PSA: not all safaris are created equal. If you’ve never been on one, it’s probably hard to imagine how many different types of safaris there are.
In my time exploring the heart of Africa, I have come to realize that there’s a different type of safari for every kind of traveler. To fashion your own dream African adventure, it’s all about pinpointing exactly what kind of explorer you are.
So, grab your binoculars and read up on how to choose an African safari that’s right for you!
At the mere mention of a safari, the tented-camp variety is likely the type that pops in your head. A classic option, a bush camp safari is a throwback to the times when explorers used to spend weeks camping in the bush.
Tent camps vary in appeal, from utilitarian to luxury. I’ve stayed in some of the more comfortable spots and had great experiences.
I’ve loved staying at Wolwedons in Namibia; Sable Alley in Botswana; Mahali Mzuri in Kenya; Jack’s Camp in Botswana and Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp in Kenya. They each have their own perks and are prime spots for experiencing the natural beauty of Africa.
While bush camps are often built as temporary structures that are relatively low-tech, game lodges tend to be built a bit more like resorts with solid wall construction.
To give you a better idea of what to expect, check out my magical experience at the Lion Sands Ivory Lodge in South Africa; Royal Malewane in South Africa; and Tongabezi Lodge near Victoria Falls.
While both game-lodge safaris and tented-camp safaris have their own charms, I would generally recommend a tented-camp safari if you only have one night. If you have a few days, go for a game lodge.
Typically, when you stay at a game lodge, you’ll travel between lodges. It’s best to have at least one night to explore each of their options (especially if you go somewhere like Lion Sands Ivory Lodge, where you can spend a night in a treehouse).
I’ve had the opportunity to sleep under the stars at a few properties now! While an open air treehouse isn’t for everyone, there really is nothing quite a magical as counting sheep under the constellations.
Most treehouses and skybeds are a single-night option at tented-camps and game-lodge safaris. You’ll usually get dropped off before sunset, and get picked up early morning for a game drive. While staying at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge and Treehouses in South Africa, I watched elephants wandering below us at sunset. Sable Alley in Botswana also has skybeds, but we went during the rainy season and didn’t get a chance to sleep in them.
Apart from taking my mom on a wine safari, I haven’t yet experienced a family safari, so I can’t make any personal recommendations. Though, I would advise looking for kid-friendly options.
Most game reserves don’t allow children under the age of 6. I have been told the reason for this is because some predators are attracted to the sound of young children crying. (I’m not entirely sure, but it’s good enough reason as any!) Game drives can also last 3-4 hours, so keep this in mind when planning your experience.
Family safaris are very popular in Kenya and South Africa. In these countries, you’ll find options that are geared toward families with younger children, so you can fully customize your experience to ensure that everybody has a great time. Consider skipping the game drives and look for properties that offer family-friendly activities and animal encounters. Giraffe Manor in Kenya is a great option for families and is very kid-friendly!
Some of my best moments in Africa have been spent learning about how the locals lead their lives. Far from what I’ve experienced in urban Cape Town, safaris with a cultural element are eye-opening experiences.
I had an amazing bush walk with a local Khoisan tribe at Jack’s Camp in Botswana, which is a place I’d highly recommend visiting. During my stay at Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp in Kenya, I was able to visit a local Maasai community with a Maasai warrior guide, and it really rounded out my experience there.
A lot of game lodges offer walking safaris, and they can be a great way to get up close and personal with the wildlife. But, I have to confess: I haven’t yet been able to work up the nerve to do a walking safari.
I have gotten out of the safari car to get a little closer to giraffes, but that’s about as adventurous as I like to get in the bush.
In my experience, the smaller the group, the better the time had when out exploring. That’s why I’ve designed my own safari experiences for small groups!
After falling head over heels in love with Africa, I teamed up with some locals to create what I consider to be the dream African experience with my TBA Escapes South Africa Photography Tour.
In my TBA Escapes South Africa Photography Tour, a small group of amazing ladies and I explore the most breathtakingly beautiful sites the country has to offer. In case you missed it, check out the highlights of our last TBA Escapes tour.
The self-drive adventurous option is popular in Botswana and Kruger National Park in South Africa. It offers the obvious perks of privacy and being able to set your own pace.
It’s actually not very difficult to organize a self-drive safari!
You can get a car from a tour company, and they will take care of the logistics for you. As long as you have your driver’s license with you, you’re all set.
While I haven’t done a self-drive safari yet, I had such an amazing experience driving through Namibia. So, a self-drive safari is definitely going on my must-do list.