“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.
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.
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.
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.