African Safari Tips

African Safari Tips

 

We’ve just wrapped up an exhilarating few days in the Serengeti, inspecting two Singita Grumeti lodges that are popular with TravelSort Clients. I’ll have detailed reviews and videos of each in the future, but in the meantime wanted to share some safari tips based on our and clients’ experiences:

1. Plan at Least a Year in Advance, Especially for Summer

Summer is peak season for many African safari destinations, including the Serengeti, as it’s dry season and the animals are more visible, plus there’s the chance of seeing the wildebeest migration and the accompanying activity of the wildebeest predators: lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyena.

Because many of the luxury lodges are small—Singita Sasakwa Lodge and Singita Sabora Tented Camp each have only a handful of stand alone cottages or luxury tents—they can easily fill up for one or more dates many months in advance.

And if you’re aiming to use frequent flyer miles for business class or first class award flights, you’ll want to try to reserve tickets as soon as the award calendar opens, usually 11-12 months in advance, depending on the frequent flyer program.

 

2. Hotel, Lodge, or Tented Camp?

Even in the luxury segment, safari accommodation types vary significantly. Do you prefer a more standard type of hotel, despite the remote location? Choose the Four Seasons Serengeti. Prefer your own colonial-style cottage with private plunge pool and magnificent views of the plains below in a tranquil setting, with only a handful of other guests? Select Singita Sasakwa Lodge.

Or would you like the thrill of camping out (but with modern conveniences such as en suite toilet, hot water, a clawfoot tub, outdoor shower) and be able to see the animals at the nearby watering hole and hear them at night, on the other side of your tent? In that case, choose Singita Sabora Tented Camp.

Or perhaps you want complete privacy in a stand alone modern estate, with your own kitchen and butler staff, outdoor pool, master bedroom with his and hers bathrooms, indoor and outdoor dining for 8, media room, private fitness room and private tennis court. Singita’s Serengeti House fits the bill perfectly.

 

3. Get the Necessary Visas, Including Transit Visas

While there are many countries U.S. citizens don’t need a visa for, a visa is needed for Tanzania. And while visa on arrival is available in Kenya, it’s less expensive to get one ahead of time.

 

4. Get Yellow Fever Vaccine and Bring Your Card

As I wrote in my post on Which Countries Require the Yellow Fever Vaccine, it’s important to check whether you’ll need one given where you’re flying, and any connections along the way. For example, when flying from the Maasai Mara to the Serengeti via Migori and Tarime, you need to have a valid Yellow Fever Certificate. Note that most U.S. health insurance does not cover Yellow Fever vaccination, which can run close to $200 per person, at least in NYC. Some U.S. city or county travel health clinics and University health clinics provide much lower cost Yellow Fever vaccines.

 

5. Decide Which Anti-Malarial Pill You’ll Take

It’s important to take anti-malarial medication during and after your safari, to protect against the disease. The main anti-malarials are Larium, Doxycycline and Atovaquone/Proguanil (usually sold under the brand name Malarone). Since Malarone tends to have fewer side effects and only needs to be taken for a couple days prior to travel in a malarial zone, and for 7 days afterwards, we chose the generic version of it. Note that insurance policies may not cover much of the prescription cost, especially for the pediatric version. With my insurance, I paid $17 for my own supply, but ~$55 for my son’s pediatric version.

 

6. Get a Camera with a Telephoto Lens If You Don’t Have One

Even if you’re not a great photographer, and don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on fancy cameras, you’ll want to bring more than your iPhone when going on safari. I purchased a Panasonic automatic camera with a telephoto lens and used its zoom function instead of binoculars when on game drives, in addition to taking photos and video.

 

7. Pack Neutral Colors for Safari Game Drives, and Bring Sun Hats

There’s a reason why your guides for game drives are in neutral browns and greens—these colors are not as attractive to insects as black, blue and white colors. Consider clothes that are also sun protective, and don’t forget a sun hat (ideally with a chin strap, so it stays on even when breezy) and sunglasses.

 

8. Avoid Rich Foods and Stay Hydrated

While it can be tempting to indulge, especially at a place such as Singita, where the culinary team prepares meals that are often close to 1 Michelin Star level, and all meals and wines (except French champagne) are included, I’d recommend moderation.

Generally the evening game drive finishes around 7pm, and you have dinner after that, yet you don’t want to get to sleep too late, since you awake about 6am to get ready for the morning game drive at 6:30am (the early morning and late afternoon are the best times for animal viewing). What we found is that the heat during the day makes lean proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables most appealing. Don’t forget to have some of the delicious plain yogurt as well, since probiotics can help with the antibiotics that are in some of the anti-malarials, and also keep your gut healthy. All the same, I was glad I brought some Immodium tablets since towards the end, my son had some stomach issues, and the Immodium helped greatly.

 

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At What Age to Take Kids on an African Safari

What Month is Best for a Safari in Tanzania and Where to Stay?

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