All-time favorite trip - African Safari
After traveling to over 31 countries, I get asked all the time “what’s your favorite place you’ve ever been?” Such a tough question! Time and again I go back to African safari. I have been lucky enough to go on safari in both South Africa and Kenya, and I can’t recommend an African safari enough to anyone who’s curious! The experience really puts you into a different world, a time before civilization when mother nature ruled our planet. You get to witness this magic right in front of you, sometimes close enough you could touch the wildlife (but don’t!).
Best places to go for African Safari
There are a lot of options for your African safari from which location and country to visit, to which type of safari - African safari all inclusive or a la carte, African safari resort or camp, African safari for families or adults only. The options really do seem endless, so I’ll share my experiences between South Africa and Kenya to give you a flavor of each.
In South Africa I traveled with two friends to the Blue-Canyon Private Game Reserve, in the Greater Kruger Park area. We stayed at the Vuyani Safari Lodge which was an all inclusive lodge. There were 10 guests in total and each day we split into two trucks for a morning and an evening safari game drive within the Blue-Canyon Private Game Reserve. We did a day trip to Kruger National Park as well. This was an unbelievable experience all around! I cannot recommend Vuyani enough, and I have had friends stay there since who have also raved.
In Kenya I traveled with my husband to the Masai Mara National Park. We stayed the first three nights at Speke’s Camp which was fantastic! It was an all inclusive camp and we had a private game driver and guide that would take us out each day. We opted to stay out for full day game drives each day (a total of 12 hours!) and so our lunches were packed and we didn’t return to camp until after dark for dinner.
We then transferred to the Elewana Elephant Pepper Camp in the Mara North Conservancy, which was also an all inclusive camp. We were paired with other guests for two of our drives and then had private drives for two more days. These drives stayed within the Mara North Conservancy except for one day when we went in search of rhinos back in the Masai Mara National Park.
South Africa was primarily bush safari, meaning you are often driving through bushes and trees and more enclosed areas in search of wildlife. Kenya had more of the traditional Serengeti feel in some places, with more expansive views. In both places we saw an incredible number of animals…it’s impossible to describe how much wildlife you see. And luckily, I have seen all of the Big 5 between both locations!
Lots of people also highly recommend African safaris in Tanzania and Botswana, so check those out too. I’d love to get back to Africa for a safari in each country one day.
Is African Safari for Families?
If you have kids and are wondering if African safari for families is a good idea, it is! I asked all of our guides in both locations if you can bring kids on an African safari and they all said yes. You will want your children to be of a certain age (they recommended 10 or older) so they are at an age where they have the attention span to sit in the safari trucks for 4+ hours and will be able to understand when to be quiet and respect the rules set by the safari guides.
Cost for African safari
African safari costs can range drastically, so you will want to nail down your travel style and desires before booking. All of the lodges and camps we stayed in were on the higher end and all inclusive so we would not need to worry about food and drink while there. We used Timbuktu Travel for our trip to Kenya, who was thoughtful about our requests and price requirements. For South Africa, my friend and I purchased our stay through a discount site at a steal of a deal! So keep your eye out, and get creative to find deals that work within your budget.
Packing List for African Safari
What to pack for South African safari will be different from what to pack for Kenyan safari and other African safaris. You will need to do your research on weather and climate during the time of year you plan to travel.
What to bring on African safari:
- Sun hat - I brought our Take It Easy hat which was perfect!
- Water bottle
- Light color clothing made from light fabric (keep in mind the sun is strong and so lighter colors and lighter fabrics will help to keep you cool). I’ve asked “can you wear black on safari?” and the answer is “yes, however you may not want to”. Several of our guides wore black, but I opted for lighter colors to keep me cool
- Layers! Make sure to bring various layers even if the forecast shows high temps. There were several early mornings and nights we were out on game drives when I wish I had thought to pack just one more layer for my top or bottom. You will change in and out of layers throughout the day so get easy to pack fabrics in lots of layers!
- Swimsuit - check if your lodge has a pool first
- Audio book - I listened to an audio book on some of our longer drives back to camp after exploring far during the day, this helped pass the time when our guides weren’t actively pointing out wildlife. You won’t want to actually read a book as the roads are quite bumpy!
How to pack for African safari:
- Packing cubes! With all the layers you will want to bring, I recommend using packing cubes to keep everything organized and help with space. We have a great set that I used for our African safari in Kenya, the Rugged Traveler Kit (we hadn’t founded Pika yet when I went on South African safari, but cubes sure would have been useful!).
- I brought the small cube on our game drives each day so I had an easy and safe way to carry my phone, camera, chapstick, hat and sunglasses, headphones, and sunscreen. It’s amazing how much those small 3L cubes hold!
- I also brought a medium 6L cube on our game drives to store all of my clothing layers I would need throughout the day, you don’t want your clothes laying all over the truck with other guests and the guides walking back and forth.
These are just a few tips from my experiences on African safari in South Africa and Kenya. Hopefully this helps you plan your adventure!