East Africa Safari Wrap-Up
Hi readers! One of my East Africa safari-mates mentioned that there is very little information on specifics of what to look for in a safari before you book. I wanted to help you out a little and give you the best/worst/most interesting parts of my trip to help you plan your safari.
Where to Go: First you have to decide where you want to go in Africa. South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, and Tanzania are popular options with side trips into Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Uganda. I opted for Kenya and Tanzania for an East Africa Safari because of their easy access to major airports and the fact my dad went to Kenya years ago and loved it.
Next time (if there is one will probably include South Africa, Bostwana, and Zimbabwe.
Best safari drive: Masai Mara, Kenya
This is definitely season-specific and would be different if I had gone at a different time of the year. The beginning of September is during the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara making it jammed packed with animals. The Serengeti was my second favorite safari spot but it was so dry, dusty, and hot that the conditions made it not quite as fun as the Masai Mara.
Runner-up: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
If you haven’t seen a rhino, come here. Also, it is more green and lush than the Serengeti which was a welcome change.
Good to note: Two nights in both Masai Mara, Serengeti and a day at the Ngorongoro Crater is perfect. Any more nights in the Masai Mara and Serengeti you may get bored of sitting on your butt in a safari van on some very, very bumpy roads.
What to skip: Lake Naivasha, Kenya was only okay. There were a lot of waterfowl and flamingos if you are into birds. If you are not, the animals were not too impressive compared with the rest of the trip. However, it was different in that it was a boat/walking safari of sorts. It was not my favorite.
Lodging: African tours can include lodges, permanent tents, semi-permanent tents, and regular tents. Safari lodges are rare and very expensive. Regular tents would be the cheapest option but not very luxurious. My safari through G Adventures was billed as a comfort tour or the highest level of quality they offer. We only used permanent tents and semi-permanent tents on our safari.
They all had bathrooms built in (although some worked better than others), thick tent walls and coverings, warm bedding, hot showers (again some working better than others), and lots of space. Overall the accommodations were better than expected, good for me, and a very fun experience. However, if you are super-picky and not so adventurous, tent safaris may not be for you. Electricity is sparse so it tends to be intermittent, only on for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening turning off around 10pm. Plus there is usually only one outlet per tent or a group charging point in the main lobby area. It makes it difficult to charge your electronics and camera batteries.
Safari tip: Always bring extra camera batteries and charge something if there is a free charger!
No matter what kind of tent option you use, there is always nature you need to factor into your sleep. Monkeys ran around on our tent roof one night. You can hear hyenas and more howling at night. You have to be sure not to keep open food in your tent- so no plates of food from dinner. Plus, it gets cold! There were a few nights I wore my ski hat to dinner and I always wore my long johns to bed. The first night in Aberdare I wore long johns, long sleeved shirt, sweater, long socks, and my thin mittens (the mittens were probably overkill for most but I like my arms out of my blankets).
Africa isn’t for the dainty, all-inclusive, must-be-clean-all-the-time traveler. It is an experience with nature, new cultures, new landscape, and probably the best trip you will ever take. My East Africa Safari is by far my favorite trip I’ve taken on my “sabbatical” and would recommend it to everyone.