Different Types of African Safaris

August 21, 2014

While planning a safari, you may think solely of the big vans driving around to see wild animals in their natural habitat, but a safari can be so much more, which makes the process rather unnerving. This is a small guide of what kinds of things to expect. Safari packages include all kinds of different things, including different accommodation types, different modes of transportation, different animals and all in all completely different experiences! The question you need to ask yourself before booking a safari is ‘what do I want out of my Safari?’ and from this, you can plan accordingly - customising your experience from the bed you sleep in, to how up close you want to get to the animals!

This is a brief guide that will help you decide on the best kind of Safari for you, it includes the different types of transportation methods within the park and all the different types of accommodation you can choose from.

Transport within the Park

Safari literally translates to ‘to travel’ in swahili. So in order to go on a successful safari the most important thing to consider is how you will travel around. Each Safari experience is different, and Safaris can be offered in many ways. This means, there are several ways to make your way around the parks and see all the different things the beautiful terrains have to offer.

Guided Safaris

By far the most popular type of safari prevalent in most parts of Africa. The majority of lodges and camps offer guided safari services. These can be booked beforehand, or even whilst at the lodge. These offer guided game drives through the parks with a specialist driver. These are usually offered in the early morning or late afternoon and are perfect for new travellers to Africa, as the specialist driver have a vast array of knowledge of the parks and their animals. The driver will be in close contact with park authorities and will be informed where to go and what to see once a group of animals has been seen - and will almost always have specific information relating to the flora and fauna seen. This way, you will learn more about the surroundings and be able to tailor your guided safari to what you want to see and what you want to learn about.

Tailored Guided Jeep Safari in National African Parks
Tailored Guided Jeep Safari in National African Parks. Photo by Norman Carr.

Walking Safaris

This one of the most magical safari experiences you may encounter. If you are adventorous, willing to try new things and do not mind walking for hours this is the choice for you. There is no sounds of noisy vehicles to distract you from the beautiful sounds of the wilderness. Many walking safaris able you only to see a few animals, and focus more on the small animals and the flora, as you obviously cannot cover as much distance as on would in a vehicle. However, there is always the possibility of coming head to head with a herd of elephants, or group of beautiful delicate gazelles. At first, it may seem a little intimidating but the guides will put you at ease rather quickly. Many of this type of safari is offered from mobile camps, or even some lodges may suggest one to you offered by them.

Guided Walking Safari in Africa. Elephant Sightseeing
Walking safaris get you up close with nature and wildlife. Photo by Norman Carr.

Self Drive Safaris

A popular choice of Safari types as it offers the traveller flexibility and the freedom to choose how they spend their day exploring the area. A lot of the parks have signposts around saying where to go, and what you may see there. Which makes it easier for you to plan what you would like to see, and therefore where you must go. In order to undergo self drive safaris you must ensure you have a good car (a 4x4 will be most preferable) and you are a skilled driver. If you are on a budget, and wish to avail park guide fees this is the perfect choice for you. If you are unfamiliar with Africa, this may not be the best choice for you. In order to have a successful self drive safari some experience is required. The roads can be hazardous, and if you do not know where to go - there is high chances of getting lost. A huge amount of planning is required.

Air Safari

If you want a birds eye view of the glorious plains of Africa, this is the best choice for you. An Air Safari could include fly-in safaris and hot air balloon safaris. Fly-in safaris involve flying in from a major city or surrounding town in the national park, this way you will be able to appreciate the vast landscape that otherwise would not be comprehensible from the ground. If you prefer a more slow paced and quiet Air Safari, hot air balloon safari is recommended for you. Floating silently over the landscape is an amazing and thrilling experience. Balloon rides are usually early morning activities, and will conclude with a breakfast.

Air Safari in Africa. Balloon Safari in Serengeti, Tanzania.
Air Safari: Hot Air Balloon rides over beautiful Serengeti plains.

Horseback Safaris

A very unique safari option. If you are looking for something completely different, and possibly unheard of to many of your friends, this would be the perfect choice for you. Horseback safaris include riding on horses around the beautiful plains of africa, experiencing everything in a completely new and exhilarating way. Horseback safaris are guided by professional tour guides, who will take you around the park to maximise what you see and what you experience.

Elephant Safaris

Arguably, one of the most majestic and intelligent species on the planet. If you seek thrill and adventure, and aren't afraid of getting too close to this grand mammals - these safaris give you the possibility to get up close and personal to the elephants. If you wish to have a more personal encounter and better interaction with elephants, some places can organise an elephant safari for you, or you may need to visit a centre specialising in elephant interactions. Some camps organise special Elephant Safaris which allow you to watch the animals feed, interact with them and even walk with them as they move through the park. If you are lucky, sometimes you may even get the opportunity to view the world from a top of an elephant. The experience you gain, is something you would not be able to achieve walking along as a human. If your budget or time does not allow such an encounter, there are also several centres which allow visitors to engage with elephants.

Different types of Accommodation

And of course, if you want to get the most out of your safari, you cannot hope to see everything in one day! So you must choose the right accommodation for your overnight stays within the park. There are several types to choose from, and this choice depend solely on your preferences. Each type of accommodation offers something unique, and there are several levels of comfort for each type of accommodation you choose from as mentioned below.

Permanent Lodges or Camps

Lodges are best for travellers who crave luxury and would like to have some time away from the wild, and not be completely immersed in the wild. Offer the most extensive amenities than any other type of accommodation. Permanent lodges come in an array of shapes and sizes, many African countries offer exclusive luxurious small lodges, or have bigger Lodges that cater to more people - this all depends on your preference. Lodges can be solid structures, with rooms made out of concrete and wood, or you can find luxurious permanent ‘tented’ camps. These are usually rooms covered by canvas similar to that of a tent, but the rooms offer all the amenities of a luxury room such as big bathrooms and bedrooms. Lodges in Africa will have all the luxuries you expect from a luxury hotel. You can expect to see large swimming pools, varieties of restaurants, bars and much more. Lodges offer and plan several activities for you, so you can choose from a wide variety of activities during your stay (e.g walking safari, hot air balloon rides etc.).

Lodges: Luxury Safari Accommodations in Africa.
Have all luxurious accommodations in an African Safari, staying in a Tented Lodge. Photos by Banoka Bush Camp.

Mobile Permanent Camps

These are similar to lodges or tented camps mentioned above, however - they cater for you to get the most out of your experience and in this case, you move from one lodge/camp to another. The camps themselves do not move, but have several partner camps around the park, and this ensure you see as much of the park as you can and move according to where the animals are.

Mobile Camps

These kind of safaris are ideal for people who do not require the luxuries that are offered in a permanent lodge. These kind of accommodations are suitable for people who want the chance of having an elephant or buffalo to walk past their tents at night, and want to follow the animals to maximise their chances of seeing the most animals. There is a wide range of mobile camps you can choose from, from basic to luxurious. Basic camps are suitable for those a little more prone to adventure and do not mind ‘roughing it’. Usually, have no running water, or a very limited supply and no flushing toilets. However, you can also find mobile camps with a little more luxury including huge tents, the campsite has built-in toilets, showers and furniture. Temporary camps that are set up each night in a suitable location, the camp materials are hauled from location to location via big trucks. This mobility allows you to move from one part of the park to the other, and take guided tours around each area so you see the most of the park.

Mobile Camp site in Botswana under the stars
A mobile camp site in Botswana. 'Roughing it' under the stars. Photo by Mopane.

Summary

This is just a small taste of what you can expect, and the different kinds of things available. The other things you need to take into consideration are the prices, and what to expect according to the different seasons in African countries and varying rates of safaris. You may want also to have a look at the different kind of animals you can find in Africa.

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