Trip planner: Safari
TRIP PLANNER Do you want to track big game on foot or in a dugout canoe? Explore vast savannahs or sweeping dunes? Focus on birds or bigger beasts? Plot your perfect safari with our total guide
From tracking chimps to spying the Great Migration, plan your next African safari with our expert guide
Nobody ever forgets their first safari. Mine was a self-drive trip through Kenya’s Masai Mara, bumping along wilderness tracks in a tiny Toyota rented for a song in Nairobi. With no guide, radio or mobile phone to assist us, our wildlife sightings were hit and miss. But we gloried in the novelty of it all, immersed in green landscapes where graceful zebras and giraffes, surprised-looking warthogs and paintbox-bright birds were as abundant and easy to see as cows, sheep and pigeons in rural England.
Back then, in the 1990s, Kenya’s roads were – like Britain’s – emptier, and four-wheel-driving through the African bush was still the ultimate thrill. Today, there are calls to limit or even ban self-drive safaris in Africa’s busiest protected areas, to reduce environmental damage and give the animals a little more personal space. Nonetheless, for wildlife-lovers with an adventurous spirit, there are still several glorious parks and reserves you can explore under your own steam, at your own pace. And if you’d rather let someone else do the driving (if only to enjoy a crisp beer or a gin and tonic at some point) there are plenty of conservationfriendly organised safaris that can show you Africa’s heartlands at their luminous, intricate best.
Whether you’re considering driving or want to book a guided tour, it’s wise to plan your trip with care, seeking expert advice. For example, some experiences are seasonal, and in some cases flying between parks and reserves is more practical than overlanding.
If the plethora of options leaves you as baffled as a warthog, try focusing on safari companies or destinations with a reputation for excellent guiding. First-class guides will keep you safe and help you find your wishlist species. Importantly, they’ll also unlock the wonders of the bush through thoughtful explanations and thrilling tales. They’re worth their weight in gold.
Blue gnu coming thru Hundreds of thousands of blue wildebeest – along with plains zebra adding a dash of pizzazz – traverse the Masai Mara each year during the Great Migration