How to plan a South African Safari
How to Plan a
South African Safari
How to plan a South African Safari in the Greater Kruger National Park area can involve a huge number of choices and options. Below are a few tips and advice for your South African Safari vacation when booking a South African Safari
Which is the best safari park?
What time of the year is best to travel?
Is there a difference between a camp and a lodge?
Why is there such a big price range?
Are all safaris family-friendly?
Do all safaris have the Big Five?
What about malaria?
There aren’t clear-cut answers to these questions. However, Destination Africa offers advice that might assist you in making better decisions. We can also advise on the best safari lodges if you want to see leopards and specific types of birds, fauna & flora.
We can assist with different types of adventures like Walking Safaris, Sound Safaris, and children-friendly safaris. Hoedspruit Online is based in Hoedspruit, the Big5 Safari Capital will answer some of your queries.
When’s the best time to go?
The drier winter season: The best time to see animals because the grass has died and most trees have lost their leaves. This makes it easier to see the animals. These are the months from June through to September. However, the dry season is the busiest season due to the European summer holidays and the South African school holidays. Booking in advance is essential.
The Spring season: The start of the rainy season is when the first rains start to fall. The summer birds return to an abundance of new growth and fruit. If you are an avid birder, spring is a great time to be birding offering great photographic opportunities. The bushveld is full of flowers and seeing the big trees flowering is quite a treat.
The Rainy season: Good rains are received from October through to March. This time of the year it can be very hot. December through to February temperatures can rise above 35 degrees. Game viewing can be a bit more difficult due to the long grass. The bushveld is thick but there are plenty of birds from the LBJ’s to the flocks of queleas and the raptors. Due to the abundance of water, the water holes are not always so popular, making searching for the animals challenging.
Is there the best time of the year to go on Safari? No, just depends on what you want to see. Every season has its advantages, you will come back again and again.
Which is the best safari park to visit?
Choosing a South African Safari park destination can be tricky. Each safari park has its draw card. For first-timers, southern Kruger National Park. Teeming with animals, you are almost guaranteed to see the Big Five (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffalos) within a three-day safari. It is however busy with lots of safari vehicles and self-drive tourists. The northern parts of Kruger National Park are much quieter.
There are many private Big5 game reserves near Kruger Park with safari camps for all budgets. These safari parks include Sabi Sands, Timbavati, Thornybush, Klaserie, Balule, Karongwe and Makalali. Further afield there is the Pilanesberg and Madikwe Game Reserves. Prices can vary per person sharing with 2 game drives and three meals per day from R2600 (US$ 175) to opulent safari lodges at R37000 (US$ 2460). Hoedspruit Online will assist you in making the right choices within your budget and time restraints.
What type of clothes should I wear?
Always wear neutral colours, not white or any other brightly coloured clothes. Blend in with the environment.
Mid-Summer: It can get very hot during the summer months, so you need to bring along cool clothing, a hat, and sunglasses. If you burn easily in the sun a long sleeve cotton shirt and trousers are a must. You will sweat a lot, so bringing clothing that dries easily, it will make your life a lot easier.
Mid-Winter: Early morning and evening safari game drives can be very cold, especially with the wind-chill factor in an open-sided safari vehicle. You will need a hat/scarf/beanie, gloves, and a warm jacket. However, once the sun’s up, you’ll want to strip and pop on your sun hat and shades.
Rest of the year: Always come prepared. Bring along protective covers for your camera equipment in case it rains. Don’t worry about a raincoat as every lodge provides them on game drives.
Bush Walks: Most camps offer morning bush walks so make sure to pack some closed-toe comfortable walking shoes to protect your feet from thorns. Try to blend in with the bushveld. This is especially important on a bush walk.
What should I pack for my safari?
If you flying to your safari lodge, most light aircraft flights have a weight limit for luggage, usually 10kg to 20kg per passenger. Check with the airline before embarking on your trip. You’ll need safari drive gear (see above) and maybe a change for the evening. Lodges don’t require you to dress up for evening meals. Sun cream with a factor of at least 40 is a must.
Photography enthusiasts will probably want to take all their equipment but take a spare sim card to store photos. Binoculars are a must for avid birders. Remember to bring something to read during the afternoon downtime. Most lodges have good Wi-fi and some lodge have well-stocked libraries. If you are self-driving, then don’t worry about weight limits.
How should I book my safari?
How you travel (self-drive, transfers, private flights) depends on your time, interests, and budget. Most people enjoy doing their research and booking things directly with camps or lodges. However, Hoedspruit Online is perfectly placed to organise your safari holiday within your budget and requirements. We can arrange exclusive use lodges, weddings, honeymoons, birthday cakes, flowers, and private safari drives. If you have a complex itinerary in mind Hoedspruit Online can take the admin off your hands and offer suggestions for accommodation and destination options and make the bookings at no extra cost to you.
How many days should my safari adventure be?
Three nights is a minimum (6 game drives), but if you have the time and budget, we recommend a 5-day safari. However, we recommend staying 3 nights at one safari lodge and 2 nights at another safari lodge. If you have 10 days, we recommend staying at 3 different safari lodges to experience the vast differences in bushveld, birding, animals, fauna, and flora. Kruger Park is the size of Belgium so there is a vast difference between the northern and southern sections of the park.
This excludes the private game reserves in the Greater Kruger Park. You may have to overnight on your way to the safari lodge, so allow for the appropriate extra nights on either side of your safari adventure. Hoedspruit Online will be happy to advise you on safari lodge options.
Are safaris child or family-friendly?
South Africa is a great destination for families with smaller children. There are malaria-free or low-risk malaria areas. Some lodges specifically cater for families and encourage children of all ages to experience a wildlife safari. Booking through Hoedspruit Online, we can ensure the lodges you choose are child friendly and check if children are allowed on game drives as this differs from Lodge to Lodge.
Some lodges require that families book a private vehicle. Walking safaris are usually reserved for over 16-year-olds. If you wish to stay in a malaria-free area, safari lodges in the Madikwe Game Reserve will be an ideal destination. Most of the lodges in the Greater Kruger National Park area are in a low-risk malaria area but it is always better to check before making a booking.
Where should I stay, in a Tented Safari Camp or Luxury Lodge?
The difference between camps and lodges is, normally, that camps are canvas structures and lodges are buildings with bricks. Many safari camps have a combination of canvas and bricks. Most of the camps have expansive tented suites (50m sq), large private viewing decks and a plunge pool.
The choice of a lodge or camp does not alter the African wildlife adventure. Both camps and lodges can be equally luxurious. Many of the safari lodges have thatched roofs, so if you suffer from allergies to grass, please inquire before making a booking.
Are there any protocols I need to know about while on safari?
An introductory briefing from your qualified game guide on the dos and don’ts on your first game drive. Please adhere to these rules as you are in a wildlife environment where the animals are king. Listening to your guide on a bush walk is especially important. Keeping quiet around wildlife means they’re less likely to be startled, but it’s also respectful to other guests on your bush walk.
It’s usually fine to talk but be conscious of others and keep voice levels relatively low. If you have children with you on safari and you are sharing a vehicle, always be respectful of the other guests. If you have a particular interest in a certain bird or animal, let your guide know before you leave on a game drive, so he knows what to look out for.
Do I need special safari insurance?
Most safari lodges don’t require you to have special safari insurance. However, you should always make sure you are covered for the essentials, medical coverage and repatriation, cancellation or travel delays, loss of valuables and so on. Have you got any pre-existing medical conditions? Then make sure your policy accounts for that.
If you plan to do a bush walk or are on a multi-day walking safari, contact your insurance provider to confirm these activities are covered. If you’re in doubt about any aspect of your policy, contact your insurance company directly before you leave on your safari holiday. Do not rely just on the insurance you might get through purchasing an air ticket. Rather consult your own insurance company before you leave on holiday.
What visas or vaccinations do I need?
Each country has different entry requirements. It is advisable to ensure your travel agent gets you the right information. Doing your research is a good idea. Allow for plenty of time to get a Visa (if required) and make sure the vaccinations required (if any) are valid and up to date.
When is the most affordable time to go on a safari to save money?
Travelling in the low season, the wet season in South Africa is the best way to save money on a safari. Most safari lodges cut their rates during this period and sometimes offer deals like “Stay for 4 nights and pay for 3 nights”. There is a risk of heavy rain which makes it hard to see wildlife. It seldom rains all day but often rains in the late afternoon.
If you’re on a tight budget, look for self-catering accommodation and places where you can self-drive, you’ll find lots of options like this in the Kruger National Park.
How much does it cost to go on a Safari adventure?
The cost of a safari ranges widely, though it’s rarely cheap. A no-frills self-driving safari in Kruger National Park (SANParks Lodges) starts at about R1200 (US$80) per lodge per night self-catering. Fully inclusive safari lodges start at about R10 000 (US$ 666) mid-range R30 000 (US$2000) and top end at R75 000 (US$5000) per couple per luxury suite. These rates normally include everything from 3 meals, soft drinks (plus alcoholic drinks at high-end properties) and 2 game drives every day.
Warning: Many accommodation establishments call themselves Lodges or even Safari Lodges but are B&B’s in Wildlife Estates or Eco Estates. These lodges are of 4 or 5-star quality but they are not in a Big5 Game Reserve or Safari Park. If the price per person is below R1500 (US$100) and doesn’t offer 3 meals a day and 2 game drives included in the price then you are not going to be staying in a proper safari lodge.
Light aircraft flights can add on quite a lot, especially if you’re travelling to a few different places. Most safari destinations can be reached by car in the Greater Kruger Park area, or you can get a Transfer from Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport to your safari lodge. Don’t forget to factor in a possible stay over the night before and after your safari if you have a long way to travel. Hoedspruit Online can advise you on approximate travel times.
How much must I tip?
Most lodges have a tipping (gratuity) recommended policy. It is suggested that you tip from R150 to R450 (US$10 to US$30) per person per day. You can tip your guide and tracker separately or include the tip in the general tip box. Tips can be added to your lodge bill, or you can pay in local currency. You can also pay in foreign currency if the currency is US$ or any other major currency.
Why is there such a big difference in Lodge prices?
The vast difference in prices has normally nothing to do with your wildlife safari experience, but rather the level of luxury that is offered. Entry-level lodges (from a per person per night rate) are all graded 4 or 5 stars in Big5 game reserves, but the suites, facilities and public areas are smaller than the top-end lodges. Many of your opulent safari lodges offer limited or all drinks in to their rates.
Destination Afric is perfectly placed to make your African Safari adventure a reality. Hoedspruit Online know the lodges in the area. Which lodge will be the most suitable for a couples-only safari, a family safari with young children, a safari bush wedding safari, or a honeymoon safari? Luxury South African safari tours can also be arranged. We don’t charge any fees to make bookings or other travel arrangements. Take the stress out of organising your safari with Destination Africa..
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