Few travel experiences are as transforming as an African safari. To witness elephants bathing in a mud pool or the spectacle of some 2 million wildebeest and zebra migrating across the Serengeti — these moments change you forever. Yet just as no two viewing drives are the same (see below), bush adventures vary widely, as well. Fortunately, our luxury African safari, Grand Safari, to Kenya and Tanzania is one of the most exceptional journeys available on the African continent. Here are a few things to keep in mind before setting out on safari.
- Going on safari doesn’t mean sacrifice. With Travcoa, viewing Africa’s prolific wildlife comes with white-glove service. Expect only the finest accommodations on the continent: Romantic four-poster beds, heated pools, butler service. If the word “tent” throws you, just imagine beautiful throw rugs, soft furnishings, even a writing desk complete with stationary. Meals are lavish, made on-site with only the freshest produce. A gourmet picnic, sundowners while gazing across the vast savannah: life doesn’t get better than this.
- Be prepared to start early. Morning game drives usually start between 5 and 6 a.m. when the wildlife is most active. Plus, you’ll catch those stunning bush sunrises, so sacrificing a few Zs is definitely worthwhile. (Besides, that’s what afternoon siestas are for.) There is always hot coffee and light snacks before you head out, and your safari vehicle will have you back to the lodge around 9 a.m. for a breakfast spread that doesn’t end. Now, about those vehicles ….
- Don’t expect a late-model SUV. Yes, you’ll be traveling in Jeeps and Land Rovers, but these are open-air and customized for crossing the roadless nature reserves. Rides can be bumpy and seating is basic (consider bringing a cushion). They are equipped with water and warm blankets to wrap up in.
One very important note: While you may be tempted to hop out for that Instagrammable photo, never stray from the safari vehicle. The wildlife has grown up with these vehicles and simply consider them another, albeit noisy, co-inhabitant. Once you are outside of that zone, however, they may consider it a threat. (That includes holding your camera over the side for a better shot.)
- Always respect your guides. Travcoa works with only the most seasoned safari guides and drivers. They have lived with these creatures all their lives, hold a wealth of knowledge, and will let you know when to step outside to stretch your legs. If yours doesn’t want to stop, or sits still for 20 minutes in front of an empty expanse, trust him — he may sense a dangerous situation, or perhaps an elusive leopard afoot. Don’t worry: Safari guides are in constant radio communication with each other, so you’ll never miss out on any action. That being said ...
- Every safari drive is different. Sometimes there isn’t any action at all. Sometimes you’ll think you’re in an episode of Wild Kingdom. Our Grand Safari journey takes you to some of the most wildlife-rich parks and reserves in Kenya and Tanzania, staying at boutique lodges and camps to ensure that you won’t have to contend with massive crowds. That said, there is no guarantee that you’ll get to check the entire Big Five off your list, so an attitude of acceptance is key to an amazing adventure.
- Go on every single safari drive. Even if you don’t spot anything for an outing or two, the next one just may lead you come across a pride of lions lingering over dinner, or perhaps a baby wildebeest being born! Resist the urge to sleep in late or hang out by the pool, and come home without any regrets.
- Pack like a pro. Replace the handcrafted Globe-Trotter with a soft-sided duffle and bring as little as possible: long trekking pants, a pair of shorts, a fleece jacket for chilly mornings, sun hat, and closed-toe shoes. (Note: Skip the camouflage — it’s considered military garb.) Other essentials include a good pair of binoculars, a telephoto lens (200mm at a minimum), extra memory cards and batteries, and plenty of sunscreen. Bush planes have very restrictive weight limits, and you don’t want to have to leave something behind.
Read more: A Grand African Safari blog