An African safari is the dream of a lifetime. Ensure it’s the best experience by reading our guide to planning an African safari.
Planning a 7-day safari in Kenya and choosing a safari outfitter was an exhilarating and meticulous process involving carefully considering various factors. To begin with, we had to decide on the ideal time of year for our adventure, considering the migration patterns of wildlife and the climate.
After settling on the perfect season, under the guidance of our chosen safari outfitter, Safari Herd Holidays, we had to select the national parks, conservancies, and reserves we were interested in visiting as each offers unique wildlife and landscapes. The types of accommodations we would be staying in and how many days we were comfortable trekking in the wild were also factors.
An African safari is the adventure of a lifetime, promising unforgettable moments in the wild and the chance to witness Africa’s magnificent wildlife. However, a successful safari requires meticulous planning and choosing the right safari outfitter. In this guide, we’ll explore the process of planning an African safari and selecting a safari outfitter, focusing on Kenya, as this was our destination of choice.
When to Start Planning
Choosing your safari destination should be at the top of your list in your planning process. The timing of your safari planning is crucial to securing the best options. While there is no fixed rule, planning at least a year in advance is advisable, especially if you intend to travel during the peak season.
Initial Research on Selecting a Safari Destination
Selecting the right safari destination is the first crucial step in planning your African adventure. Africa is a vast continent with numerous countries offering diverse wildlife experiences.
Africa boasts 54 countries, but not all are known for their wildlife safaris. These nine countries are renowned as prime safari destinations:
Among these countries, Kenya, South Africa, and Namibia are often considered the more affordable options for safari enthusiasts.
Begin by conducting thorough research to understand the different safari destinations and what they offer. Dive into travel books, websites, YouTube videos, and social media to gather information.
Seek Recommendations from Fellow Safari Adventurers
Reach out to friends, colleagues, or fellow travelers who have embarked on similar African safari journeys. Their insights and recommendations on where to go and what to do can be invaluable.
Consider Your Budget
Determine your budget for the entire trip, including flights, accommodations, safari packages, and other expenses. Keep in mind that some countries are more budget-friendly than others.
Choose a Safari Outfitter
Begin to research safari outfitters a year ahead to gain a comprehensive understanding of your options. There are so many safari outfitters that it can be daunting to pick the safari planner for your specific travel desire, dates, and budget.
Your safari planner can take it from there if you have already chosen your safari destination and dates. Or if you are not quite sure of which safari location to choose, your outfitter can also make recommendations. You will find them helpful in guiding you to set up the perfect itinerary. Most safari companies have a wide selection of options for different safaris, styles, and pricing all over Africa. You can go with one of their set safari packages or have them personalize it for you, which is what we ultimately did with Safari Herd Holidays.
These were important steps for us in the process:
Conduct Extensive Research. Begin by researching safari companies that operate in your chosen destination for your African adventures. Seek recommendations and read reviews to gauge their reputation and offerings. Look at the various packages the different operators offer, as it will give you a better idea of what they can customize for you.
Amenities and Inclusion. Determine the amenities and services included in the safari packages. Most safaris typically include transportation, accommodations, guided tours, game drives, meals, and some beverages. Extras like balloon rides, spa treatments, premium wines and liquors, and tips are usually not covered.
Accommodation Options. There are many safari accommodations, from hotels in nearby cities and luxury 5-star lodges in the parks to the more rustic and remote, glamping-style tent camping in the middle of the reserves. This is also where your planning guide comes in. Our outfitter, Safari Herd, provided us with numerous detailed options, including photos, videos, and guest testimonials of the safari camps and lodges, which were extremely helpful in making our decisions.
Flight Logistics. Consider your flight logistics and how they align with your safari plans. Ensure you have your flights secured before finalizing your safari dates.
Customization. Work closely with the safari outfitter to customize your safari experience based on your preferences and budget.
Budget Considerations. Establish your budget and choose a safari outfitter that offers a package that aligns with your financial plans.
Destination Expertise. Opt for a safari outfitter with extensive knowledge of your chosen destination. They should help you create an itinerary that maximizes your wildlife encounters.
Wildlife Sightings in Kenya Were a Big Part of Our Choice
After extensive research on the numerous safari regions available in Africa, we settled on Kenya as our safari destination. Kenya offers an array of diverse landscapes, incredible wildlife, and convenient access through Nairobi, the capital city. Choosing your destination will also help you to narrow down your options when selecting a safari outfitter. Safari Herd Holidays offers several safari selections in Kenya.
Kenya is the origin of safaris and will likely deliver some of the best African safaris. The standards of service are high and range from lavish luxury, colonial lodges, contemporary boutique hotels, and authentic tented camps. Masai Mara is a top pick as it provides an abundance of wildlife, such as the Mara’s Big Five—lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and African buffalo.
The Masai Mara National Reserve and Samburu National Reserve in Kenya are known for their large populations of big cats, hippos, the rare black rhino, elephants, zebra, giraffes, and spotted hyenas. The abundance of wildlife led us to choose Kenya as our destination.
Locking in Your Destination and Travel Dates
Once you have your destination and your outfitter, it’s time to lock in your travel dates and make final arrangements.
Safari Season Dates
Our first step was to determine the best time to travel. When did we want to travel, and when are the best months to go on safari? What is the high season, and what is the low season in Kenya?
High or Peak Season runs from May to September. The weather is colder and drier during the peak season. You will find the highest rates during that time and must book at least a year in advance.
The Low or Green Season runs from March to June and October to December. During those dates, it will be a bit hotter, and there will usually be more precipitation.
The best time for a safari in Kenya is September to October and late December to February. The best weather is in February and September, while the worst is in April and May. Some lodges close down in high rainfall areas.
Book your flights as early as possible to secure the best availability, particularly if you plan to use frequent flyer miles. If you plan to use airline miles, book at least nine months out, as there are limited award travel options, particularly if you want to travel in business class. Check with your safari outfitter, as they may have international travel packages.
Also, if you plan on traveling to other countries while you are in Africa, most safari companies offer to set up your inter-Africa air travel for you. As we were also traveling to Victoria Falls and Cape Town, South Africa, our travel coordinator made these flight arrangements for us well in advance to secure our spots.
International Flights into Africa
Once your International flights are confirmed, choose the beginning of your safari dates based on the day of your arrival in Africa. If you travel long distances from the United States, take a day or two to explore Nairobi, Kenya, for example, before commencing your safari sojourn. The days out on safari can be long and grueling, as you may go on several safari treks daily. The last thing you want to do is start your safari adventure exhausted and jet-lagged.
Our Kenya Safari with Safari Herd Holidays
Safari Herd’s flexibility and attention to detail were key factors in our decision-making process. Their safari expert’s communication provided extensive safari particulars and personalized touches and presented an excellent experience.
Here are some additional tips to help you choose the right safari outfitter:
Compile a List. Begin by compiling a list of potential safari outfitters based on your research, recommendations, and reviews.
Read Reviews. Thoroughly read testimonials and reviews from previous clients to gain insights into the outfitter’s performance.
Consider Amenities and Inclusions. Carefully review what each outfitter includes in their packages, ensuring it aligns with your preferences.
Travel Style. Consider your travel style—luxury, adventure, family-friendly, or solo travel. Select an outfitter that caters to your specific style and requirements.
Destination Knowledge. Opting for an outfitter with in-depth knowledge of your chosen destination and knowledgeable, experienced guides is essential. They should be well-versed in the region’s wildlife, culture, and unique experiences.
Booking Logistics. Evaluate the booking process, including payment terms, cancellation policies, and flexibility in customizing your itinerary.
Preparing to Depart for Your African Safari
Once you have your trip booked, there are several things you need to do before departing on your African safari. Here are the most essential ones:
Insurance and Immunizations. Ensure you have travel insurance and vaccinations before your departure date. Consult with your outfitter for specific recommendations. Need Travel Protection? Travelex has a plan that’s right for you. Get a Quote Now at TravelexInsurance.com!
Packing and Attire. Pay close attention to the outfitter’s recommended packing list and attire. These may vary based on your destination, the time of year, and other factors.
Incidental Costs. Discuss incidental costs, such as tips and additional activities, with your outfitter to clearly understand your overall expenses. Nobody likes surprises.
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Embarking on Your Dream African Safari
Planning an African safari is an exhilarating journey that involves careful consideration of your destination, itinerary, and safari outfitter. Kenya is a remarkable safari adventure choice with its diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife.
Starting your planning process well in advance, staying informed about your destination, and selecting a safari outfitter that aligns with your preferences are essential steps in ensuring a memorable and fulfilling safari experience. With meticulous planning and the right outfitter by your side, you can embark on your dream African safari adventure in Kenya with confidence, excitement, and anticipation of unforgettable memories.
We invite you to explore Wander With Wonder for more of our favorite destinations across the African continent.
A Guide to Planning an African Safari in Kenya