Q&A with an Africa Safari Expert
1. For those planning their first safari, how would you differentiate East Africa and Southern Africa?
East Africa (primarily Tanzania and Kenya) have some of the best game viewing in the world renowned National Parks of the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Maasai Mara.
Southern Africa offers a combination of superb sightseeing and safari - there is the cultural diversity of Cape Town and Zululand and outstanding safaris (for families too) in South Africa. Botswana offers excellent Fly-In safari options to private game reserves and safari lodges. Spectacular scenery with vast open space as well as safari options are found in Namibia, and remote Zambia is wonderful for game viewing and the mighty Victoria Falls.
2. The many safari options can be overwhelming. Can you summarize the different categories travelers should consider before making a selection?
Tailor-made: These are specialized itineraries that are handcrafted by myself and Africa specialist, Karen Gruber. Unlike group departures, private journeys operate upon request, depending on the schedule of the traveler, and may be customized according to your interests.
Luxury Safaris: These adventures highlight the best wildlife viewing areas in the predator rich regions visited in specially designed 4 x 4 game viewing vehicles. These small group departures are joined by excellent rangers.
Sights & Safaris: These signature itineraries combine the excitement wildlife safaris with the best sights and experiences in the region; from amazing cities to wine tasting, from awe-inspiring scenery to train journeys.
Fly-in Safaris: Experience the beautiful expanse of the African savannahs with these exciting fly-in journeys. Utilizing flights between safari camps to maximize game viewing time.
Family Safaris: Designed specifically with families in mind, these itineraries capture a safari experience that will appeal to children, parents, and grandparents alike.
Mobile Tented Safaris: Luxurious tented, seasonal camps move around bringing guests within range of impressive wildlife.
Walking Safaris: Experience the excitement of a small group safari on-foot in the company of experienced trackers and guides who are trained to ensure memorable wildlife encounters as well as safety.
3. How far in advance should one book a safari?
We often suggest as far in advance as one year to secure some of Africa's top lodges which are small, exclusive, and fill up fast during peak season (around June-October when it is cool and dry). You also stand a very good chance of securing good safari options if you book 3-6 months in advance--that is, if you can be a little flexible with your travel dates.
4. What is the average price-range for a safari?
Quality game viewing safaris do cost a fair amount. If you are looking at a package tour and safari of about 10-14 days - including some sightseeing pre and post Safari - cost-wise you are looking at approx. $5,500-$7,500 as a starting rate per person during low season. The guideline rates above exclude international airfare. On safari, all your game drives and game viewing activities are included as well as your meals and the services of your safari guides.
5. Are there any age restrictions (min or max) on safaris?
South Africa in particular and Tanzania are great for family safaris. On game drives, children do need to be at least 5 years of age (and this is at the discretion of your safari ranger) and preferably 8 years old to really benefit from a safari. There are some excellent lodges that cater specifically to younger travelers and families in Southern and East Africa. A moderate level of exertion/fitness is required and you will need to cope with various modes of transportation over bumpy roads. You should also be able to walk moderate distances over uneven terrain.
6. Is there one that offers the perfect overview�for those wanting to just do ONE safari in their lifetime?
It is tough to say really, but the first safari that springs to mind is our Signature Southern Africa Safari which starts with sightseeing and outdoor activities in the Cape Town region and then on to Botswana. Brilliant wildlife and Big 5 game viewing safaris in open-sided safari vehicles, makoros (dugout canoes) with expert guides. After your Botswana safari, you round it all off with the mighty Victoria Falls. There is also The Heart of Kenya and Tanzania taking in four of East Africa's most renowned game viewing areas: the Maasai Mara, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti, and Tarangire.
7. Name two of your favorite Parks in Africa and explain why.
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is my favorite! It is the largest freshwater wetland in Africa, which is quite something in Botswana's arid and unforgiving bush. Here, you'll find one of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in all of Africa, and the beauty is that it's basically a year-round destination for safaris!
Sabi Sand Reserve bordering the Kruger National Park in South Africa has such a high concentration of game. One of the reasons I am passionate about the Sabi Sand Reserve is that it is the birthplace of sustainable wildlife tourism in Southern Africa, and the oldest of all the private reserves in South Africa. It is home to a huge wildlife population, including the Big 5 (my favorite being a huge male lion), as well as many endangered species. I so enjoy watching the animals pass unhindered between the Sabi Sand reserve and the Kruger National Park.
8. Isn't it difficult to get to Africa?
Not really difficult at all, but it is a long haul from the USA! For East Africa it is best to fly via London or Amsterdam to Nairobi in Kenya or Arusha in Tanzania. For Southern Africa, there are daily flights from New York, Washington DC and Atlanta to either Johannesburg or Cape Town in South Africa, with a flying time of around 15 hours - most make a fueling stop in Africa en route. You can also break up the journey and fly via Europe to South Africa and once in Johannesburg there is a well developed network of scheduled flights throughout Southern Africa.
9. What travel documents do I need?
You need a passport that is valid for 6 months beyond your departure date, and that has at least 4 to 6 blank pages in the 'Visa' section for immigration stamps. Holders of American, Canadian, and European Union passports do not require visas for South Africa, Botswana, or Namibia.
Holders of American passports do require visas for Zimbabwe and Zambia, but these can be purchased at the point of entry into the country with no difficulty (Zimbabwe: $30 for a single entry visa, $45 for a double entry visa; Zambia: $50 for a single entry visa). Holders of Commonwealth passports and citizens of most western European countries do not require visas for Zimbabwe, but British citizens do require visas for Zambia (GBP35 for a single entry visa). Visas are required and should be obtained in advance for Tanzania and Kenya.
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Nadia Eckhardt was born in South Africa, resides in Seattle today, but still calls beautiful Cape Town "home." She spent much of her youth enjoying the outdoors with her family: hiking, swimming, diving, and exploring the southern tip of Africa. With her extensive knowledge and travel experience on the African continent, Nadia is not only a veteran safari specialist/tour leader but one of the world's best Africa safari planners. Her passion for Africa, together with her expertise and firsthand experience, ensure you will have the African adventure of a lifetime.