How to Plan an African Safari


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Lars Leetaru

An African safari is a trip that should be on every traveler’s bucket list, according to Melissa Biggs Bradley, the founder of the luxury travel company Indagare and a 15-time safari veteran. “A safari taps into the primitive ways of humankind because you’re living in the wild and tracking animals the way hunters and gatherers once did,” she said. “It’s a transformative experience.”

There are numerous factors to consider when planning a safari, she said, and for first-timers, the process sometimes can be daunting.

Here, Ms. Biggs Bradley’s top tips:

YOUR TRAVEL STYLE AND FELLOW TRAVELERS MATTER These will determine your itinerary and how far in advance you need to plan your trip. Generally, the bigger the group, the longer the lead time. “Many safari camps have a dozen or less rooms and get booked fast, so if you need multiple rooms, you should plan your trip a year out,” Ms. Biggs Bradley said.

If you’re traveling with children, keep in mind that most camps don’t allow those under 12, but there are some family-friendly camps in South Africa.

CONSIDER YOUR BUDGET You can go on a weeklong safari, inclusive of accommodations, meals and internal flights for $2,000 a person or for upward of $20,000 a person. Ms. Biggs Bradley said that Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia offer the best value for money while Zambia and Botswana are pricier.

FORGO CREATURE COMFORTS Safari experiences range from staying in bare-bones camps with bucket showers to lodges that have air-conditioned rooms. Irrespective of your budget, Ms. Biggs Bradley said that to truly connect with nature, you’re better off staying in a simple camp where the accommodations may be minimally adorned canvas tents. “If you want the ultimate sense of being in the bush and want to hear the noises of the animals, you’re not going to get it by sleeping in your fancy room with the door shut and air conditioning on,” she said.

YOU CAN BE ACTIVE OR NOT Gone are the days when a safari used to entail morning and evening game drives with little activity in between. While these traditional safaris still exist, active travelers have options today to take walking, horseback riding, mountain biking and even white-water rafting safaris. For those in wheelchairs, Botswana, South Africa and Tanzania have camps that have special vehicles to accommodate their needs.

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