The classic African safari conjures up images of exploring the wide-open plains of the savanna, searching for exciting wildlife with binoculars in hand and animal guidebooks at the ready.
It’s an incredible, not-to-be- missed experience of life.
All great safaris start with the right planning, but you may be wondering “How long should I go on safari for?”.
More often than not, people plan for 1-2 week safaris, thinking the longer the better. These people will squeeze in as many parks as possible. This sounds great in theory- the more the better, right? Well, there are a few things to consider before booking that 2-week multi-game park trip to Africa.
In my experience, 2 to 4 days on safari is optimal…
To understand why, let’s look at an example of a typical day on safari in the Serengeti.
Things to consider when going on safari
Usually, it’s up early for breakfast (dawn) as most animals are active during the morning and in the evening when it is cooler. This is also a good time to spot nocturnal animals such as lions returning from the nights hunt.
Then, after a few hours driving around animal spotting, there will be lunch, followed by another few hours of game driving. Typically you will spend around 6-8 hours in a safari vehicle.
Keep in mind, roads can vary in conditions so be prepared for a few bumps and a bit of dust. Your safari vehicle will come with a roof hatch, sometimes with or without a cover for good wildlife viewing. You can expect a bit of sun exposure during the day. Temperatures can reach 30C + at midday in the Serengeti in the dry season and all this combined can have you feeling pretty exhausted by the end of the day.
Another factor to consider is what I like to call “animal fatigue” a condition that sets in depending on how many zebras, antelope or other high density animals you see in any given day. Don’t get me wrong, seeing animals in the wild is an exciting experience and the thrill of coming across a “zeal” of zebras or a “tower” of giraffes is hard to beat. However, the novelty does wear off on people after a few days (believe me, I’ve seen it happen a lot!) when combined with the aforementioned conditions.
Tips from my experiences
In popular national parks like the Serengeti, Ngorongoro crater (Tanzania) Kruger (South Africa) Masai Mara (Kenya) Chobe (Botswana) and Etosha (Namibia) just to name a few, you will see a good number of animals in a day or two driving around.
In the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro crater, it’s possible to see lions, cheetah and even rhinos in a day. A good guide will be able to spot these animals or communicate with other drivers to locate them. However, it’s good to keep in mind that it is a game park and not a zoo. Luck, and being in the right place at the right time has a lot to do with what you see, especially when it comes to seeing the elusive leopard!
In my experience leading groups on safaris, the average person prefers 2-4 days on safari maximum to make the safari experience an incredibly enjoyable one. If you plan to visit other parks, keep it to a maximum of 5 days total.
For a well rounded experience, think about combining a safari with travel to other attractions within the country. Of course, if you are a hardcore wildlife enthusiast looking to find rarer, harder to spot species, a budding wildlife photographer or have come to witness the great migration, you might want to take a bit more time.