How Far in Advance to Book Your Safari

“It was the wildest, untouched Africa and it was magic.” Jane Goodall.

For many, a trip to Africa is a once in a life time opportunity that is the outcome of years of saving. So it is understandable that people would want to plan it properly and not compromise the experience by putting together a last minute trip. A survey conducted by Now Media showed that booking for holidays in Southern Africa are rising as foreign currencies thrive despite our economy showing signs of improvement.

This is not surprising as our tourism industry is South Africa’s biggest earner of foreign exchange. Not only do tourists get their monies worth in Rands, South Africa has always been and remains a key destination for family-orientated safaris, especially in malaria-free locations. Game reserves have shown an increase in child-friendly options, and most tourists head to ‘attraction destinations’ such as Zimbabwe or Zambia. With bookings for 2018 nearly at full capacity, we advise that potential holiday makers start planning at least a year in advance and start booking latest nine months before your scheduled trip. This way you can secure your preferences at the best rates.

For some people, a year is an awfully long time to plan ahead. Anything can happen over the course of a year making people feel intimidated; especially to pay for and confirm a trip that far in advance. But the planning itself takes a few weeks. All you have to do is begin the process. Here are our top five reasons for planning a trip a year before you take it:

Do you have a specific budget?

An African safari is not an inexpensive holiday even though there is a wide range of tours and travel styles, some of which are cheaper than others. We advise clients to start off with a budget in mind. It is fine to spend a little more if a consultant recommends an activity or experience that is worth much more than the extra expense. It’s also fine to spend less than you budgeted, but you don’t want to start off not knowing what you’re comfortable spending. Before planning your safari, determine a budget so that you know how to allocate towards accommodation, bucket-list activities, flights and transport, spending money and unforeseen expenses that may come up.

Ivory Lodge Lions Sands Luxury Safari Kruger Park

Choosing where to go

The most time consuming part of planning a safari is deciding on where to go. Before you can make any bookings, you’ll need to make decisions about what you’d like to see. Do you have your heart set on seeing the Big Five, whales, birds, or the “great migration”? There are so many options and you will want to weigh each one.

iconic-africa-east-africa-migration-african-luxury-safaris

Choosing when to go

Once you’ve determined what you would like to experience you can determine the best time of year to go on safari. Of course, that’s where we can help you. If you are an avid birder and also want to relax on South Africa’s beaches, there are only a few months a year where these two activities can coincide or are at their respective peaks, since one requires rain and the other sun! Or, if you are considering a top safari destination such as Kenya or Tanzania and want an uncrowded stay, consider off-season travel as peak season welcomes countless visitors.

Getting to South Africa

While we encourage guests to start planning a year in advance and confirm reservations and bookings at least nine months before departure, paying for airline tickets is a little trickier. Airfares constantly flex and although airline reservation systems start showing flights 330 days in advance for international flights, you can start looking for flights four months beforehand (the prime booking window). With direct flights to Africa being few, you want to book your seat no later than two months prior so you can get the lowest possible fare. Given the lack of competition between airlines for international flights to Africa, there are very few sales to take advantage of.

Booking Hotels, Camps and Lodges

Of course there are more accommodation options than airplane seats, but the best safari camps fill up a year in advance. This is especially the case around Christmas and at the height of the safari season. Luxury safari camps often cater to fewer than 20 guests, so availability runs out very quickly especially if you are travelling with a family and need more than one room. When booking your accommodation be sure to pre-book any game drives or activities you wish to do as well. Having a structured budget and plan will allow you to decide whether you want to stay in a private residence or hotel; perhaps a public or private game reserve.

We hope that we have convinced you that planning in advance helps make sure your journey is tailored around your needs, wish list preferences and unique travel concerns. Planning a year in advance can ensure that your travel style & budget is met. If your budget is limited, you’ll want the most affordable options. If you have limited time, you’ll want the most efficient travel logistics. A few months before your trip, you should check in with your travel clinic to get the right immunizations and malaria prophylactics if necessary. At this time you should also find out if you need a tourist visa and double check to make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after you arrive in Africa.

Iconic Africa Kruger National Park Leopard

If you have any other questions please do let us know. We certainly hope we can help make your dreams of visiting our beautiful continent a reality.

How to Safari in Style

Here’s the latest on travelling through Africa the way it should be travelled – comfortably and fashionably.

Africa, especially South Africa has an array of climates in a single day. September to November in Southern Africa sees temperatures climbing as the weeks go by. Many safari destinations across Southern Africa approach their peak season and winter’s unsympathetic wind and rain is replaced by crisp morning sun.

game reserve and national park river sunset

Summer (November to March, sometimes April) in the Northern provinces such as the Kruger, is extremely hot and humid with temperatures reaching 40°C. Dusk and dawn embrace variations of ‘cold’ with temperatures reaching a low of 5°C.

Ivory Lodge Lions Sands Lion Kruger Park Safari

 

And so you might ask “What safari clothes are right for Africa in summer?” There is no definitive answer on where the best place to go on safari is, but when you have acquired a taste for the bush and the scent of the first rain after a scorching day, you will have a definitive answer on what to wear, what to pack, what to say.

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Our variable weather requires guests to bring along both lightweight cotton or linen garments for the day as well as a warm rain jacket for those cooler nights. Or, if you’re feeling like rococo is alive and well in your heart – a pashmina works well too. Late afternoon or evening thunderstorms are inevitable but welcomed. Of the variety of clothing needed, an umbrella may seem pertinent too. Depending on the laundry service at your bush camp, crease-proof clothing and technical gear are ideal. Click here for a full list on what to pack.

Many first timers wonder whether the need for neutral colours is a myth or fact. Well, if you do not own any neutral colour clothing, it is not necessary to go out and buy, unless you intend to do a walking safari. Most wildlife perceive the vehicle and passengers as one large animal or unit. Wearing bright colours will not necessarily trigger any associations of a threat but if you are walking, ‘bush colours’ are advisable (no white or bright colours). Many visitors consider the classic safari colours of khaki and green cargo pants, but this is a personal preference. If you intend on walking, make sure you pack in a pair of comfortable walking shoes, preferably hiking boots. For pleasant game drives under Africa’s sweltering sun, you’ll need to remember your planter’s hat and retro square sunglasses. Stay protected (sunscreen) and hydrated (bottled water) throughout the day.

Selinda Explorers Camp Botswana Safari

Most of your day will be spent wrapping up the Big 5 safari or combing through South African fauna and flora; touring the vast plains in Tanzania or encountering timeless ethnic tribal culture in Kenya. You’ll want to avoid one-shoulder straps and opt for slings or backpacks with your essentials: wet wipes, band aids, tissues, mosquito repellent and Panado. Summer Safaris are great opportunities to observe and photograph new young wildlife trying to navigate environments and facing life for the first time. If you have binoculars, pack them. Otherwise, photograph the moments you are afraid to forget.

Marataba Safari Lodge River Cruise

In addition to your cotton or linen pants and shirts, mix up your outfits with shorts, tank tops and thick-sole sandals. If you’d like to dress up your outfits from daywear to evening wear for dinners or trips to the dorp (small town), include long dresses with summer knits and a neck scarf or two. Pack in long sleeves and trousers for the evening to guard against mosquitos.

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And last of all don’t forget to pack in a swimming costume for those hot summer days in the bush.
We hope this post has helped you somewhat and that you have a lekker (great) time in Africa. Please let us know if you have any other questions at all.

Game Reserves and National Parks—what’s the difference?

If you are planning a once-in-a-lifetime African safari, it is important to keep in mind the differences between game reserves and National Parks so that you can get the exact adventure that you have been dreaming of. Many travellers to Africa don’t realise that there is a huge difference between game reserves and National Parks, and this can often lead to disappointment because guests were hoping for a distinct type of experience.

What can be even more confusing is that private game reserves often exist within the target National Parks. For instance Singita Lebombo operates on a private concession within the Kruger National Park. Read on to learn more.

difference between national park and game reserve sunset

Perhaps the most striking difference between the two lies in the exclusivity and freedom that guests will encounter. If you are looking for a unique safari adventure, it is essential to book in a private game reserve. Because there are fewer safari tours that take place in private game reserves, guests are allowed to freely explore the African wilderness.

Private game reserves offer guests the opportunity to escape from the crowds that are associated with the larger National Parks. This means that guests can experience the true African bushveld all to themselves, and they won’t have to share their wildlife sightings with an enormous crowd of other vehicles.

The number of visitors to National Parks is not restricted so the safari experience is open to everyone. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that you will have to share your sightings with quite a large number of other people. ‘Traffic jams’ are a real thing in National Parks as visitors scramble about to view animals that have been sighted. Visiting a National Park will also mean having to share your bucket-list safari experience with all sorts of other visitors. At private game reserves, the number of vehicles that can be present at a game sighting is restricted to two or three cars which means that you are ensured the ultimate game viewing experience.

National Park vs Game Reserve Lion Road

National Parks are open to everyone, so sightings are often fleeting and crowded with other visitors and tourists. Often the best photos you can get will have a car or two in the picture.

National Parks often have many tar roads that allow visitors to enjoy them in any rental car available from the airport where you arrive. Even most of the dirt roads have been well maintained and will allow you to drive on them in a regular sedan or hatchback. This makes them National Parks very accessible to visitors. Most game reserves use purpose built 4X4s in order to traverse through the wild African terrain and get you into the best possible position to view the animals.

Private game reserves are just that, private. They allow you to experience Africa’s wilderness in a more authentic fashion, where you see Africa’s animals in their natural environment, undisturbed by the vehicles around them.

Game Reserve Vs National Park Vehicle Lion

Private game reserves only allow game viewing vehicles from the lodges to be used, and the rules about where you can drive are very different from the rules at National Parks. In private game reserves, game viewing vehicles are allowed to drive off-road to allow guests to search for big cats or to track specific animals. Private game reserves don’t have hours of operation like National Parks so guests are given an exclusive opportunity to experience an exhilarating night drive. This means that visitors to a private game reserve enjoy a more ‘full’ experience than visitors to a National Park.

Game reserve vs National park Lion Sighting Hyena

This means that at private game reserves you get to see amazing animal interactions that often occur out of sight of main roads and would definitely be missed at most National Parks.

It is essential to have the option of going on night drive if you would like to search for nocturnal animals which won’t be visible during the day. Unfortunately, visitors to a National Park have to abide by the rules that are set by the Park. This means that game drives are restricted to certain times and to certain roads. Guests cannot enjoy night drives in many National Parks. Bush walks are another popular activity that private game reserves offer that cannot be enjoyed by guests of most National Parks.

difference between national park and game reserve sunset

National Park vs Game reserve RondavelsMost National Parks generally offer self catering options like these quaint rondavels or “huts”, where luxury private game reserves are usually an all included experience, with beautifully made up rooms and sumptuous feasts waiting for you after your daily activities.

There are positives to both types of African safari, but for the ultimate luxury African safari experience we would always recommend a private game reserve.

 

Game Reserve Vs National Park Luxury Rooms

Although it might seem that private game reserves are the way to go, it is important to remember that National Parks do offer some of the best game viewing in Africa and it is an experience that is not to be missed. Ultimately, your choice has to be based on the kind of experience you are looking for. If you are looking for exclusivity and freedom, private game reserves are your best option.

Game Reserve vs National Park Whats The Difference Duiker

Please do let us know if you have any more questions on the above as we’d be more than happy to help.