Going on an African safari is high on many travel bucket lists–and for good reason! If you love animals and the great, big, wild outdoors, you will LOVE being on a safari. I’ve always dreamed of spending time in the wild with animals, so when we had the opportunity to visit Kenya, it was my first itinerary item!
I’ve compiled as much information as possible about our experience, from cost to ethics and accommodation. If you have any more questions, you can leave them in the comments, and I’d be happy to answer.
Let’s start with the basics.
What Is an African Safari?
An African safari is a trip into the wild (usually the African savanna) to see free-roaming animals in their natural habitat. There’s no hunting on safaris, and you typically stay in the safari vehicle the whole time for your safety.
Safari vehicles are typically buses or Land Cruisers with pop-top roofs. We chose to do our game drives in a Land Cruiser, which was sturdier, higher off the ground, and overall more comfortable.
Are African safaris ethical?
They are! You visit the animals in their environment and basically go looking for them at certain spots and as you drive.
@afomastravels Bucket list moment incoming! We went on a 3-day safari in Amboseli mostly to see the elephants 🐘 and they did not disappoint 🥰 I’ll be sharing more about the Safari experience, how we booked a tour, how much it costs 💰 and more! What questions do you have? Is a safari trip on your bucket list too? #africansafari #travelafrica #travelkenya #travelblogger #traveltok ♬ The Lion King: Circle Of Life – Geek Music
In National Parks, you can’t drive off-road, so you never actually have to disturb the animals. Private reserves allow for off-road driving, but even so, game drives don’t even require any physical contact with the animals, and you only see them when they want to be seen.
Are African safaris safe?
I felt 100% safe during our safari (whether that’s delusional is another topic). According to our guide, you are safe in the vehicle and at designated rest stops in the park. The animals see the vehicles as a unit and will only recognize you as a human if you’re out of them.
Where is the best safari in Africa?
Obviously, we recommend Kenya. The best safari countries on the continent are in eastern and southern Africa. Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda, Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe are top choices.
However, Kenya is the home of the African safari and is said to provide the most authentic safari experience on the continent. Hence why we chose to go there.
Planning an African safari
Many people are daunted by the whole idea of planning a safari, but the process was super easy for us, mostly thanks to our tour company (more on that soon).
Decide where you want to go
The first step is to figure out which country you’d rather go to. I would recommend Kenya a thousand times because of the diversity of parks and wildlife available. I’ve also heard great things about South Africa. We’re planning a trip there eventually, so I’ll be able to compare both.
Next, choose which parks or private reserves you’d like to see. We went to Amboseli National Park in Kenya (known for being the home to the most elephants) because we were all about elephants.
We ended up also seeing several lions and their cubs in addition to other animals–including a ton of birds.
Kenya has several great parks and private reserves like Masai Mara, Tsavo East and Tsavo West, and Lake Nakuru. Many tour companies allow you to create custom itineraries to tour multiple parks. Your package also includes accommodation.
How much time do you spend on a safari?
Unless you’re a NatGeo photographer or you’re seriously park hopping, you probably don’t need to spend more than seven days on safari. The pace (long early morning game drives and then afternoon game drives) can be grueling. Also, you usually see the same set of animals after 2 or 3 drives in the same park.
So I’d recommend 5-7 days (we did 3 days and 4 nights in Amboseli), and it was perfect!
What time of year is best for an African safari?
It depends on your destination. We went to Kenya in July, and our guide said it was the BEST time for a Kenyan safari. Anytime between June to September is great. It’s right on time for the grand migration, and we saw several wildebeest herds preparing to migrate.
Still, Kenya has a ton of wildlife all year round, so I wouldn’t overthink it. July is winter in Nairobi, so it was pretty cold when we visited. If you prefer warmer weather, consider visiting later in the year. The hottest months are between December and March.
Find a good tour company
This can be the hardest part for some people, but again it was a breeze for us because our friends had visited a few months before, and they used and loved Africa Marvel Tours. So we booked with them as well–and we loved the experience. Truly, no complaints.
The tour company assigns you a driver who stays with your group from start to finish. Their tours are private (in terms of vehicle usage), so your group is whoever you’re traveling with. My group included my husband and I alone.
You can check out the Africa Marvel Tours website for more information about their packages, but everything is customizable. You choose how long you want to stay, where you want to go, and even which vehicle you’d like to use. They gave us a couple of accommodation options, and we chose the less expensive but WONDERFUL Kibo Safari Camp.
How much is an African safari?
An African safari can cost you anywhere between $1000-$5000 per person, depending on whether you’re on a tight budget, doing mid-range, or choosing a luxury experience.
Our lodge was firmly mid-range. For 4 nights, we spent $1090 per person, which went up to $2180 for both of us. You’ll need to pay a 30% deposit to lock in your spot. We paid an additional $103 per person ($206 for two) to upgrade from a bus to the Land Cruiser option. So it came up to $2386 for the safari, excluding alcoholic drinks.
These fees were all-inclusive and covered our room and board at Kibo, all our game drives at Amboseli, water bottles during the drive, and airport pick-up and drop-off. For an extra $30 per person per night, we could have upgraded to Ol Tukai, the lodge inside the national park.
Kibo was fantastic; the staff was super attentive, the food was delicious, and it felt so authentic. We were in the bush, sleeping under the stars in luxury tents with running hot water. At night we could hear crickets, hyenas, and the occasional roaring lion (more about our Kenya stays here).
Can you do a safari with kids?
If you have kids, they’ll love being on safari. Our lodge had so many kids, some as young as six or seven. I overheard a girl excitedly telling another kid about how much she’s looking forward to sixth grade! We even saw a two-year-old complete with a pacifier on one of the game drives.
Be sure to confirm with your tour company that your lodge has no age restrictions for kids.
@afomastravels How to plan your first African safari trip! I promise its super easy. More tips on afomastravels.com #africansafari #travelkenya #traveltiktok ♬ Advertising background music – TimTaj
Pack the right items
It’s easy to overpack when journeying into the unknown, but it helps to focus on the weather, how long you’ll be staying, and whether or not you can do laundry. I’ll have a full post on what I packed, but these are the things I found incredibly useful during a colder season:
- Light sweaters (I loved this leopard print one)
- A fleece jacket
- Sturdy shoes (there’s no hiking, so no need for heavy shoes — I wore my New Balance sneakers the whole time)
- A scarf for dust protection (it gets very dusty)
- A hat for sun protection (I love the Tilley hats)
See my full safari packing list (coming soon).
Unless you have zero interest in photography, don’t go on safari without a good camera (or even a phone with a nice camera)! It’ll hurt to have pixelated pictures of all the wonders you will see. As a photographer, I splurged on a telephoto lens for the trip.
See all my safari photography gear and tips (coming soon).
What should I wear on an African safari?
Honestly? You can wear whatever is comfortable, BUT it’s more practical to wear dust-concealing colors that aren’t too bright.
This was the bulk of my pre-safari research, and the consensus was brown, green, and earth-toned colors. But no one ever said why. Well, I asked the tour guide.
Apparently, the Masai people who live among wild animals claim that bright colors keep the animals away. That’s why they always wear red and other bright colors. That’s one reason why duller colors are better for safari.
Another issue is the amount of red dust in many national parks. If you wear white or other bright colors, you might end up with pesky stains. So brown, beige, dark green and other such colors fare better.
Have the right mindset
Finally, a safari is a unique experience. Our guide reminded us on the first day that it’s important to be patient. He said game drives are so-called because they’re like a game between humans and animals.
The guide will try to keep things exciting, but there will be waiting periods.
We spent at least 20 minutes waiting for our first elephant herd sighting to emerge and about 10 minutes waiting for a pride of lions to come out of hiding–and this was a smaller park where it’s easier to spot animals.
So, relax and prepare to spend time looking for animals during the drives.
How long does going through an African safari wildlife park take?
Our first game drive took over five hours, and we hadn’t seen the whole park. It can take a while, and the roads are dirt roads, so the ride can be really bumpy. You will be exhausted (and exhilarated) when it’s over. But again, it’s your tour. You can always tell the driver if you’re too tired and need a break.
Are African safaris worth it?
100% yes! After going on an African safari, I want to go at least two more times. First, in Masai Mara and then maybe in South Africa.
The thrill of seeing animals in the wild is second to none for me. I left the trip feeling more appreciative of nature and God’s creative power. 10/10, would recommend doing it if you can afford it.