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Our guide on how to start planning your first safari to Africa

Your first safari – how to get started

If you haven’t been on an African safari before and this is your first time planning such an adventure, then you are in for a real treat! Africa offers so many dream destinations and unique experiences, just waiting for you to enjoy.

Planning your first safari to Africa is such a wonderful build-up to the actual holiday. However, it can also be baffling and time-consuming. There are so many aspects that you need to take into consideration, such as where to go, how much it will cost, when is the best time to travel, and what wildlife you’ll be able to see.

To help you plan your first Africa safari, we’ve put together some answers to what we think are the most important questions when considering a safari. Please take a look below at our guide:

1. Where should I go on my first safari?

Deciding where to go on your first safari really depends on your priorities and preferences. Most of our first-time clients prefer to ease into Africa and choose to visit the popular national parks and reserves in Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, or South Africa. The best piece of advice we can give you at this stage is to try not to pack everything into one trip. Rushing through areas or even countries in a one-week holiday really won’t give you the full impact of being on safari.

The approach we recommend is to start by deciding whether you’d like to travel to East Africa or to Southern Africa. Both regions offer distinctly different activities and wildlife, so this is a great first decision to whittle down.

YZ co-founder Julian has put together a detailed overview of the popular destinations that we offer. He divides the countries into East Africa and Southern Africa, and sets out the pros and cons of each destination. He also stresses that the best step forward is to speak with one of our safari specialists, as you can get so lost in all the information that’s available online.

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2. Is there anything specific I want to see?

The next question that you should consider is, is there anything specific that you’d like to see? Are you particularly keen to see the Big Five? Maybe you want to witness the Great Migration during the river-crossing season? Or is it the small wildlife that you’d like to take centre stage during your safari – meerkats, anyone?

For example, if it’s all the members of the Big Five that you’re after, or an individual member such as elephant or lion, this will greatly influence what type of safari you should be planning. For travellers hoping to spot all the Big Five in one place, we recommend focusing on the national parks and reserves of Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa that are renowned for their big game sightings. Opting for a traditional safari in the likes of the Serengeti, Maasai Mara, or Kruger will definitely boost your chances of ticking all the boxes on your Big Five checklist.

And it’s worth bearing in mind that a traditional safari combines well with other activities. So if you also want to experience the cascading waters of Victoria Falls, the magnificent white shores of Zanzibar, or the perennially colourful streets of Cape Town, we can book these as add-ons that would influence the structure and sequence of your holiday.

3. How much does a safari cost?

Our answer to “How much does a safari cost?” is probably the most complicated of all. Further questions we need to ask to work out the cost of your safari include:

  • How many people are travelling?
  • Do you have any specific hobbies?
  • When do you want to travel – high, low, or shoulder season?
  • What level of accommodation are you looking for?

Change one detail to your answer to any of the questions above, and it could change the cost drastically – sometimes by thousands. Below, we set out a very rough price guide. Please note, these prices, shown in pound sterling, are provided per person on a week-long trip (6 nights/7 days) to our Top 4 safari destinations:

  Value low season Value high season Classic low season Classic high season Luxury low season Luxury high season
Tanzania £3,000 - £4,000 £4,500 - £6,000 £4,500 - £5,500 £6,000 - £8,000 £6,000+ £8,500+
Kenya £3,000 - £4,000 £4,500 - £6,000 £4,500 - £5,500 £6,000 - £8,000 £6,000+ £8,500+
South Africa £3,000 - £4,000 £3,500 - £4,500 £5,000 - £8,000 £5,500 - £9,000 £9,000+ £10,000+
Botswana £3,500 - £4,500 £5,000 - £6,500 £5,000 - £7,000 £8,000 - £11,000 £8,000+ £12,000+

4. What should I do now?

After reading the above, you probably have a few ideas about where you want to go and what you want to see on safari, and how much it could cost. The next stages of actually planning the safari are long and complicated. But this is where Yellow Zebra can come in!

So, why choose Yellow Zebra? Well, by far the biggest challenge involved in planning your first safari is to gain confidence in the right company to arrange your holiday. Of course, many of our competitors say they have experience of visiting a destination, but all of our consultants have been either professional safari guides or camp managers – or they were born and raised in Africa. And not only have our travel experts worked in Africa, but they’ve worked for the top companies – the finest providers of accommodation on the continent! In our opinion, there is simply no substitute for our level of extensive ‘on-the-ground’ experience when it comes to designing the best safaris.

We like to think that the industry awards we have won underline our experience and show our recognition within the travel industry itself, but by far the best first step that you can take is to give us a call and talk with our experts. This will ensure that you feel comfortable with us and confident that we will plan an epic first safari with you.

You can contact us here, to arrange a mutually convenient time for a call. However, we warn you now – safaris are seriously addictive. This may be your first safari, but it’s very unlikely to be your last!

“Getting to know our consultants is the best way you can feel sure of having that dream safari. They have over a hundred years of bespoke travel experience overall!”
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Julian Co-founder & Director

Other questions that you might have about a first-time safari:

Are any destinations particularly suitable for my holiday type?

If you’re a family with young children, we suggest looking at either non-malaria areas, such as South Africa’s Eastern Cape, or the incredibly family-friendly regions of Laikipia or Lewa in Kenya. While solos can consider all areas of Safari Africa, but what’s suitable for you will depend on factors such as whether you want to avoid paying the single supplement, and how sociable you wish to be on safari.

Can my first safari involve my special interests?

Of course! You’d be pleasantly surprised to read about the full range of special-interest safaris available. Whether you’re a keen horse rider, photographer, or birdwatcher, or you’re interested in LGBT-specific lodges or a conservation-focused safari, we’ve got the information.

When should I go?

We’ve put together a month-by-month guide to what destination shines during which season. If you haven’t decided exactly where you want to go but you know the month in which you want to travel, this might help you work out which destination is best suited to your travel time.

Our Top 10 inspiration

If you’re not ready to start planning your safari but you’re still looking for some inspiration, we’ve put together some of our favourite ‘Top 10s’ for you to browse. For our favourite luxury lodges, lodges for walking safaris, places to visit in Africa, and lodges for canoeing, check out our selection.

Ideal First Time Safari Holidays

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