Longtime safari guide and travel adviser Kent Redding shares how to choose the right adventure, whether you’re traveling with young family members or a fiancé.
Planning a safari in Africa can be daunting, whether it’s your first or fifteenth. There are thousands of safari camps and endless experiences at varying price points, not to mention the hectic logistics of getting from camp to camp. Kent Redding, president of Africa Adventure Consultants, says a reputable safari planner can help handle the legwork and homework involved in trip planning. “Safari planners have the knowledge, experience and connections to help turn a good trip into an awesome vacation,” he says. Here, he offers strategies for how to pick an African safari that’s just right for you.
For first timers. . .
“Don’t try to see the entire continent in one trip! Pick one country or region and focus on that to give yourself enough time to truly experience each destination—quality trumps quantity on safari. Make sure to tell your travel advisor what interests you and which activities you enjoy at home (good food and wine, art, biking) as they may be able to weave some of them into your safari.”
For honeymooners. . .
“Choose locations that combine adventure and romance. Make sure to book honeymoon tents or suites so you are not too close to your neighbors and request special private dinners or turn down services. Finish your safari with a beach stay in Seychelles, Zanzibar or Mozambique for some real R&R.”
For families. . .
“Make sure the pace is reasonable and that travel days are not too long. Include multiple cultural experiences such as village visits, shooting bows and arrows or just playing with local kids. Limit time in the vehicle to avoid restlessness and include some scheduled free time so everyone can rest or blow off steam. Choose family friendly accommodations with pools and make sure that family or adjoining suites are really connected, not just near each other.”
For photographers. . .
“Book a private vehicle, including one that is outfitted especially for photographers, if available. To get closer access to the wildlife, travel to areas that allow off-roading. Travel with a professional photographer to learn new techniques and get insider tips. The road gets bumpy, so bring a beanbag for stabilization of your camera in a pinch. Also make sure to pay attention to luggage weight limits—you may have to pay a surcharge if you want to bring all your big lenses.”
For active adventurers. . .
“Make sure that activities like nature walks, mountain biking, and canoeing are a specialty of each safari camp you visit and offered regularly, not just once in a blue moon. Use a local guide, even for short hikes, as they will enhance your experience and are easily arranged by reputable safari tour operators. If you want to see a lot of wildlife, accept the fact that you’ll probably need to spend some time on game drives in the safari vehicle.”
For seasoned safari goers. . .
“You don’t have to see the Big 5 every day, right? Find lesser-known or remote destinations such as Katavi National Park in Tanzania, Kidepo Valley National Park in Uganda, or the Kunene region in Namibia. Work with safari experts who have been in the business a long time. They can listen to your preferences and match you with great products in Africa.”
For value seekers. . .
“Look for shoulder and low-season discounts, which can range between 20% and 30%, sometimes more. Sign up for group trips in low season—you could end up with a private trip for the price of a group tour. Watch exchange rates and current events. Currently, South Africa is a good value due to a weak Rand (South Africa’s currency), and there could be more deals available in Kenya due to low demand, for example.”