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A beginner’s guide to Africa

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First-time visitors to Africa

The thing that attracts most first-time visitors to Africa is the prospect of a safari - the chance to see some of this continent’s unique and fascinating wildlife, up close and personal. But planning your first trip to Africa, your first safari holiday, can be a bit overwhelming - so many choices, so many options. In this article we give you a few hints and tips and a little guidance on how to get the most out of your first expedition to Africa.

African safari: Are you ready for the journey?

The word “safari” translates from the Swahili language as “journey”. While you can always pay a bit more for additional luxury and comfort, a typical safari involves travelling by road from one camp or lodge to the next, starting each day before dawn (to see the animals at their most active). The trip between different lodges or camps are generally long, dusty, hot, and plenty of close encounters with insects. This style of travel doesn’t suit everyone - it’s not lying by a pool with a cocktail while you work on your tan - but it is a travel experience like no other and one that you will treasure for a lifetime.

Prepare and plan for your African safari

As well as researching where you want to go and what you want to see and do, you need to make sure that you have taken the necessary health precautions and packed the right clothes. Malaria is the main concern but talk with a health professional about where you will be travelling and any immunisations that might be required for your trip. You’ll need practical walking shoes and clothing that can cope with heat, dust, and long days of travelling.

Choose the safari that is right for you

There’s really two key considerations that you need to have decided before you even start looking at the huge range of safari options that you can choose from - the first is to determine what your budget is, and the second is to be fairly clear on what you want to see on your safari. If you are just looking for a classic safari experience that delivers all of the main animals, then it becomes more of a discussion around whether you want to travel in luxury or budget-style. But if you are wanting to see something a bit more specific such as the wildebeest migration, gorillas, or a white antelope, then that obviously narrows your search. For your first visit to Africa you are probably better to stick to a fairly general safari - get a feel for this continent and how a safari works, and you’ll soon be planning your next visit.

Where to go on safari

There are a huge range of safari options across the continent, but an easy introduction to Africa is to plan your safari in East Africa. Spectacular landscapes and relatively easy access to wildlife. East Africa also offers the full range of styles of travel, from budget through to super-luxury.

When to go on safari

Each season on this continent brings its own unique character, and where you decide to go in Africa will mean the conditions that you encounter will vary. If you have decided on East Africa then the dry season from June to October is generally considered one of the the best times. You need to avoid the long rain season, which is normally between March and May, when many of the roads become too difficult to drive down and a number of the lodges and camps close. 

Your perfect safari in Africa is waiting for you. You just need to be ready to discover it.

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