Ker & Downey’s top tips for what to consider when planning a safari.

For many, a safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But where do you even begin? There are (literally) hundreds of properties spread throughout Africa’s top safari regions. And once you decide on properties, how do you even get there? Drive? Fly? Walk? (Yes, as in walking safari.)

If ever there was a time to trust a travel designer, planning a safari is it.

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What to Know

It’s difficult to plan a safari on your own. There are a bunch of logistics involved, including chartering planes and hiring drivers. And this is one place your GPS isn’t really going to help you.

There are also a lot of factors that can dictate when and where you go on safari. Things to think about include what wildlife you want to see, how active you want to be, what style camp you want (you can find everything from basic tents and bucket showers to luxurious and lodge-like), and who your traveling companions are. So with all of that in mind, we’ll try to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about planning a safari.

When to Go

The answer to this question is usually, “When can you go?” Most Americans will plan their safari around common school holidays like summer or the winter break between semesters. Ambitious travelers might also try to squeeze in a safari over Spring Break using the weekends before and after for travel time. But if you have some wiggle room in your travel dates, there are some clear advantages to traveling during different seasons.

  • High Season: As the name suggests, High Season is generally when most people travel on safari. Rates are at their highest and you’ll need to plan several months to a year in advance to secure prime safari space at your choice properties. But, it’s a time when the weather is cooler and dry, the tall grasses are gone, and animals congregate around water holes, making it is the easiest time of the year to see the wildlife. Coincidentally, it coincides with the US summer holiday (between about May/June and September/October).
  • Low Season/Green Season: The Green Season in Africa is the period of time that comes after the annual rains. The dry savannah has turned green and lush and the game is active. However, they are harder to spot in the new, tall grasses. But it is a season coveted by photographers for the rich colors and contrasts between the blue skies and green grasses. You’ll also find lower rates, lower tourists, and less time is needed to secure optimal space.
  • Shoulder Season: The Shoulder Season is the months that come between the high season and low season. They are the transitional months when weather is slightly unpredictable. At some properties, rates fall in between low season and high season prices.

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Where to Go

Unless you are talking about a gorilla trekking safari or are on a safari to see something very specific (like the desert-adapted elephants in Namibia), there are generally two regions you need to consider for a safari: Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) and East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania). Each country offers something a little different. This is where the Ker & Downey travel designers really shine when it comes to planning your safari, combining countries, properties, and activities to craft a custom itinerary suited to your desires and needs. To see some of our staff’s favorite trips to Africa, head here.

How Long?

We recommend at least 10 days for a safari, but more time is always better out in the bush. The flights from the States are long and eat up at least a day on either end of the trip. Combined with jet lag, you’ll want to give yourself ample time to really enjoy your journey.

Is a Safari Suitable for Kids?

Absolutely. Safaris are an excellent option for family travel. Besides opening your children’s eyes to a world much different than their own, there are many properties that cater their programs specifically to children. Some properties will take kids as young as two, while others prefer them to be a bit older. Your Ker & Downey designer will be able to decide where and when you should go on safari when you’re traveling with children, but be sure to check out some of our suggestions for family safaris here.

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What do I Pack?

This can vary depending on where you are traveling and what activities you will be doing on your safari. Before your departure, we send you our packing suggestions based on your destination. In an interview we did with Ralph Bousfield, one of Botswana’s sought-after guides and co-owner of Uncharted Africa Safari Co., he said, “It’s important to be practical… I think it’s great travelers go crazy about dressing the part. But all the extra accessories just to ‘look good’ are unnecessary. It’s important to dress comfortably and to be ready to embrace the adventure.” Take a look at our recommended safari packing guides (and shopping lists!) to get a good idea of what to expect when packing for safari.

Why You Should Go on Safari with Ker & Downey

As you can tell, there are a lot of things to consider when planning a safari. In addition, safaris are often once-in-a-lifetime trips that come with a higher price tag than other destinations around the world. Don’t you want to make sure your long-awaited trip goes off without a hitch? Ker & Downey has over 50 years of experience with creating safaris. Our designers draw on years of experience and personal relationships to craft the perfect custom journey that fills your travel wishlist in the most efficient way possible. We’re excited to work with you to plan your safari.

Contact a Ker & Downey designer to start planning your safari or a journey to any other destination in the world.