If you’ve never been on a safari and are considering it for the first time, you’ll have many questions. Even if a safari has been on your bucket list for years, taking your first steps to make your dream a reality can be a little overwhelming. Over the years, I have helped many adventurers; to help you decide and plan, here’s an overview of the key questions my clients ask.
Will I like a safari?
If you love nature and are glued to wildlife documentaries, then there’s no doubt you’ll be delighted to watch the action unfold in front of you. Catching your first glimpse of a giraffe’s head soaring over the treetops or hearing the distant roar of lions is exciting, and it only gets better and more thrilling the closer to the action that you get.
But it’s not just the ‘Big 5’; a safari offers so much more, from delightfully comical warthog encounters to majestic elephants. It’s quite likely that when you recount your trip to friends and family at home, your highlight will be something different from what you expected before you left. Whether this is a sunset watering hole experience or the sight of hundreds of wildebeest, the memories will last a lifetime.
Is it suitable for me?
Safaris are active, they’re dusty, hot and have more than their fair share of insects and bumpy tracks. To catch some of the action, you’re likely to be up early, or late, or both. The environment is likely to be more rustic than what you’re used to, and the culture quite different. If you can take all of this in your stride, then an amazing experience awaits.
What’s best, a guided or unguided safari?
That depends. Can you tell which prints and scat belong to which animal and how long ago they were left? Most of us can’t, so sit back, relax, and leave it to the experts; this is their back yard, and they know its inhabitants well. Enjoy scoping the horizon and the thrill of discovery without the stress of maps and itineraries and the worry of missing something. You’re on holiday!
That said, some smaller parks offer an excellent unguided experience and would give you a flavor of the larger wildlife experience on a big reserve safari. Addo Elephant Park in South Africa is one such example. This is a self-drive day trip that’s a fun day out that would complement a South African sightseeing holiday, for example.
What’s the accommodation like?
As with any holiday, anywhere in the world, there is a choice of accommodation. Yes, you can camp, and your choice will range from bare canvas to luxury structures. But don’t feel driven by some quasi-canvas authenticity; safari lodges are available, and if this is where your comfort zone is, there’s no shame. Lodge accommodation needn’t break the bank; offerings range from budget to luxury.
How do I choose which safari is best?
There is indeed a huge choice. Some locations are vast, some smaller, some are private reserves, and some national parks. There are regions better for seeing certain species and at particular times of the year and some that specialize in certain species or encounters. To get the most of your holiday, I would always recommend using an agent.
Why? Experience and knowledge.
Over the years, my company has helped many animal enthusiasts choose the perfect safari and accommodation options for them. Established agents with great reputations will have amassed valuable insight into locations and operators and will be best suited to match your requirements
Is it safe?
Choose an established operator with a great reputation, and a safari is a thrilling experience. Remember that the majority of your adventure will take place from the safety of a vehicle guided by experts in animal behavior. Follow their directions. Remember to stay hydrated and apply common sense; don’t wander off on your own, venture out at night, or take a dip in a lake or river, and your experience will be a wondrous adventure.
You might be concerned about tropical diseases. Consult a health care professional early to get advice about immunization and malaria precautions, as well as any other concerns that you may have. Remember that some immunization protocols need to be initiated many months before departure, so don’t leave this until the last minute.
When Should I book?
Early. Plan ahead, not just because of the aforementioned medical considerations. Some of the more specific safaris book up well in advance, so it pays to be early. The sooner you book, the better options you will have for flight times and deals too.
Do I need a visa?
Maybe. Depending on your passport and where you are going, you might need to apply for a visa before you go. Visa applications involve completing some paperwork and sending off your passport. Some locations operate a visa on arrival system, which means your visa requirements are taken care of upon arrival at your destination airport, often a fee applies. Again, a good agent will help you understand your requirements.
What should I pack?
Think comfort and hot weather and pack lightly.
African safaris seem to touch something deep in your soul. Maybe it’s the connection to nature; maybe it’s something more primitive. Whatever the connection, if it’s something that ignites a spark, don’t delay; you won’t regret it.
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When I was a kid, the image that came to mind when I heard “bed and breakfast” was one of an old house filled with antiques, soft four-posted beds, a wandering cat or an old sleepy dog on the property, maybe run by a sweet elderly couple.
While this image certainly has its own kind of rustic charm, it should be said that the bed and breakfast has evolved significantly in the last several decades. In fact, many B&Bs today provide all of the plush luxury of a hotel — plus the added bonus of more privacy, more personal attention, and lip-smacking homemade meals, often in the tradition of the country or region where you’re staying.
You can find exquisite B&Bs all over the US, of course. In addition, inns throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland, Wales, Italy and beyond offer a wonderfully personal way to experience Western Europe. What might surprise you is to find this same intimate tradition in places like Cambodia, Thailand, Brazil, and New Zealand. They really are anywhere you want to go.
In these unique spaces, you don’t just get a plate of pancakes and some coffee in the morning. You can get multi-course meals with complimentary wine service in the evenings, plus easy accommodations for dietary needs. You can find top-of-the-line spas, in-room fireplaces, gorgeous swimming pools, breathtaking views, and peaceful grounds to walk. Just like at a big hotel, you can choose to interact with other guests, or you can opt for private room service. You can be in the heart of a busy city like Amsterdam or Chicago, just steps away from main attractions — or you can rest in total quiet in the green Irish countryside or overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Perhaps best of all, when you stay in a B&B, you are one of a handful of guests staying in a place that is owned and operated by someone who is personally invested in your enjoyment. You’ll feel personally taken care of — which you are. As one happy reviewer put it: “The thing that made our stay was the personal touches. We now have a problem, though – nothing else will compare!”
If you want to jump start your imagination with some unbelievable photos, you can check out this 2016 Traveler’s Choice Awards for B&Bs .
And when you’re ready for your next romantic, cozy getaway, I’d love to help you plan it down to the last perfect detail. I might even be able to find you a place with a friendly old dog if you like.
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