Our Recommendations for Anyone Considering an African Safari


1) Book an 'all-inclusive' safari

It's possible to book all the elements of a safari on your own but we don't recommend it. We booked with a company that arranged all of our transportation, lodging, entrance fees, meals and game drives. That made it so easy and eliminated a lot of hassle and stress. There's a lot that can go wrong but we didn't have to worry about any of it (and it went perfectly).

2) Choose a company that offers ‘Private’ game drives (as opposed to ‘Shared’)

This means you (or your group) will be the only people in the jeep besides your driver. We feel this was the biggest factor in our safari enjoyment. Having the whole Jeep to ourselves allowed us to move around freely and position ourselves for animal viewing and photography. We were able to tell our driver where we wanted to go, which animals we wanted to see, when to stop and for how long. The other huge factor is that you cannot easily take pictures if the engine is running and other people are moving around in the Jeep. We told our driver when to turn off the engine (about 100 times!) to get the vehicle perfectly still for photos. It also allowed us to sit where we wanted, and spread our junk out on the unused seats for easy access. If you have other people in your Jeep, I suppose there would be a lot of consulting and compromising, lots of missed photos due to the car rocking, and you would be confined to your own seat. We consider that our experience was 100% better because we went private.

3) Choose a company that offers a ‘Toyota Land Cruiser Pop-Up 4x4'

This is the standard, premier, 9-seat safari vehicle. We saw other types of safari vehicles (including mini-vans) and we are glad we choose the Pop-Top Land Cruiser. The pop-up gives you a large, 360-degree viewing area yet lets you duck down to avoid getting blasted with dust from passing vehicles. It also keeps you in the shade all day. But most important, this vehicle can go where mini-vans cannot. We were fording rivers, and driving through mud and rocks to get close to the animals. Mini-vans can’t go where we did so we probably got a 50% better viewing experience.

4) Choose a company that offers a ‘Fly-In’ option (as opposed to driving long hours to your safari camp)

This gives you more time at your camp and avoids the long, bumpy, dusty drive to get to your safari camp. Flying in allowed us to get two extra game drives at our destination. If you fly to your camp, you will probably have a baggage weight restriction because the safari planes are small. We were limited to 33 pounds total weight per person. Both our safari company and our hotel in Nairobi offered to hold our extra baggage while we were on safari (which we did).

5) Choose a highly-rated company

We went with ‘Natural World Kenya Safaris’ and we’re glad we did. They went out of their way to accommodate us, gave us an experienced, knowledgeable driver, and definitely had their act together. They gave us door-to-door service between the airport and our hotel (and our safari camps) so we never had to deal with any transportation issues. Because they are reputable, we felt comfortable giving them deposit money in advance. I’m sure there are a lot of good safari companies but we don’t have anything else to compare to. We would choose Natural World Kenya Safaris every time.

Here is one of the things Natural World Kenya Safaris did that sets them apart: There was an airstrip near our camp in Masai Mara, and another airstrip about an hour away. They intentionally arranged our flight at the far-away airstrip so that the drive to our camp was like an extra game drive. They didn't tell us they were going to do this and we had no clue where we were. As it turns out, we saw more animals driving from the airstrip to our camp than we thought we were going to see all week!

6) Bring a good camera

You'll want to bring your best camera with a zoom lens, but you won't need a tripod or a flash. Sometimes we could see animals in the distance but could not get very close because there were no roads to take us there. That's when a zoom lens came in handy.

Kenya

Of course, all these options cost more but they made a huge, positive difference in our experience. If you’re going to go, save up and pay the price for these options – we’re glad we did!

There are animals all over Sub-Sahara Africa and you can go on a safari in many countries. Our research led us to the Masai Mara in Kenya in September. This gave us a chance to see the ‘Great Migration’ of animals in the Serengeti at a time that has ideal weather. We actually missed the migration (we were too late) but still saw a huge variety and a huge quantity of animals, and the weather was perfect. It’s hard to imagine that it could have been much better. We also went to Amboseli National Park which had fewer animal varieties, but larger herds of elephants and giraffes. We would recommend both for first-time visitors.