Imagine this; waking up just before the sun rises and being alerted by your guide that a pride of lions was just spotted near the camp or a pack of wild dogs are actively in pursuit of hunting down their prey. Viewing wildlife on a game-drive, walking or mokoro safari is a magical experience. Some of our guests have described it as utterly breathtaking. A trip to Africa is worthy of being on every travellers bucket list.
In Africa, depending on your destination preference, you’ll definitely encounter members of the Big Five, Small Five, Little Five and even the Ugly Five. Some travellers are lucky enough to encounter all of them on a single trip, while others have a few magical encounters to last till their next visit to our camps. In our opinion, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe are your best shot at seeing a variety of wildlife. These regions are rich in wildlife, incredible landscapes, and a rich cultural history.
The experiences, wildlife encounters and the people who you’ll meet will be a treasured memory and a great story to share with everyone you encounter. Once you experience the maginficent African bush, we’re pretty sure you’ll be back for more.
We have curated this ultimate guide to a African Safari to help you make the right destination choices in terms of your expectations, experiences and our camps.
The best place to start with planning your African safari is by creating a list of expectations for your trip. By now, you probably have a few ideas in mind. This includes which wildlife sightings you’d love to see, landscapes you’d love to visit, and lodging preferences. The place you stay is very important. Remember, after a long, exhilarating day in the bush, you would want to come “home” to a tranquil place, where you can experience some R & R, all while being surrounded by wild Africa.
The three most popular destinations to experience an epic African safari are Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. These southern African countries’ biggest drawcards are their diversity in wildlife and iconic landscapes, not to mention their rich cultural history and resources.
If you’re comparing Southern Africa to East Africa, you’ll find that in terms of wildlife, these two regions offer similar experiences. However, if you’re interested in experiencing Africa’s gentle giants, the African elephant, Southern Africa is your best bet. In fact, 80% of Africa’s elephant population can be found in Southern Africa.
You may find that the topography is quite different in Southern Africa. This region is known for its desert landscapes and coastlines. It is also home to a few iconic landmarks, which include one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Victoria Falls. In Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, we have a range of luxury and mobile tented camps that are perfect for experiencing your African safari in style. Our camps are built to provide you with a fully-immersive safari experience that will leave you captivated day after day.
After you have made a list of your expectations for your African safari its time to decide where you would actually like to go. Southern Africa is filled with glorious opportunities and magnificent experiences. We have camps in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, designed to provide you with an authentic African safari, you’ll never forget.
In all of Africa, no other country comes close to matching Botswana’s dedication to preserving its rich ecosystems. The overall land area of the country is 581,730 square kilometres, and around 40% of this area comprises protected areas for the country’s diverse wildlife. These regions provide a safe haven for the greatest concentration of elephants in the world as well as a bastion for other big animal species that are at risk of extinction, including the black rhinoceros, African wild dog, cheetah, and lion.
Botswana is known for being a birdwatcher’s paradise. It is, in fact, one of the few places in the world where you can see the Slaty Egret, Wattled Crane, and Pel’s Fishing Owl. Botswana is considered to be a frontrunner in terms of environmental protection and conservation. With commercial hunting being banned in 2014, former hunting regions are now prime locations to experience an authentic African safari.
This is especially true when staying in one of the many privately operated concessions, which typically have their visitor density limited. These concessions are home to some of Africa’s most opulent and environmentally sustainable camps.
An astonishing variety of wildlife is supported by Zimbabwe’s wide range of habitats, which range from the forested valleys of Matobo Hills National Park and the watery wilderness of Lake Kariba and Matusadona National Park to the floodplains of Mana Pools National Park and the mopane woodlands and savannas of Hwange National Park. There are an incredible 500 kinds of birds, 199 species of mammals, 130 types of fish, and a few uncommon species like the sable antelope that call this country home.
The opportunity to enjoy excellent game viewing without the interference of large crowds is one of the things that sets Zimbabwe apart from its neighbours in southern Africa. Even in Hwange National Park, the most visited reserve in Zimbabwe, you won’t run into many other people. This is a completely different experience compared to visiting famous parks in other countries, where traffic bottlenecks at roadside sightings can take away from the sensation of being in the wilderness.
You won’t find better prospects for a walking safari than in Zimbabwe, so if you want to completely submerge yourself in the African wilderness, you should definitely consider this destination. Canoeing down the mighty Zambezi River, camping on remote islands, and getting within a thrillingly close distance from animals such as elephants on the shore is one of the greatest wilderness experiences that can be had on the African continent. Zimbabwe is one of few places on the African continent where you can experience a canoeing safari.
Zambia is considered to be one of Africa’s unconquered treasures. It is one of the last places on the continent where nature has been allowed to remain wild and untamed. It is also home to some of the most phenomenal national parks on the African continent. including Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and the Lower Zambezi National Park.
The roaring splendour of Victoria Falls is what most people come to experience on their Zambia safari, as well as the magnificent wildlife and dramatic landscapes.
Zambia has more draw cards.
The Lower Zambezi National Park is widely regarded as one of the best places to see wildlife in all of Zambia; in fact, it is frequently ranked among the country’s top three national parks, along with South Luangwa and Kafue. After being ravaged by poaching in the 1980s, the park has subsequently made a full recovery. However, rhino populations remain critically endangered.
Lake Kariba is another one of Zambia’s draw cards. It is the biggest man-made dam in the world in terms of volume, and it stretches across more than 5000 km2 along Zambia’s southern border. In addition to providing hydroelectric power to both Zambia and Zimbabwe after its completion in 1959, the dam also allows for the sharing of fish species, most notably tilapia, kapenta, and the highly sought tigerfish.
Choosing when to go on safari is very important, especially considering that Southern Africa has different safari seasons. When you decide to go on safari will predict what type of experiences you will encounter.
Peak season refers to the time period when wildlife is most visible or most abundant on an African safari. From June-August each year, is when Southern Africa experiences its peak season. During this season, your chances of experiencing magnificent wildlife viewing are relatively high.
In fact, you’re likely to encounter these experiences often on a game drive, walking safari, or mokoro safari. Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia are particularly special since these regions have very high concentrations of wildlife. This means that, during peak season, you may spot a herd or two on your trip.
The green season marks the rainy season. It’s during the summer months, roughly December through April, when rainfall becomes excessive in Southern Africa. The green season is also considered to be the most affordable time to go on safari. However, it does come with some challenges. Because of the excessive rainfall, water is accessible almost everywhere, which means that wildlife will rarely be found at waterholes. The green season also means that the African plains will be lush and filled with foliage, which will make it harder to spot wildlife on your safari. Some camps and lodges also restrict activities during this season since excessive rainfall will make it harder to go on walking, canoe, and mokoro safaris, just to mention a few.
The shoulder season occurs between the peak season and the green season, which is usually around May and November. This season can also be considered a good time to travel, especially if you want to avoid the crowds. The shoulder season also varies yearly. You may just get lucky and encounter some incredible wildlife opportunities in areas where there is more food. On other occasions, you may not be as lucky. Speak to your safari consultant for more advice on the shoulder season and what your chances are of experiencing a memorable African safari.
Here are the most important things to bring with you on safari. Some of them are so important that you can’t go anywhere without them.
1. Your passport with all the visas you need for each country you visit and pass through on your African safari.
2. A small amount of cash, bank cards, or travellers’ checks.
3. You can also avoid carrying cards and cash by using e-wallet apps.
4. Air tickets and travel vouchers for any safari tours that have already been booked.
5. Your negative Covid-19 PCR test results, which are required by the countries you visit and the airlines you use. Contact your safari expert if you want to know more about the latest Covid-19 rules that apply to your trip.
6. Certificates of immunisation (for things like yellow fever, etc.) when needed. Some shots need to be done way in advance. So it is important that you take note of this.
7. Malaria preventives, if you’re told to take them, and any other medicines you take regularly. Make sure to pack in your prescriptions too.
8. Travel insurance policy details. Your policy number and who to call in case of claims or other problems. (In the Covid-19 pandemic era, travel insurance that covers everything is a must.)
9. Cell phone. Most people who travel the world bring a smartphone with them so they can keep in touch with family and friends, connect to wifi, and use it in case of an emergency.
9. If you lose your phone, you should have a hard copy of your most important phone numbers.
A lightweight long-sleeved shirt or two – they keep the sun and insects out while keeping you warm in the mornings and evenings. Make sure you pack in a jacket as well for the cool evenings on safari.
There’s nothing worse than going on a walking safari with uncomfortable shoes. We recommend you pack a comfortable, closed pair of shoes, especially for bushwalking or trekking in damp situations. You don’t need an expensive pair of army boots, just well-worn, comfy, and practical shoes. Platforms and high heels should be left at home.
Sunblock is very important. Make sure you have an environmentally-friendly SPF 30-50 sunscreen. Also, pack a bucket hat for extra protection. Remember, the African sun can be scorching at times. Sunglasses add an extra layer of protection against the sun and keep flying insects away too.
Bring a head torch or light source that you can easily tie around your bucket hat for around camp and to and from the safari vehicle, especially for night drives. It becomes really dark out in the wilderness at night, so you’ll need a light source to find your way around after dark. The head torch is ideal since it frees up your hands to do other things.
To prevent insect bites we recommend that you pack an insect repellent. Preferably one that is eco-friendly. An insect repellent lotion or spray will do.
A bag for day trips and excursions would be quite useful. You can use it to pack in your camera equipment, water, sunglassses etc.
Take clothes that are natural and light colours. Avoid bright colours like primary and neon, which make you stand out. You don’t have to wear camo, just wear neutral colours.
Make sure you pack your camera! There are many memorable moments to capture while you’re on a African safari. You’ll probably return home with a full SD card.
Make sure you pack the right plugs or adaptors for your safari accomodation, as well as all of your chargers, batteries, and power cables for your devices.
You don’t want to wait to use binoculars because by the time it’s your turn, the action is often over. Bring your own binoculars, even if they can see in the dark.
Tipping is common in Africa. It’s a way to say thanks for good service, but it’s not obligatory. However, after being exposed to our exceptional professional guides and staff, we’re pretty sure you will feel compelled to offer them a reward in the form of a tip after an exhilarating day in the African bush.
One of the most exciting and memorable trips you’ll ever take is a African safari. The price of an African safari depends on a lot of things, especially your preferences which may include where you go, when you go, and how comfortable you want to be. However, there are some good rules of thumb to follow for your safari budget. Especially if you’re travelling for the very first time.
With African Bush Camps, you certainly can! Our family-friendly camps are home to the Ngwana Club. Ngwana
is the Setswana word for “ explorer ” and is the name of our family friendly program designed by each
of our camps. Our Ngwana Club offers a variety of safari related activities for children of all ages. Including nature walks, cooking classes, arts and crafts, and traditional story-telling.