FREQUENTLY ASKED SAFARI Q&A...
A trip to Africa is on a lot of bucket lists! For many future travelers, the continent seems majestic and mysterious yet dangerous and uncharted. Much of what we know about Africa is what we see in the media, a land of lions and giraffes, war and poverty - but this is not the whole story...The Africa we know and love is a land of beauty and wonder and we are dedicated to sharing with travelers.
We have been sharing the wonders of Africa with those eager to travel and explore the continent’s beauty, wildlife, wilderness and culture for 9 years. Many clients are planning a first trip to Africa and have a lot of questions, from where to stay, when to go, what to pack and many more... Here are just a few to get you started and hopefully ease some of the concerns you might have.
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO SEE THE BIG 5?
Most safari first-timers want to tick off the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo). While nothing in the wild is guaranteed, there are reserves that deliver consistently good sightings of all the big players. In South Africa our top choice is a private Kruger reserve such as the Sabi Sands. Botswana is also undoubtedly one of our favorite spots - the Okavango Delta is an animal paradise! And for East Africa? Include Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania in your safari plans. Do not forget the Chobe National park in Botswana!
WHAT WEATHER SHOULD I EXPECT ON SAFARI?
In general, the climate in southern Africa is as near perfect as you can get with dry season temperatures similar to those of the Mediterranean, but without the humidity. Daytime temperatures average 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit but can get much hotter, especially in the months of October and November, just before the rains arrive.
During the winter period, June through August, nighttime temperatures in some areas can drop to freezing or below. Early morning game drives during these winter months can start out very chilly and you should bring a warm sweater, gloves and even a hat to cover your ears. However, by mid-morning the days will heat up dramatically. The rains occur each year during November through March, with the dry season stretching from April through October.
Fall (April & May) and Spring (September & October)is our favorite season - fabulous mild weather ensure optimum comfort and safari experience.
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR/PACK FOR MY AFRICA SAFARI?
Knowing what to wear while on safari can make a big difference to how comfortable, and therefore, how much you enjoy your time on safari. So let us guide you through our recommendations for what to wear and not to wear while on safari. Please note that all the information below holds true for safaris in southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia), as the main safari areas in Kenya and Tanzania are much closer to the equator, requirements for these will vary – please contact us if you are travelling to these areas and would like advise on what to pack.
Firstly, we cannot stress enough, Africa gets cold! Too many people think that Africa is always hot and that they won’t need warm clothes, this is simply not Temperatures can fall below freezing, and when you are traveling in an open vehicle at dawn it can be bitterly cold. If you are traveling during the southern hemisphere summer (October to March) you will need very different clothes to if you are traveling during the mid-winter season (May – August), refer to our guide below to make sure you are well prepared!
If you’re taking charter flights then check the luggage restrictions. It’s usually 20 kg per person, so pack light! Comfortable, loose fitting clothing is best and think in layers as those early morning starts can be chilly, so long and short sleeve T-shirts with long sleeve safari shirts works best. A lightweight but warm down jacket is always handy as it does get really cold in the winter months on early morning and late afternoon game drives. Other essentials include a wide-brim hat, sun screen, binoculars, sun glasses with polarized lenses and a good pair of walking shoes.
Summer (October - March)
Lightweight (preferably cotton) clothing, ideally in muted tones
Long sleeve shirts and trousers for early morning and late afternoon/early evening when mosquitos are most prevalent.
Hats to protect from the sun, preferably with a wide brim to protect your nose and neck as well. One with a chin-tie is even better to stop it flying off while in the open vehicle.
Lightweight rain gear. For the majority of areas in Southern Africa, summer is the rainy season, and an afternoon downpour is very common, and longer spells of rain quite possible. However, it will be warm rain. June - October rain in not common.
Something warm (and preferably windproof) for the early mornings and evenings, especially while on the safari vehicles. Light weight down jackets work best!
An ideal scenario would be start with a cotton T-shirt, then a long sleeved cotton top to go on top of the T-shirt, a jersey/fleece to go on top of that and finally a windproof rain jacket. This way your can dress up or down according to your needs.
Comfortable walking shoes that you do not mind getting dusty/dirty
Given the bumpy ride, some women may find it more comfortable to wear a sports bra
Bathing suit – there is nothing better than relaxing in the pool during the heat of the day in summer.
Sunscreen and insect repellent during the summer months.
Winter (May - August)
The great rule for winter is layers, layers, layers and more layers! As for the last section of what to wear in summer, take the same policy, just make the clothes thicker and warmer. A good thick, possibly thermal, vest/T-shirt, warm long sleeved shirt, fleece or jersey and a very warm winter jacket. During the morning drive start with everything on and take off as it warms up - in the afternoon start in what you feel comfortable with and add layers as the temperature drops.
Here is a typical packing list for a 2 week safari:
Light weight hiking/walking shoes
Lightweight down jacket
1 x Sweater
1 x Beanie hat (especially when visiting Southern Africa June - September)
3 x Long sleeve shirts
3 x Zip off Cargo pants
1 x Scarf
4 x Socks
2 x Long sleeve T-Shirts
3 x Short sleeve T-shirts
1 x Pair of Jeans
1 x Flip flops
1 x Outdoor hat
Bug-spray and anti-itch ointment. When visiting Tanzania or Kenya, we recommend bug repellents containing DEET (30% DEET recommended) are the most effective against Tsetse flies. Pack an old fashioned plastic fly swatter! You can also pack DEET wipes and something Africa hands swear by: Dettol housecleaning disinfectant, which Tsetse are said to dislike more than conventional insect repellent. Do not forget the anti-itch ointment!
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 a staff member who will take you as swiftly as possible to the comfort of your luxurious hotel.
WHAT FOOD IS SERVED AT THE SAFARI LODGES?
Top-class British and European cuisine as well as some local dishes are served in the hotels, lodges, camps and restaurants. Most foreign visitors are very impressed with the quality and quantity of food provided while on an African safari. Some of the more up-scale camps provide food, presentation and service which rival that of a five-star hotel in any top city. The tables are elegantly set under the stars, under thatch or even in a boma, and we promise you will never go hungry.
CELLPHONE CONNECTION, DATA & INTERNATIONAL CALLING PLANS?
We suggest calling your cell provider and asking them to add an international calling and data plan to your account - If you do not, you will becoming home to a huge cell/data bill. Once the plan is in place, you can make (lower cost) cell call, but you will be able to use the data by adding the WhatsApp app on you phone which allows you to make calls, txt and picture messages to other WhatsApp users using data only. Please be sure to add our WHATSAPP number so that we can communicate while you are in safari.The number is +1 949 400 5262
WILL I HAVE INTERNET ACCESS / COMMUNICATION WITH THE “OUTSIDE WORLD” AT THE LODGES?
For most people wishing to visit the remote parts of Southern Africa, getting away from civilization so to speak, is the major attraction and reason for going.
Most smart phones can be used internationally, but guests should be aware of the expensive data roaming fees that can accumulate while traveling. 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.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.
Most lodges in South Africa offer full telephone and internet services for those who do not wish to detach from the world completely. In Moremi (Botswana) and the Okavango Delta, the signal is non-existent or patchy at best. Most camps have a guest computer for sending and receiving e-mails and all camps do however have radio communications with their town/city offices in case of any emergencies. But that’s part of the magic of being on safari, you’re out in the wilds of Africa far removed from the constant buzz of email notifications. And if the mere thought of being offline makes your palms sweat, then ask a safari expert to recommend lodges where you can stay connected.
IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL IN SOUTH AFRICA?
Africa’s biggest enemy is the international media who represent all 46 African countries as a single entity and not as unique and individual countries with their own characteristics.
It would come as a surprise to many people to find out that there are in fact areas that are worse off in more developed countries than in the “dangerous” African countries. No country can claim to be 100% safe, and so as with travel to any new or unknown destination, it is advisable to take certain standard security precautions. Visitors should take the same precautions as they would normally take in any other destination worldwide. Keep an eye on your purses, wallets, passports, money and cameras when walking in a crowd. Avoid walking in the cities at night and place valuables in your hotel safe. Choosing a knowledgeable operator such as Africa Picture Safaris as your specialist Southern African tour operator is the best decision you can make.
While staying at African safari lodges and tented camps you are typically far removed from human settlement and crime in the camps is virtually nonexistent, in fact, we have never heard of it and have been traveling to the camps for years.
South Africa does have a high crime rate, but don't let that stop you visiting this incredible country. Most incidences occur outside of tourist areas but if you are visiting Cape Town or Johannesburg just take the same safety precautions that you would in any big city. And, should you want to see the street art in Woodstock or visit the Soweto Township then go with a local guide.
WHAT VACCINES DO I NEED? /SHOULD I TAKE ANY MEDICAL PRECAUTIONS BEFORE GOING TO AFRICA?
As vaccination requirements change on occasion, we recommend that you check with your local doctor or travel clinic for the latest health precautions.Some vaccines (or boosters) you might need include tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis and meningitis. If you’re travelling to Kenya, Tanzania or Zambia they all fall within the yellow fever belt so you may need a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Don’t leave this jab until the last minute as it could make you feel fluey for a few days.
The most widespread issue is malaria,so ask your doctor about malaria prophylactics and pack insect repellent along with long pants for the evenings. Best is to visit the CDC site for updated information
You are not legally required to have any vaccinations unless you are traveling from a region where yellow fever is prevalent, in which case an inoculation will be required against the disease.
WHAT ABOUT VISAS AND PASSPORTS?
Southern Africa has become very strict with regards to passport control requirements, so compliance is essential.All persons traveling to the Southern African region require a valid passport that is normally valid for six months (better yet 9 months) beyond the intended length of stay. The passport entry requirement for any travelers entering South Africa is a minimum of two blank pages in their passport (in addition to the two endorsement pages in US passports). If however a guest should be traveling to more than one African country via South Africa, then the traveler must ensure they allow for sufficient pages for each country visited and also have the minimum of two blank visa pages for each re-entry into South Africa.
At present, holders of American passports do not require visas for South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. They do however require visas for Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia; all but Kenya’s may be purchased at the point of entry for a nominal fee. It is advisable to check with the consulate of the country that you intend to visit as requirements can change without notice.
Please note that is always the client's responsibility to check their passport expiration date. Clients are further responsible for checking their passports eligibility for entering a county and if any visas are required. Should a visa be required, we advise applying well in advance and making sure all required documentation is properly prepared and presented at time of application. Please visit the various counties consulate pages as well as the USA official travel site for updated information.
POWER AND POWER ADAPTORS
Most Southern Africa counties use 220 power and the power sockets are of type D, M and N. However, note that most cellphone chargers, camera chargers, laptop and tablet chargers are dual voltage and a power converter would not be needed for these. You would however need a power adaptors South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. Order on EBay or on Amazon
ARE CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED ON SAFARI?
Yes, most locations accept VISA or MasterCard. American Express in not widely accepted.
HOW ABOUT TIPS WHILE ON SAFARI?
Tipping while on safari is often a sensitive topic, and so we thought we would provide a few guidelines. The first and most important point is that tipping in entirely your decision and you should never feel obliged to tip anyone. Be aware though that your tip can make a big difference to staff at lodges, and it is always truly appreciated. Also be aware that there are many people who play a role in making your safari experience a great one – most of whom you never meet in person.
Here are a few general guidelines which travelers wanting to tip can follow.
How much do I tip?
Guide/Tracker: Your guide and tracker are central to the success of your safari. You’ll have plenty of time to connect with them and, by the end of your trip, they might just be your new best friends. With guides, it’s customary to leave a tip on your departure. What you choose to leave is totally up to you, but a general rule of thumb on safari is to tip your guide US$ 20 - US$30 per day
Camp/Lodge Staff: There is a lot that happens behind the scenes of your safari and it’s important to consider and acknowledge all the wonderful people who look after the lodge. From housekeepers, to wait staff, to chefs – they all deserve to be thanked appropriately! Most safari lodges and camps have a communal tip ‘jar’ and a minimum of US$ 20 per day is considered reasonable.
How do I tip?
Most lodges will provide you with envelopes to place the tips in. These can then be handed directly to the staff member it is intended for, or to management to distribute depending on the lodge’s process. If you would prefer not to leave cash, most places will also accept online payments if you let them know.
East Africa: Tips can be given in US$. However, the local currency is preferred for small tips.
Southern Africa & Namibia prefers South African Rands (ZAR) as tips while Zimbabwe and Botswana accepts US$.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO SEE THE GREAT MIGRATION?
The migration is always on the move with more than a million wildebeest chasing the rains around the Serenegti (Tanzania) and Masai Mara (Kenya) eco-system. The most dramatic part of their journey is crossing the Mara River. While difficult to pinpoint the time exactly (as it depends on the rains) you’ve got an excellent chance of seeing a river crossing if you travel to the Masai Mara between late July and August. Read more about the best places to see the wildebeest migration.
WHEN SHOULD I START PLANNING FOR A TRIP TO AFRICA?
We encourage our clients to plan their African safari as far in advance as possible; several months at a minimum to one and half year in advance to ensure a better selection of camp availability. This is especially important if they are planning to travel during the Southern Africa safari “high season” months of July through October.
HOW LONG SHOULD A SAFARI BE?
How much time can you dedicate for your trip to Africa? Ideally, you need to give yourself at least a week to truly appreciate the safari experience, but if you can get away even longer, you’ll be so glad you did. Since travel to Africa from the USA or Europe is long, we recommend spending at least 10 days in Africa, up to 45 days... to longer! Why not move here, right?
Make sure you allow enough time at each camp so that you can go on several game drives to see the area and its wildlife. Avoid the temptation to try and cram in many different parks, staying just one or two nights in each place, as this will increase travel time between the parks and decrease the amount of time you’ll have for wildlife viewing. Spend a minimum of three nights at any one loation, that gives you two full days of game viewing with most lodges offering two safari activities per day. Click her for sample itineraries - remember, these are not group tours, but a recommended, sample itineraries that we can tailor to your requirements!
Each camp has its own itinerary so you can get a good feel for what you will be doing if you stay there. Choose two or three camps to stay at for a 6-10 day safari experience.
HOW MANY IN A SAFARI VEHICLE?
No matter what safari you choose, you are assured of comfortable vehicle and excellent sight-lines for the unforgettable things we will see in the bush. In East Africa, your vehicle will have no more than six passengers. In Southern Africa, vehicles are larger so there may be up to nine. If you would like a private vehicle for just your party, simply let us know when you are booking your safari and we will be happy to arrange this for you.
WHAT KIND OF LODGING EXPERIENCE ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
When it comes to choosing where you want to stay on safari, there are lots of considerations. Of course, the first is usually budget. Keep in mind that when you plan to stay can affect the cost as well. Prices will be higher in the more popular months such as August.
Another point to consider—many of the camps and lodges include game drives, meals, drinks, and transportation as a part of their price per night. You do really get a lot of bang for your buck!
Next, think about the type of lodging you’d prefer. Do you like the thought of staying under the stars, able to hear the call of the wild? Or is the idea of a hotel more enticing? You can choose either one—or both—on your Kenyan safari.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT ON A LUXURY PHOTOGRAPHIC SAFARI ?
The day starts at 6:00 a.m, sipping on a steaming coffee while watching the African sunrise ! Your guide prepares for an early morning game run and soon it’s off into the bush. The dew is fast disappearing and the predators are on the prowl. Your driver expertly sets off in pursuit of the herds. The vast open spaces and the quiet calm of Africa are suddenly apparent as crisp, clear air allows you to see far into the distance. This is AFRICA!
Later, back at the lodge, a hearty English breakfast awaits and offers a quiet moment in which to share your experiences with fellow travelers.At lunch time you will indulge in an extravagant variety of fresh and delicious foods. Coffee and cheese are served on the veranda overlooking the waterhole. Spend a couple of hours at the pool or just relaxing, while in the background you hear the sounds of chattering monkeys, roaring lions and splashing elephants as they bathe in the waters nearby.
Tea or coffee on the veranda is followed by an afternoon game drive. The sun is making its way down to the horizon—its blaze of red produces long, enigmatic shadows—the perfect camouflage for all concerned. Your driver is busily pointing out a dazzling array of happenings. For camera buffs, these are the ultimate moments. Return to the lodge several hours later. Piping hot showers or leisurely baths remove a thin veil of red dust to reveal the beginnings of an appealing tan.
“Sundowners” at the bar precede dinner with a splendid array of choices, offering just the right mixture of continental and local cuisine, prepared by chefs who would be at home in any of the kitchens of the world’s finest hotels. The meal over, it is time to gather around the fireplace and trade tales or sit quietly on the veranda watching the game converge on the waterhole as evening shadows envelop the world. It’s getting cool and you are ready for bed. The hardy may wish to stay up well into the night, scanning the surrounding grounds for a lone animal. Should you wish to observe a specific species that may turn up during the course of the night; a wake-up call can be arranged. Enjoy a well-earned night’s sleep.
The warm rays of the African sun awaken you for another day of safari adventure...
““I never knew of a day in Africa that I woke up and did not feel happy”
— Ernest Hemmingway
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO GO ON SAFARI?
An African safari doesn’t comes in many forms, depending on the light of your stay, countries visited and the level of accommodation. Most of the African safaris planned for our clients are 100% customized to their individual interests, timeframe and budget. The rates for the destinations cover a wide range and typically vary significantly from the “high season” (generally July through mid-November) to the “low season” (generally November through June). It's like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Note that the price not only includes accommodation but also twice-daily game drives, a ridiculous amount of tasty food, sundowner stops out in the African bush and the tracking skills of your highly trained guide. Lower end cost are around $350 pppd up to $1,000 pppd. Wether it is a chalet or tented camp, you can always be assured of comfort and service on all levels.
The below figures are rule of thumb estimations based on safari travel to Africa's more iconic destinations. These estimates below are based on a 10 day itinerary, and would include accommodation in privately run camps and lodges and be full inclusive of all internal flights and transfers, all accommodation, meals and local beverages; and exclusive of international airfare. Please see below:
- Value or budget orientated safaris (3*) cost between US$2,500 to US$3,000 per person sharing
- Mid-range or standard level safaris (4*) cost between US$3,500 to US$5,500 per person sharing
- Top-end luxury safaris (5* plus) cost from US$7,500 and above per person sharing
Other important notes on African safari costs:
1) Not all African countries are considered similar when it comes to the cost of a safari. For example, an itinerary to the remote safari areas of Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya that have a limited supply of accommodation will cost more than an itinerary to Zimbabwe, South Africa or Namibia
2) The safari portion of your trip is generally sold on a fully inclusive basis (i.e the price you pay includes accommodation, all meals, game drives, activities and often alcoholic beverages) as opposed to the bed & breakfast basis on the ‘non-safari’ portion of your trip (visiting Cape Town or other more developed cities). For this reason, the safari portion may initially seem more expensive, the reality is that you will not spend anything further whilst on safari besides for items of a personal nature (tipping, curio shop purchases etc), versus the additional cost you will spend in your personal capacity visiting cities (restaurants, non-included activities and shopping).
3) As we customize our safaris, we can work within almost any budget and our first priority is to share Africa with you.
4) Great efficiencies in cost can be found in traveling as a group of family or friends, especially as where vehicle costs can be split between the group and accommodation can cater for the whole group (ie apartment and villa rentals). We are familiar with superb locations for small group travel (typically 12 persons or less)
5) Seasonality plays a large factor in the cost of a safari, and if your travel dates are flexible, good value is to be found at traveling at the shoulder periods to peak travel without necessarily sacrificing the quality of the safari experience. Below is further insight into seasonality of different areas and countries:
Botswana and Namibia
‘Green Season’ safaris will reduce your price dramatically (approximately between December and the end of March, depending on the supplier chosen. Please speak to us about expected temperatures and humidity in these seasons as it will be hot and humid). ‘Shoulder Season’ is considered to be in November, April, May and still represents good savings compared with high season rates. The most expensive season is also the best time for game viewing (during the dry season of June to October), as wildlife gathers around water holes or at rivers, and the vegetation is at its thinnest - making it easier to spot animals in the bush.
The winter months (June to September) is low travel season for South Africa and the rates are reduced. In the northern sectors of the country there is less rainfall and it is an optimum time to go on safari (although the coastal areas of Cape Town and the Garden Route will experience much rainfall during this period.
Costs do not fluctuate excessively at Victoria Falls as this is a year round destination. It is important to note that the amount of water that flows over the falls does however vary substantially during the year, which will influence the experience you will receive as well as determine the side of the falls you should stay at. Between February and May, the period just after the rainy season is when you’ll see the greatest flow of water. It’s important to note that this may make photographing the falls a little tricky without getting your camera wet, as the plumes and sprays can extend up to 1km from the actual falls. The end of the dry season, between October and November, offers a less spectacular flow of water over the falls, but a better viewing experience as you’re able to get closer. The temperatures at this time of year are also hotter throughout the day and night.
Tanzania and Kenya
Due to the fact that these countries are located close to the equator, they represent a very good year round game viewing destination with minimal variance in temperatures. One does however need to take note of the long rains from April and May (these are afternoon rains with thunderstorms, considered spectacular). The biggest driver of cost increases during July, August and September when the migration is the the northern Serengeti Masai Mara.
HOW DO I PLAN A SAFARI?
It’s easy to get muddled for choice…even if you’re seasoned in Africa
IT’S A SIMPLE AS THIS THOUGH…
Refine your own interests. It could be ticking off a short list of large mammals on the one hand to a finely selected list of bird species on the other. It might be landscapes or cultural experiences, even a mix of the lot. Get a clear picture of your interests.
Choose your destination/s. Then narrow down even further. East, southern and Central Africa are separated by vast distances. Then our better safari spots are often remote from the well known safari hubs of Victoria Falls and Nairobi. You could save a lot of time and money taking sensible advice on logistics and connections. Narrow down your destinations.
Get your timing right. Seasonal changes have a significant effect on game movements and the location of big herds. Big crowds too! Prices on safari change depending on season. “High season” when lots of travellers are about and prices are highest isn’t always the best time to be on safari! It depends on where you go and what your interests are.
SEE YOURSELF ON SAFARI?
If you’re ready to get started planning your Africa safari, get in touch today—you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to see yourself on safari this year!