and dry seasons. You also have the annual migration between Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Maasai Mara. Choose the appropriate season for what you want to see before booking your safari.
This applies to many countries. If you would like to see bears in Canada then you need to visit in and around the summer months. For those of you planning to see leopards in Sri Lanka, avoid the wet season.
If you are looking for the best price then you can get some great deals by visiting during low season. This can often mean that it is quieter too. However, this might have an impact on what wildlife you will see. Which leads us to my next point.
What do you want to see?
Animals are unpredictable, and you can never guarantee what you are going to see. If you have a favourite animal, then it is important to choose the best country/reserve for that animal. If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka then check out my article about the Best Safari In Sri Lanka.
Most safari reserves in Africa will have the “Big 5”. But if there is a specific animal that you want to see then you need to explore your options. For example, let’s say you want to see elephants in South Africa. Then Madikwe reserve is a great option for you. This is because it has the highest density of elephants in South Africa.
Whatever you want to see, there will be a perfect place for you. You just need to find it! Now, another important thing to check before booking your safari is what else can you do?
What else can you do?
Whilst your safari will likely be the highlight of your holiday. I’d imagine that you will want to combine it with some sightseeing and or a beach break. Think about what else you want to do. This will help you create an incredible itinerary so that you can get the most from your holiday.
There are loads of great options to combine with a safari. However, it is important not to try and squeeze two holidays into one. It can be very tiring being constantly on the move. Make sure that you have time to enjoy where you are. You also need to consider how to get where you are going.
Different reserves and lodges have various methods of access. These can add a considerable cost to your holiday. In some countries, you can rent a car and drive to your chosen reserve. In others, it might be preferable to have a private driver or shared transportation. The best way to access some reserves is to fly in on a light aircraft.
I have some great tips for driving in South Africa. And plenty of information on the best stops on the Garen Route. If you do not want to drive yourself but are wanting to visit a number of places then there are options available.
Private or Group
Most destinations have private or group tour options. This can vary from just having private car transfers between your hotels to fully escorted coach tours. There are also small group tours too.
Private tours will generally allow you more freedom. You can customise your ideal itinerary. Handpick your own hotels. Select which activities you’d like to do. You also have more control over the pace of your holiday.
Group tours are fixed itineraries. However, they are usually cheaper than private tours. Whilst you can’t choose your accommodation, there are often optional activities. There tends to be a stricter schedule. You will be with other people, but this can often be a benefit. Especially if you are travelling alone.
What is included? This is something you definitely need to check before booking your safari. You should never assume that something is included if it is not stated. I’ve mentioned earlier that transfers can be expensive, make sure they are part of your booking. It is essential to check board inclusions too. And of course, ensure the safari drives are included in the cost.
In my experience tipping is not included, and should be done locally. Safari drivers and guides rely on tips. You should always reward them for a job well done.
Once you have decided where you want to go and what you want to do it is almost time to book. I advise checking the availability of all aspects of your holiday before committing to any of them.
It can often be advisable to book all of your travel arrangements from one travel agent. This can provide you with package protection, and peace of mind.