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

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Contents - WORDS EMMA GREGG

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

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