Which African Safari Experience is Right for You?
Once you’ve decided to go on a safari, the next step is deciding which type of safari experience will suit your needs, which can be a headache in itself. The good news is that you have a number of options offered to you, from a luxurious African safari adventure in elegant lodges, to a classic and comfortable campsite, to a rustic tent for a more “authentic bush experience”. Fret not, we have narrowed down all the possible options below for your convenience.
The three types of safari accommodations that are often mentioned are tents, camps, and lodges. A common misconception is that a lodge is more expensive and luxurious than a camp or tent, when in fact those three words are often interchangeable, and lodges, just like tents, can range from 3 to 5 stars.
Safari Lodges or Camps
Lodges are usually permanent buildings made of hard materials, such as stone, wood and thatch, and designed to blend in with their natural surroundings. They tend to be the most popular types of safari accommodations. Three star lodges are basic and comfortable, while 4 and 5 stars ones are more on the luxurious side. High-end lodges usually offer amenities such as swimming pools, restaurants, bars, and lounge areas.
Permanent tents or tent lodges
Tent lodges are permanent as well, but made with canvas material on the sides and built on wooden or concrete bases. They usually offer beautiful panoramic views, with viewing decks, a lounge, a dining area, and a swimming pool, and tend to be pricier than safari lodges.
Mobile tents and seasonal camps
Mobile tents are temporary structures set up for specific times of the year, for example, during the wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania. They are ideal for visitors looking for a specific safari experience. Mobile tents tend to be luxurious and elegant, making them more expensive.
Only available in parks that allow self-drive, rest camps are the most affordable option, and are therefore the best option for those on a tight budget. They also allow visitors to move along throughout the park without having to return to the same accommodation every night.
Fly camping is for those looking to rough it up and complete privacy at the same time. It involves walking for a few hours from the main camp, and reaching a temporary remote camp with very basic amenities. These include a small tent and a roll mattress set up by a guide, and a “drop loo” and a bucket for showering. Dinner is usually set up around the campfire.
Types of safaris
The most common safari is the game drive in an open 4×4 vehicle, usually conducted in groups and accompanied by a knowledgeable and professional guide and driver. Depending on the park and the region, the driver will stay on the paved road path, or the game drive will occur off-road which can get bumpy and dusty, but allows for more animal sightings.
The only type of safari that occurs without the help of an experienced guide or ranger, the self-drive safari is only allowed in certain national parks. It is ideal for those intent on following their own journey at their own pace, and tends to be more affordable.
Water-based safaris include canoeing along a river to spot wildlife such as rhinos wallowing in the water, or other animals like elephants gathering by the riverbanks for a drink, or crocodiles basking in the sun. The traditional canoe (mokoro) along the Delta in Botswana are popular, as well as boat cruises along the Zambezi River in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Water-based safaris offer breathtaking views especially during sunset cruises.
Walking safaris allow for closer encounters with the wild fauna and flora, as well as opportunities to track certain animals like the endangered white rhino on foot, always accompanied by an experienced ranger.
Hot air balloon safaris
A unique and luxurious treat, the hot air balloon allows you the opportunity to witness gorgeous landscapes and wild animals in their natural habitat from the air. It’s a thrilling yet calm ride, and only offered in specific places.
Animal-riding safaris are permitted in certain areas, enabling you to explore the landscape and the African bush from the back of a horse, a camel, or the gentle giant that is the elephant.
Bird watching safaris
Most national parks in Africa are home to a variety of bird species, offering plenty of bird watching opportunities, which delight avid bird lovers. Bird watching safaris can be conducted in game vehicles, on foot, by canoe, and by power-boat.