African Safari Frequently Asked Questions
If this is your first time on safari, you probably have countless questions. To get you started our safari experts have assembled a list of frequently asked ones.
What is the best time to travel?
Africa is truly a year-round destination for luxury safari travel. No matter when you are planning to travel, you will find a place in Africa that is perfect for that time of year. Generally, though, dry season is the best time for game-viewing—and this takes place at slightly different times in different parts of Africa. For East Africa, the dry season is generally from July through October, while in Southern Africa it is a little longer: April through October. Please keep in mind that these are the peak seasons, so it is essential that you book well in advance during these months.
Our itineraries vary in length, distance covered, and focus. Some (such as in East Africa and Botswana) are more wildlife-intensive, while some have a more balanced view of African cities, wildlife and landscapes (such as in South Africa). If you have questions or aren’t sure which tour to choose, feel free to give us a call at +254742956074 — we’re happy to help you find (or create!) the safari that’s right for you.
Where are the best places for a wildlife safari in Africa?
If you’re a first-timer to Africa, then choose between either East or southern Africa.
East Africa is renowned for the migration in Tanzania‘s Serengeti and Kenya‘s Masai Mara. This is all about volume. Loads and loads of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra moving in a year round migratory sweep across the plains. There’re other exceptionally good areas in East Africa where there might not be so much volume but there’s lots of variety.
Southern Africa in our opinion is a better bet for greater wildlife diversity. With an emphasis on big game. We rank Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa as the best spots in southern Africa.
What is an African safari like?
Every day on an African safari is an adventure. Each moment is a new experience that’s unique for that single moment in time. No two animals are the same, and animal behavior is always changing. As for the scenery, you’ll experience everything from sweeping savannahs to lush marshlands, dense forests, and arid plains.
As for what it’s like to actually go on safari, let’s break it down.
- Most African safaris are multi-day experiences. At massive public parks, such as Kruger, you can do what’s called a day safari (start a little after sunrise and end before sunset), but if an African safari is your dream vacation, this isn’t what you want. Seven to ten days on safari is most common, and that includes two to three locations.
- You’ll stay at a lodge or camp in the bush. This means you’ll be in a remote location in the African wilderness accessible by car or air. How luxurious your room is, depends on your budget and operator.
- Every day you’ll go on game drives to see the animals. Most African safaris take you on twice-a-day game drives (3-4 hours in the morning and 3-4 hours in the afternoon). These game drives can happen in open-air or enclosed vehicles (this depends on where you go on safari and your operator). And it’s during these game drives that you leave your camp/lodge to drive around the bush and find animals.
- It’s an adventure, not a zoo. The animals are not waiting for you. You have to go out and, with the help of your professional/local guide, find the animals.
- An African safari is all-inclusive: African safaris are not cheap, but the price includes all meals, game drives, guides, room, and board. Often, all drinks (including alcohol) are encompassed in the price as well.
What are safari guides, and why do they matter?
A safari guide is your host in the African bush. They have spent years studying everything there is to know about the wildlife, plants, safety, and scenery. They are experts in their field and can make or break your safari experience. They’ll track the animals, answer your questions, explain what you’re seeing and experiencing, and ensure everything goes off without a hitch.
A great African safari guide will:
- Ensure your safety during every step of your journey.
- Consider the wildlife for a sustainable and Eco-friendly safari experience.
- Take you on walking safari to see the wildlife up close and personal.
- Track wildlife using footprints, excrement, sounds, and more.
- Wow you with their knowledge of the bush. You can test them against any guidebook.
- Provide you with incredible hospitality.
- Share their experience as a local in the area.
- Take you off the beaten track for the chance to witness the extraordinary.
- Keep even kids entertained and safe in the bush.
Do I need visas?
Visas are required for entry into Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. Visas for entry into Zimbabwe and Zambia can be obtained upon arrival. For U.S. passport holders, visas are not required for travel to South Africa, Botswana, and shorter stays in Zanzibar.
Information on how to obtain your visas as well as a “visa kit” will be sent to you in plenty of time to obtain your visas before your departure. We will work with travelers who are not U.S. or Canadian citizens to obtain visa information specific to your citizenship.
An E-visa to Kenya once issued is valid for 3 months before you travel. Once you present yourself to immigration control at the port of entry, you may be issued with a stay period not exceeding 90 days, which may be renewed for a further 90 days at the immigration headquarters. The maximum number of days a visitor may stay in Kenya is 6 months.
What sort of food can I expect?
In a word: exquisite. From the moment you arrive, your meals are included and each is a delight. Our lodges offer continental cuisine, in addition to local specialties to appeal to a wide range of palates. Nairobi boasts a variety of mouth-watering regional specialties, in addition to exceptional French cuisine, Indian curries and the ever-abundant fresh fish and game. South African specialties are derived from Indonesian cuisine with mildly spicy Malay dishes popular around Cape Town. In the bush, the quality of the cuisine in lodges and camps is superb. Meats, vegetables and fruits arrive daily, fresh from the surrounding area’s rich farmlands. Of course, all food served on safari is of the highest quality.
How is the weather?
East and Southern Africa enjoy glorious climates and both can accurately be called year-round destinations.
In Kenya and Tanzania, a blissful 70 degrees Fahrenheit greets the day and rarely does the temperature vary throughout the year. The elevated altitudes keep temperatures comfortable, even calling for sweaters and jackets every evening and morning. Temperature variance is determined more by region than by season: upcountry areas such as Mount Kenya and the Aberdares at 7,000 feet can be cool, while the drier bush country is warmer and the sea level regions of Mombasa and Zanzibar quite tropical.
Southern Africa experiences more noticeable changes in its seasons. April through November is winter—when daytime temperatures are a fresh 60-75 degrees with little rain. During the height of Southern Africa’s summer (December through March), temperatures are warmer and some rain may fall, making the bush lush and green. Every season, whether slightly warmer or cooler, offers thoroughly agreeable weather for all safari activities.
Generally, you should count on early mornings and evenings on safari to be chillier than expected throughout Africa—especially if travelling during May, June, July and August when you’ll be quite happy to have packed a heavy fleece or lined jacket.
Are mosquito nets provided in safari lodge rooms / tents?
Our selection of safari lodges and tented camps is well researched and offers the best in terms of comfort, relaxation and atmosphere during safari. Each accommodation category is well catered for in the selection. We fully understand the need for your protection against Mosquito and other insect bites. All rooms / tents during your safari are fitted with mosquito nets or are insect proofed to protect you against bites. You are also advised to carry / use insect repellent to further protect yourself especially in the outdoors during evenings.
What is the difference between Safari lodge and tented camp?
A safari lodge in Africa is located in a remote Wildlife area and is made up of a number of cottages / chalets spread over a landscaped land .Here shall be a main building which houses a restaurant, bar, gift shop together with the reception and also administration facilities. In most cases, there may be a swimming room,
The lodge’s en-suite guestrooms are spread in smaller separate scattered cottages around the main central building. The atmosphere is usually rustic and compliments the natural surroundings while bringing in the essence of the wild Safari lodges vary in size, unique design, location and standards with a nice range in economy, comfort and luxury category.
The safari tented camps share some similarities with safari lodges in layout, purpose and location. A tented camp is composed of the Main building (housing the public areas) usually thatched African style for effect .It may also be made of a large tent .The en-suite guest tents are scattered around the main building providing a private feel.
The tented camp is a composition of large en-suite walk in tents which are built on a solid floor base and are complete with private bathrooms and a small terrace or veranda. Essentially they are rooms with the exterior being canvas rather than wood or brick. The tented camp complex may also have a swimming pool. Tented camps range from the comfort, superior comfort, luxury to the super luxury.
Is it safe to travel to Kenya? What about Uganda and Tanzania?
East Africa is no different from any other place in the world. However, the usual precaution should be observed. Avoid displaying expensive possessions; walking through unlit urban areas at night, and follow the guide’s instructions in the bush. It is also recommended that you leave valuables and airline tickets in the hotel’s safe.
What currency is used in the East African countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania?
A11: The official currency is the Kenya Shilling. Visitors to Kenya can exchange foreign currency at banks or authorized hotels and Foreign Exchange Bureaux. Most international currencies are easy to exchange in Kenya. Travelers cheques are widely accepted, and many hotels and restaurants accept credit cards. Most Banks in Kenya are equipped to advance cash on major international credit cards. There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency that can be brought into Kenya. Anyone wishing to take more than Kenya Shillings 500,000 out of the country will require written authorization from the Central Bank.
Tanzania and Uganda also accept foreign currency and credit cards but to a lesser extent. Please convert most of your currency in the major urban areas into the local shillings (the exchange rates are better in the cities) as doing so in the rural areas offer veritable challenges and this might create hurdles for the traveler.
I would like to know which languages are spoken in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania?
English is the “language of communication” in East Africa. It is widely spoken in hotels, restaurants and visitor establishments. Swahili is East Africa’s national language. A little Swahili goes a long way in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, especially in the rural areas. It is worth learning a little, and most locals are thrilled to hear visitors attempt to use any Swahili at all. For example, “Jambo” means hello and is often the first word learnt by visitors to Kenya.
What immunizations are required?
In many cases, you won’t need any immunizations at all! For example, no immunizations are required to enter Kenya if arriving from the United States, Canada or Europe. We will address topics such as immunizations and general health considerations prior to your safari, however, please consult your local immunization clinic before you travel. It is always wise to carefully assess your health requirements before travelling abroad. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend a malaria prophylactic (just to be on the safe side—contracting malaria is highly unlikely).
Are your safaris escorted?
Yes. Our established departures are escorted to enhance your enjoyment of the journey. In East Africa, travelers enjoy the services of an expert Safari Director, as well as a Driver Guide. In Southern Africa, a professional Tour Leader accompanies groups of six or more, in addition to a Game Ranger plus a Tracker in the bush. These delightful individuals have all been carefully selected to be representatives. Not only will they be your friends, teachers and companionable fellow travelers, but their presence also guarantees seamless passage through hotels and airports, plus delightful days on tour and in the bush. Your team also includes a Personal Concierge available twenty-four hours a day by phone, and in person at Nairobi hotels.
What type of clothing should I wear?
Upon booking your safari, you’ll receive documents that include a complete packing list. Suffice it to say, though, that your clothing should be comfortable and casual. Khaki, olive, brown and tan clothing increases your chances of seeing wildlife and offers the added benefit of concealing dirt. Since laundry service will be available in many of the places we visit, you should avoid the temptation to over-pack (and anyway, in most of Africa you will have a luggage weight limit of 33 pounds).
Do I need Travel Insurance?
Whether or not you buy travel insurance for your journey, as well as who you buy it from if you do, is entirely up to you. Our position is transparent: We wholeheartedly recommend that our guests have a policy that covers their trip, as travel insurance offers major advantages.
Are the evenings formal?
Evenings are not formal, unless you desire them to be. Casual, comfortable clothing is encouraged.
Will someone meet me at the airport?
Absolutely. As our valued guests, it is our pleasure to welcome you to our homeland. After passing through customs at your arrival airport, you will be greeted by our staff member who will take you as swiftly as possible to the comfort of your luxurious hotel.
When is the Great Migration?
The timing of the Great Migration can vary because it is heavily dependent upon the weather—specifically rain that brings the new grasses upon which wildebeest graze. If you want to witness this natural marvel, it’s best to talk to our specialist regarding the best time to plan your trip. In general, though, the following is accurate:
The herds can be found amidst the short grasses of Serengeti National Park from November to May. From January onward, wildebeest, zebra and Thompson’s gazelle alternate between the woodlands and plains depending on the weather.
In May, as the grasses become dry, the herds begin the roughly 500-mile Migration. They move north, and by June they are in the more lush plains of Kenya’s Maasai Mara. This is where they generally stay until October.
Anticipating the short rains—and the promise of mineral-rich grasslands that this entails—the herds begin their trek down to the Serengeti along an eastern route. In November and December, they arrive to intensely green savannahs and woodlands where they stay until the cycle begins again…
Your Safari Specialist can help you maximize your opportunity to see this remarkable natural phenomenon.
What type of vehicles do you use for your safaris?
A2: On off-road trips we use 4×4-wheel drive vehicles depending on the size of the group and tour cost. For one or two individuals we use smaller SUVs unless clients specifically require larger vehicles like those who are on photographic or birding tours where we use the larger Toyota Land cruiser or the Land Rover. All the vehicles for game viewing have pop-up roofs to facilitate better game sighting, viewing and photography. Clients on a “shoe-string budget” might get a better deal when we provide them with minibuses that seat eight with open hatches for better game viewing.
Is there internet access at the lodges and camps?
While Wi-Fi is not available in all camps, for travelers it’s complimentary wherever it exists.
There are no “business centers” per se at bush lodgings — it’s rare to find a camp or lodge offering a computer for guest use, though computers with internet are available in many hotels in Nairobi and Cape Town. Internet cafes also are available in various cities.
Can I use my cell phone while on safari?
Most smart phones can be used internationally, but guests should be aware of the expensive data roaming fees that can accumulate while travelling.
If you have one of the newer phones it may work in parts of Africa, depending on your service provider. U.S. cell phones using AT&T and T-Mobile will generally work in urban areas such as Nairobi, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Remarkably, there is even cell service in many remote areas of the bush of East Africa. Coverage in the more remote parts of Southern and East Africa can be spotty, however, as well as in the area around Victoria Falls. If you subscribe to Sprint, Verizon or another mobile service, ask your service provider specifically for a phone that will work overseas. Cell phones are also available for rent at the major airports-rates are reasonable, and you pay for calls made.
International roaming service is not automatically enabled on cell phones, even if subscribing to one of the services above. You will need to contact your service provider and ask them to activate the international feature. Also visit the web site of your carrier to get up-to-date information on coverage and options.
How many people travel on your established safaris?
In keeping with our commitment to personalized service and exclusive arrangements, our safari is always small and intimate in size—carefully designed to avoid any “big-group” feel. Our most intimate safaris have 2-14 travelers, and we never have more than 18 on any programme.
And for those guests who wish to make their safari a more private affair: we can turn one of our established departures into a safari just for your family and friends—and even depart on a date of your choice. This is just one of the dizzying—seemingly limitless, in fact—array of options available with our Custom and Private Classic Safaris.
What are your safari tipping guidelines for safari tour guests?
Tipping in Kenya although not mandatory is expected after a good service. All hotels, lodges and porterage gratuities are included on your safari price – this are collectively referred to as service charge.
Individual waiters, porters and other hotel service employees may provide exemplary service and it is your discretion to decide to tip .Usually $ 1 -$ 5 per move or sitting is appropriate and appreciated.
It is however customary to tip your safari driver / guide at the end of the safari tour. The amount is dependent on your evaluation of the quality of the service rendered. An average of $ 10 per guest per day or 5-10% of your (safari only cost) is suggested. The amount is however at your discretion, you are welcome to provide additional compensation to any staff who have provided special services. A bar gratuity of $1 is acceptable. You may tip in Kenya shillings, USD or in Euro at the end of your safari / tour and preferably in an envelope.