African safari – tips for first safari adventures
Deciding to go on a safari is far easier than navigating endless information about them. The information on the internet is mind boggling. The safari destinations, the tour companies that sponsor them, the locations, the accommodations and the pricing are as varied and vast as the country and the wildlife.
After weeks of scouring internet sites, brochures, guidebooks and manuals, the following is practical information and advice on choosing and preparing for an African safari:
Choosing a Safari Destination Africa is a huge continent and there are many safari destinations in Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa and more. The Kruger National Park, located in South Africa, is the largest game park. It is surrounded by many private game reserves and promises visitors to see the ‘Big Five’ – elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, Cape Buffalo – and is a good choice for a first-time safari destination.
Safari Tour Operators: Find an established tour operation. Check them by reputation, rating, etc. Find out if they operate from the US, Africa or have offices in both countries. It is advantageous to have offices or employees in the country. Keep the budget in mind; safari prices and accommodation vary widely. Safaris can be all inclusive or you can choose a la carte. It’s often easier and cheaper to go all-inclusive, plane, transportation, accommodation, food, etc. Also, if something goes wrong, they are ready to fix it,
Accommodation: Decide whether you prefer more luxurious accommodation or are truly looking for an authentic, rustic safari experience. There are tents, lodge-style accommodation, walking, river and overland safaris. Some itineraries allow you to experience several locations and types of safaris.
Passports and Visas: Be informed about the region(s) you plan to visit. Read the fine print regarding visas, passports, immunizations, and other legal requirements in the country, which are usually available on the State Department and CDC websites. South Africa has strict passport laws. Be careful and make sure you have plenty of blank Visa pages. (The correction and endorsement pages located at the back of the passport cannot be used for Visa stamps). Keep copies of your passport, credit cards, license, etc. at home and with you in a safe place.
Immunizations: Most insurance companies do not pay for travel immunizations, but they will recommend or refer you to travel clinics. Some doctor’s offices will provide immunizations, but may not need vaccines on hand and must order them. Travel clinics specializing in travel immunizations also provide advice on all aspects of safe travel. Vaccines vary depending on your itinerary. Over-the-counter medications may be recommended for sleep, nausea, diarrhea, insect bites, etc. Sunscreen is a must.
Weather: Depending on the time of year, the weather can vary greatly from one part of the country to another, so check and pack accordingly. There are huge differences in climate from one part of the country to another. Our game reserve was dry and arid and the temperature fluctuated drastically from hot to cold. It is wise to wear clothing that can be layered for warmth or removed when the days are warm. Fleece is a staple in winter and spring. The key is to pack lightly but efficiently. There are baggage weight limits on game reserve transport aircraft.
Safety: Prudence is always advised, and while there are plenty of precautions to take regarding the country’s political, racial and health issues, it’s wise to pay attention but not let bad press put you off your adventure. Exercise practical caution in central city areas and be sensible in the wilderness.
Travel Insurance: Most banks and credit cards offer travel insurance that covers everything from missed connections to medical emergencies. It is also recommended that you get a copy of the plan’s coverage.
Advance planning and preparation will help make an otherwise pleasant experience completely unforgettable!
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