How to Plan an African Safari

Updated: Feb 13

Going on an African safari sits atop many people's bucket list, but it is often one of the things that is talked about but never actually implemented. Part of it could be due to the price point, or a minimal understanding of what a safari actually entails. Some people could probably afford it, but they don't have a clue where to start.

Thanks to the internet, the lack of understanding is a non-issue in the modern times with the right search and some free time. I try to cover what it means to go on a safari to the best of my ability in this post to further ease the process. As far as money is concerned, many of these tour companies offer budget accommodations, you just have to be okay with "roughing it."

So, throw away all your doubts and concerns for a moment and read about the possibility of you encountering some of the most spectacular wildlife on Earth while surrounded by unrivaled nature. First, I'm going to break down a few of the best spots in the continent to plan an African safari and where to start.

Serengeti National Park

Located in: Tanzania

Size: 5,695 sq. miles

Some animals you can expect to see here: Wildebeest, Lion, Zebra, Cheetah, Giraffe, Elephant, and Birds.

Average cost: $200-$1,250 per night

Best time to visit: Late June-September. The wildebeest migration occurs between June and July.

Tour companies:

Safari 365 offers personalized experiences for American visitors. Getting started is as simple as filling out the form on their website, where it gives you the option to add on beach trips, hot air balloon rides, romantic touches, and more. You can also choose to go specifically during the migration period, which is a world-famous selling point of this park.

The Serengeti National Park itself offers a special Big 5 tour that lasts 6 nights in the park. The Big 5 is a term that refers to the most popular wildlife in Africa: the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. This tour costs between $2,895-$3,285 per person.

Asanja Africa lets you choose safari packages ranging from 3-8 days long. These packages can be customized, and each of them is aimed to fulfill different goals that a traveler might want to get out of their time in Serengeti. There is even a special honeymoon package for newlyweds.

Amboseli National Park

Located in: Kenya

Size: 151.4 sq. miles

Some animals you can expect to see here: Elephants (this park is often called the “Land of Giants” because the elephants have large tusks), Wildebeest, Zebra, Giraffes, Hyena, Lion, Cheetah, and Buffalo.

Average cost: $125-$1,500 per night

Best time to visit: June-September or January-February

Tour Companies:

TourHQ offers wildlife tours, nature tours, culture tours, and safari tours depending on what your focus is. You can scroll through their large list of tours until you find the one that suits you best, or if you’d prefer, you can click “plan my trip” to search among the wide range of options.

Wild Africa offers a short, 3 day tour that allows patrons to camp or stay in a safari lodge. The price ranges from $605-$1,275 per person depending on which accommodation you choose. The lodge is situated at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, which is a can’t-miss opportunity for nature lovers.

Kruger National Park

Located in: South Africa

Size: 7,523 sq. miles

Some animals you can expect to see here: Hippo, Giraffe, Elephant, Zebra, Wildebeest, Hyena, Buffalo, and sometimes Lions and Rhinoceros.

Average cost: $50-$5,000 per night

Best time to visit: April-September

Tour companies:

Kruger Park Tours have classic safaris ranging in length from 2-7 days. The longest one features morning drives, a 3-hour tour of a Big 5 reserve, and plenty of time in the park. The shortest one lets you choose between an early morning bush walk or a game drive and features a sunset drive and barbecue.

Nhongo Safaris offer classic Jeep rides and a walk on the wild side with The Thriller Experience, which includes zip lining, biking, and white water rafting alongside game viewing drives. The panorama safari showcases the park’s natural beauty, and the southern Kruger safari spans over 8 days with an included night drive. There is truly an option for everybody with this company.

Kurt Safari has a special one-day package that costs about $270 dollars per person and lasts from 9-10 hours, making it a great option for budget travelers who don’t have as much time. Of course, there are also panoramic tours and longer tours available as well.

Masai Mara National Reserve

Located in: Kenya

Size: 583 sq. miles

Some animals you can expect to see here: Lion, Buffalo, Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest, Cheetah, and Hippos.

Average cost: $150-$5,000 per night

Best time to visit: July-October

Tour companies:

Natural Tours and Safaris feature tours between 2-4 days long, and even the 2 day one is worth your time and money as it takes you on an extensive drive in hopes of seeing the Big 5. The 4 day one offers the option to add on a hot-air balloon tour and stops in the Great Rift Valley.

African Overland Tours can quite literally take you over the land depending on which tour you choose. Some tours are more than 50 days long and feature trips from Nairobi to Cape Town. Don’t worry, though. If you aren’t quite ready to commit to that, you can still go on their 7-day tour.

Great, I've chose my safari, and I know what tour company to contact. Now how do I get there?

Part of planning on African safari is deciding which animals you want to see, such as lions.

Now that I’ve told you the price for a safari, you’re probably wondering about another key cost: the airfare. Flying internationally is obviously not cheap, but it can at least be convenient if you know what you’re doing. These airports are the best to choose if you’re going on one of these safaris. We also cover how to get from the airport to the national park, and where to stay while you’re there.

Serengeti National Park

Your best choice to get to this park is to fly into the Kilimanjaro International Airport. The airport is about an hour from Arusha, where most of the Serengeti tours begin (including all of our suggested tours). The best choice for getting to Arusha after arriving at the airport is a shuttle bus or a taxi.

Once you arrive to Arusha, you’ll likely need a hotel for the night before the safari. If you’re looking for the best of the best, I suggest Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge. If you’re looking for somewhere inexpensive, but still a clean and nice choice for the night, you should check out A1 Hotel and Resort.

Amboseli National Park

The best airport to access this park is the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. From there, you need to get to Nairobi, which is only 18 minutes away by car. Both of the tours suggested above include accommodation from Nairobi to the park.

One of the top hotels to stay at in Nairobi is the Nairobi Serena Hotel. It has great ratings, an outdoor pool, and a full-service spa. If you’re only staying for a night to prepare for the safari, you can stay at the Sarova Panafric, which has good ratings as well.

Kruger National Park

To get to this park, you should fly into the O.R. Tambo International Airport. Two of the tours I suggested, Kruger Park Tours and Nhongo Safaris will pick you up from this airport. The other tour, Kurt Safari, picks up from hotels in Hazyview and at the Perry’s Bridge Trading Post and Tourism Center.

If you opt for the Kurt Safari tour, you should stay in Hazyview the night before. The Abangane Guest Lodge is an amazing place to stay, although it has a limited amount of rooms. The Protea Hotel is a larger option, but it’s a little further away.

Masai Mara National Reserve

Most of these trips also start in Nairobi, so you’ll fly into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and take a taxi into Nairobi. Some hotel suggestions are above under the Amboseli National Park header.

What should I bring on my safari?

No matter which safari you choose, there are a few key things you’ll need on your journey. First of all, you’ll need a good pair of binoculars in case you see an animal at a distance. The Field and Stream Sportsmen binoculars are a good choice. They are waterproof and won’t fog on cloudy mornings. They also have coated lenses to suit them for late night or early morning viewing.

Another thing you’ll need is good walking shoes. Adidas has amazing lightweight and water-resistant shoes that will do the job. Men's sizes can be found here and women's sizes are here.

You may also want a backpack to take with you if you’re spending hours looking for the Big 5. This is helpful for holding a spare change of clothes, your binoculars, credit cards, and even bottles of water. The North Face Jester Backpack comes in several different colors and is comfortable to wear.

Africa is extremely hot in the summer, as you probably already know. Aside from bringing sunblock, you’ll probably want a bucket hat to keep the sun out of your eyes. This Sunday Afternoons hat is resistant to stains and water.

At the end of the day, facts remind the same. Going on a safari doesn't come with a small price tag, but by choosing the budget accommodations that most tour companies offer, and staying at affordable hotels the night before the journey, you can significantly cut down on costs. If you've long been dreaming about going on a safari, it doesn't have to be difficult, and I hope this post has made it a bit easier for you.

*This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that I will get a small commission if you purchase from my link with no extra cost to you :)*


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