Deciding where you want to go first.
If you have never been on an African Safari, choosing an area or place to stay is not that easy. (This post is about Safari Experiences in East Africa. Find info about safaris, sun soaked beaches and fine wine experiences in Southern Africa HERE.) There are so many options, each more awe inspiring than the last, which is why working with a safari specialist is very important in that process. East and Southern Africa have very different landscapes. There are some similar but also very different experiences to enjoy for the safari enthusiast, so I suggest making a list of your priorities. What is your goal for your African Safari trip? Are you adventurous or do you want to disconnect, go for a few game drives, and lie by the pool? Do you want to have a luxe experience with brick-and-mortar lodges, swimming pools and hot tubs, or track animals on foot and sleep beneath the stars? Maybe both! Who you travel with, and the purpose of the trip is of course important as is the size of the group.
Some lodges can only accommodate a certain number of guests and some don’t accommodate kids under the age of 6. Your budget and how much time you have, will also be a factor. If you and your partner both love Africa and want to get married there, look for my post on safari weddings in Africa HERE. It will be an unforgettable and mind blowing adventure and an unforgettable way to start your life together. If you are going all the way to Africa, you should spend at least ten days to two weeks to get the full experience.
East Africa and the Migration.
A deciding factor for your safari will be the time of the year you would like to go as that will determine which areas/Countries are the best to visit. However, if that is not an issue for you, I recommend June/July – November. One of the most breathtaking experiences you will ever have in East Africa, is being a witness to the massive migration of animals. This is peak season so you would have to secure your accommodation well in advance. The Great Migration cannot be compared to any other experience in this lifetime. Well over a million animals migrate during the dry season from the southern expanse of the Serengeti plains and Ngorongoro Crater, over the border of Kenya to Maasai Mara National Reserve, and back down to the southern Serengeti again in search of food and water and to raise their young during the seasonal change. The movement is dependent upon the rain and grazing, and the animals are unpredictable themselves. Huge herds have stood on the banks of the rivers for a day or two before crossing as this is a major obstacle and they are aware of the dangers waiting for them in the river, so timing is everything. There are various options to experience this migration; you could take a hot air balloon ride over the Mara, follow along in an open land rover or go on a walking safari. Please be sure to have a professional, experienced, and responsible guide with you at all times.
A Kenya – Tanzania Overland Safari.
If the migration is not really of interest to you, there is the hauntingly beautiful Serengeti in Tanzania known for its geographic wonders and vast wilderness areas. The plains of Serengeti National Park, known as the land of the “Big Five” is absolutely a “must see.” Kilimanjaro National Park claims Africa’s highest mountain and vistas of truly impossible beauty. You could explore both these Countries on an overland Kenya/Tanzania safari, witnessing wildebeest, zebra, and a host of other wildlife. One could start this adventure in Nairobi, and then travel to the Mount Kenya region, which is an extinct volcano, the highest mountain in Kenya, and the second highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro. Abundant wildlife and over 130 bird species will have you enthralled and in safari “heaven.” Crowds of flamingos famously line the shores of several lakes and are often joined by other larger wildlife attracted to the cooling breezes of the lakes.
To the east is the Indian Ocean, including the tropical islands of Zanzibar. Starting your trip with a safari and ending it with a few days on an exotic island is the ultimate “best of both worlds” experience. This actually is the perfect option for couples thinking about having an African Safari destination wedding. You could have the wedding while on safari and the honeymoon on an exotic island, or the other way around.
A Rwanda/Uganda Gorilla Trekking Experience.
Rwanda and/or Uganda is a must visit for an amazing gorilla trekking experience, and for many this is the ultimate wildlife adventure. These gentle giants can be found in the area known as the Virunga Mountains and live in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The mountain gorillas can be reached after a trek of several hours up and through the rain forest, which you should only attempt if you are in good health and able to sustain a slow mountain climbing pace. However, it is totally worth it! Trackers will let your ranger know where to find the gorillas, and then lead you to them. Seeing these incredible animals up close is nothing short of magical! Note that you will need permits at least three months prior to your visit. Children under 15 are not permitted to participate in gorilla trekking unless special permission is obtained.
A Kid-Friendly Experience.
If you are a family with young kids, it might be prudent to book a lodge where you and the kiddos can experience the wildlife in a safe-for-kids environment such as Giraffe Manor in Kenya. This unique Manor is famous for its resident herd of Rothschild giraffe that casually wander around the spectacular grounds. Expect to have “visitors” for breakfast as you will probably share a delicious meal with a friendly giraffe poking his head through the window in search of a treat. Many of these lodges will provide a nanny service for those with young kids.
There are many beautiful options for lodging, and the right one for you will again depend on your priorities, your budget and what you would like to experience. However, we do recommend Eden Nairobi especially for your first night after landing, Sanctuary Retreats, Andbyond Lodges, White Sands Villas in Zanzibar, The Safari Collection, and Volcanoes Safaris. You could stay in a luxury lodge, or experience an African Safari with a backpack and tent, or experience both, as I have done many times… it is all up to you. I have also stayed in tented camps that are as luxurious as a five-star hotel, which will give you the safari experience without giving up any of the comforts.
Last but not least, it is not a question of “should I go on an African safari?” but rather “Why haven’t I gone yet?” Safaris are a once-in-a-lifetime experience and an adventure that everyone should have! Whether you are a first-timer or seasoned safari enthusiast, Africa’s spectacular wildlife legacy never fails to set the heart pumping and the cameras clicking.
The most important aspect of your trip is a professional and reliable DMC and there are two companies in Africa that I put my complete trust in to fulfill every detail of a client’s trip without fail. Meet Bernard of Nziza Hospitality and Sandra Lee of Ruby Travel. Both have many years of experience in the travel industry and will provide you with a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience Africa at its best. These two professionals are true gems in the industry and will work with you to create an unforgettable experience.
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