Travel // Tips for Planning a Safari Trip

An African safari has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember and I was so thrilled to make it a reality on my trip last month. One thing I quickly learned though, is that a safari isn't exactly easy to plan.
There are so many different types of experiences, price ranges and options out there it's really important to find the perfect trip for your needs. I'm sharing some of my top tips (and safari photos!) below.

Determine the accommodation experience you want
There's such a wide range of safari experiences available. From self driving expeditions, mobile camps and tent safari camps to extremely luxurious $1,000 plus a night lodges, there are options to fit almost every budget. It's important to really know yourself and what experience is right for you. The savings of a self driven safari may sound nice, but would you miss having a professional guide? Would you miss having a "real" shower at the end of the day in a mobile safari camp? Maybe an extremely luxurious experience isn't necessary to you. We went with Muchenje Safari Lodge in Botswana and absolutely loved it. It was a gorgeous lodge with all the comforts of home, without feeling out of place in the African savanna. The lodge size was also small, which we liked. We really got individual attention and even had a private safari drive one morning!

Selecting your safari location
The area you safari in determines what animals you'll see. For example, we were in Botswana in the Chobe National Park where there are no rhinos. It wasn't a deal breaker for us and the positives outweighed this negative, but for people who are determined to see the "Big Five" Chobe wouldn't work. The time of year you travel also plays a factor. We went during rainy season, which means the elephants are in different areas of the park than normal, but it was the time of year when many animals give birth and we saw a lot of babies. Another important item to note is the difference between national parks and private game reserves. National parks in general tend to offer less expensive accommodation options and the ability to do a self drive. The safari vehicle also can't go off the main road. Private game reserves tend to be more luxurious affairs. We absolutely loved our experience in Botswana in Chobe National Park, which has one of the largest concentration of game in the world and is known for their large elephant population. The stability of Botswana as a country also appealed to us, and the fact that it was easily reachable by commercial flight (for some private game reserves you fly in on tiny planes). I would love to try a private game reserve next, but our experience at Chobe with Muchenje was amazing.

Hanging out with some of Chobe's famous elephants!
 Know what to pack
Strategically packing for your safari experience is extremely important. I tend to be a major over packer and typically need to remind myself that I'm not going to the middle of nowhere and can purchases anything I forgot... not true on safari! You literally are in the middle of nature. Some items I found to come in handy were binoculars, extra cards and batteries for my camera, hand sanitizer and tissues (your toilet is the bush on safari). Other important items to bring are sunscreen and a good hat, that African sun is strong! It's also key to pack layers with you. Mornings in the savanna started out cool, got hot midday and cooled off again in the evening. You'll be sitting on the safari vehicle for a long time looking for animals and you definitely don't want to be uncomfortable. A light jacket and scarf were lifesavers and I almost always tied an extra shirt around my waist.

Manage your expectations
A safari is a truly thrilling once in a lifetime adventure, but it's important to manage your expectations. You're in nature, not an amusement park, and a big part of having a successful safari is getting lucky. We had hopes of seeing lions up close and didn't really see any our first two days, then miraculously on our last day we encountered a pride of lions fighting a heard of cape buffalo right in front of us. It was amazing and definitely worth the wait.


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