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What To Expect On An African Safari Family Vacation


Going on safari? Read about preparing for a trip to to Africa.

A safari trip is all about seeing the wildlife. So naturally days are planned around when you’re most likely to see the local animals out and about. This means early morning, late afternoon and perhaps nighttime game drives. You’ll generally decide at dinner the night before, which activities you’d like to do in the morning, after a discussion with your group and your guide. Here’s what a typical day looks like.

Early Bird Catches The…

The usual day starts before dawn with a wakeup call. Yes, you really will get dressed in neutral khaki “safari” gear to ensure you blend into the bush. This is not the right time to stand out in the latest red outfit, which will scare off the animals! There’s just about time for a quick breakfast of toast, cereal and coffee or tea.

safari encounter: a meerkat in the kalahariThen it’s off with your guide to see the last of the nocturnal animals (you might see diurnal animals rousing themselves, too). Cats are returning from a night of hunting. The birds are stretching their wings and calling at the top of their voices to stake their claim on their own patch of the bush. It’s still cool out so the animals are active, especially around the water spots.

You’ll spend the morning watching the animals as they gather around the waterholes, see who’s eating what (or who) and learn about reading the signs of the wild from your guide.

Second Breakfast and a Nap

Return to camp briefly in the late morning, for a full breakfast then perhaps another short game drive or walk before taking a break during the hottest part of the day. Some camps do not offer the post- brunch outing as the animals retreat to the shade until the sun starts to sink, and are hard to see.

It’s hot, hot, hot in the midday sun so it’s a good idea to enjoy the pool side if there is one or to take a nap. Children, who never love napping, can keep their eye on the camp watering holes to see who shows up. Bringing some quiet activities isn’t a bad idea either.

Afternoon Outings

You’ll likely be offered tea and cake before venturing out again in vehicles, on foot, or by boat, depending on where you are. The animal viewing often ends with sunset drinks and snacks out in the wild before returning for dinner. Depending on the area you are in, there might be a nighttime game drive.

safari camp at dusk

Early to Bed…

It’s fairly early to bed, somewhere around 10:00 pm. But no doubt you’ll be ready for sleep by then. And you’ll need to be up early again tomorrow!

Some Safari Options

There are safari opportunities in several parts of Africa. As a rule of thumb, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and Zambia offer reliably quality safaris at the higher end of the pricing spectrum.

Central African countries such as Gabon, Cameroon and Congo (Brazzaville) are at the very high end because there is very little tourist infrastructure and running expeditions is expensive.

Trips in the middle price range can be found in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa and Malawi.

South Africa and Namibia are also suitable for less expensive self-drive safaris. These give you independence and flexibility—and can make a safari more affordable. Just keep in mind that finding and navigating remote areas can be tricky on your own and you don’t have the benefits of a guide.

A native of Africa who now lives in the UK, Trish Berry is the Development and Sales Director at Zambezi Safari & Travel Co., which runs safari trips throughout Africa.


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9 Comments

  1. April 1, 2015 at 11:19 am — Reply

    While I’m not much of a morning person, a safari is a valid excuse to make a change. Certain animals are more prevalent in the crisp morning and you’ll definitely feel more accomplished by the EOD.

    Greig

    • April 1, 2015 at 6:23 pm — Reply

      and you feel like you really earned that sunset glass of wine! 🙂

  2. March 30, 2015 at 3:42 am — Reply

    Eileen, One way to do safaris cheaper is to self-drive, especially with a family! We did this in Botswana…awesome!

    • March 30, 2015 at 4:44 pm — Reply

      I read an article about this not long ago, maybe in the NY Times? It’s certainly an option to keep in mind. would love to read about your experience!

  3. March 29, 2015 at 3:56 pm — Reply

    Can’t agree with you enough about ‘early to bed.’ I find that helps any time I travel, especially now that I’m addicted to photography. Nothing like that morning light and the critters still out enjoying it.

  4. March 29, 2015 at 10:28 am — Reply

    I love the meerkat!!!

  5. March 27, 2015 at 10:33 pm — Reply

    I am not much for early morning unless there is a good reason. I did get up and dressed once at 3.30am to see turtles in Oman. I haven’t been on safari, yet. I always imagined I would be tent camping, so the poolside suggestion above was a surprise.

    • March 29, 2015 at 7:01 pm — Reply

      I think the arrangements depend on whether you are moving from place to place or have a single Basecamp. I’ve had friends go on safari in real tents and I’ve also see. Safaris that are more “glamping,” cabins or tents with platforms and beds. I’m not an early riser either but in this type of vacation I think it just happens.

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