Choosing a Safari

What is the magic of Africa? For many people, one visit is sufficient to hook them on coming back to this complex and wonderful continent, time after time.

In part we believe that in some way the visitor recognises that he is revisiting his very roots, Africa being generally acknowledged as the cradle of mankind.

In considering the following information, you could also usefully review our newly-introduced guide entitled ‘
How NOT to Choose an African Safari



Choosing Your Safari

First time on Safari? 

The first time safari traveller in particular, is faced with what may seem a bewildering choice of itineraries. Which country is it best to visit? What is the best time of year? What wild life can be viewed? What provides the best value for money? What is the best type of activity to focus on?

It is AfricaAway’s task to help you to make this choice in the way that best suits your own aspirations. In most cases the choice is simplified by the realisation that, for the first timer, it is good game viewing that takes centre stage, and, to a first approximation, this is something that you will find wherever and whenever you travel. For more information here, see ‘First time on safari?’ 

Been on Safari Before? 

The ‘Old Africa Hand’ will already have formed his own opinion as to which aspects he wants to repeat – although few people tire of seeing big game – but may well be looking to ‘push back the envelope’ on his next visit.

AfricaAway has put together a wide variety of advanced itineraries that will take even the experienced traveller into new realms, and provide new encounters. See Safaris with Attitude. A particularly popular option has been found to be a ‘survival skills’/bush craft/tracking course – ask for details. We can also offer more specialised experiences, for birders, photographers, families, honeymooners, fishermen, adrenalin junkies and the like.

Factors to consider

Where to Go?

The principal tourist destinations in Africa can be divided into three categories:

East and Central Africa: Kenya and Tanzania; Malawi and Uganda

Southern Africa: Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe

Indian Ocean: Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, The Seychelles, Zanzibar – although not true safari destinations as such, these destinations offer stunning, sparkling turquoise waters and the powdery white sand beaches that can be found nowhere else. They are the perfect ending for your safari, or as a destination in their own right.

For further opinion on the relative merits of these various safari destinations please visit our main AFRICA page.

When to Go?

Each season has its own special merits. Remember that Africa’s seasons are reversed from the summer/winter seasons of the northern hemisphere. In the cooler, dry winter months (typically April to October) the absence of water causes the wildlife to concentrate around the few remaining water sources – Zambia’s Luangwa river being a prime example of this, making this destination one of the most magical in Africa. The short grass and absence of foliage, together with an increased access to off-road tracks, makes this the best game-viewing time.

However, although the bush is higher during the rainy, summer (or green) season, and with abundant water, the animals are not as drawn to the few known water sources, they are also more likely to be found on the tracks that are most suitable for vehicles, since it’s also easier for them to travel here, rather than deep in the impenetrable bush. However, because the perception is that game viewing is inferior at this time, rates can be significantly cheaper, and there are considerably fewer visitors, giving the traveller exceptional value for money. Late in the rainy season is also the best time to see Victoria Falls at its maximum splendour.

The seasons do, however, vary amongst the various countries that you might consider visiting, and their individual websites will explore this further.

Types Of Activity

Game Drives

The game drive is the most common type of safari activity, and the one that should yield you the maximum number of actual ‘sightings’. Vehicles differ, however, as does occupancy, and there is a world of difference between needing to fight for a window seat in a crowded, enclosed minibus, and relaxing two-across on the back of an open topped 4x4. Night drives are particularly exciting (especially after just having consumed the odd sun downer or two). With the aid of a powerful searchlight, a good ‘spotter’ and keen eyesight, a whole new world opens up to you.

Walking Safaris

Walking safaris provide the ultimate wildlife experience, together with an additional effect due to the adrenalin rush that even the experienced safari enthusiast will always feel when on foot in the bush. It is still possible to get up close to big game (accompanied by a guide and armed park ranger), in addition to being appreciate the microcosm of experiences that the African bush provides – plants, trees, birds, insects, spoor and so on. Often your base will be a rustic bush camp, rather than luxury lodge, heightening the feeling of visiting such untamed places.

In fact AfricaAway are industry-leaders in offering a much more serious form of camp-to-camp walking safari, with the accent much more on the walking than on the scenery. Zambia is the principal host country for this, with Kenya and Tanzania also offering a similar opportunity. In many cases the itineraries concerned have been researched and created by AfricAway itself. See

Other Variations

Variations on the above theme are provided by elephant or camel back, or even horseback safaris, canoe safaris, ballooning and microlighting. Fly camping, mobile safaris (with your baggage portered for you) and survival skills/ bush craft/tracking courses hold out considerable appeal as well. Then there are itineraries aimed more specifically at birding enthusiasts or photographers.

Other Activities

Although not strictly termed safari activities, Africa offers a wide range of other opportunities, including mountain climbing (e.g. Kilimanjaro), rail journeys (especially in South Africa), Bungee jumping and white water rafting etc (at Victoria Falls), fishing (the tiger fish are awesome), golf (again, especially in South Africa), coastal activities, such as whale watching, shark cage diving, scuba diving & snorkelling and surfing, not to mention cultural explorations involving the local people, schools visits etc.

Types of Accommodation

The style of accommodation selected will affect the price that you pay to some extent, but probably much less so than it would if comparing city centre 1-star to 5-star hotels, for example.

In the main, the luxury, air conditioned safari lodge is characteristic of South Africa, and can be really quite expensive. More generally available are high-quality permanent tented camps or rustic lodges, which remain open for the whole of the year. Then there are bush camps, which are normally regarded as seasonal, being dismantled at the start of the rainy season, and rebuilt again once this is over. Bush camps can range in style from simple tented structures to more elaborate rustic lodge-type accommodation, but in most cases the emphasis is on small groups, living as close to nature as possible (although this doesn’t necessarily exclude flushing loos and hot showers).


The cost, of course, is a critical factor in determining the choice of a holiday – and the African safari is never going to be a particularly cheap option. The factors determining cost (outside considerations such as international and internal flights, which will vary markedly according to the type of itinerary selected), rely mainly on the quality of the accommodation provided, the quality of game viewing in the area selected, whether or not it lies within a National Park or (more expensive) private game reserve, its remoteness (influencing supply logistics), and of course the season.

As a very rough guide, in high season, expect to pay $500-700 per person per night sharing, in South Africa, around $600 in Botswana, and around $500 in Zambia (and since we regard Zambia as the safari destination par excellence, the one giving the best value for money is immediately obvious). These prices generally include all food and drink (drinks are sometimes priced separately), laundry, park fees, ground transfer, guiding and all game viewing activities. But nowhere are they cheap!

However, in Zambia at least, AfricaAway has been able to considerably improve on this situation. Although few safari tour operators either know, or care to divulge, this, there is actually a complete range of prices obtainable, from around $100-150 pppn upwards, and we recently extensively researched many of these cheaper places with the intention of being able to offer a much wider range of prices for the African safari. In the process we discovered some real gems, offering fabulous value for money (together with many that we wouldn’t recommend), and we now believe that we can offer a range of safaris to suit every pocket, thereby opening up the safari market to a vastly larger range of participants.