How to choose an African safari

Whether you grew up watching Born Free, Out of Africa or singing along to the Lion King, it’s hard not to be captivated by Africa and the big game that roams some of the earth’s last wildernesses.

Safari has come a long way since colonial times; the days of the 'white hunters' accompanied by dozens of porters, when killing was prized over conservation. Today, there are more ways to go on safari than ever before, and as the continent opens up to tourism, with better infrastructure, qualified tour guides and a wide range of accommodation, there are more destinations to choose from as well, with Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia being added to the list of more traditional safari hotspots.

Tracking down the right safari may seem as tough as spotting a leopard in the bush, but our guide to how to choose a safari pushes back the branches and focuses your lens on the right African holiday for you.

Bush camp safaris

The original safari choice, camping harks back to the days when hunters spent months tracking game across the continent. Bush camps bring you up close to Africa’s wildlife, separated by just a sheet of canvas. Camps may be permanent or mobile, luxurious or bare-bones wilderness camps – all add that extra spark of adventure as night falls and the wilderness comes to life. Mobile camps have minimal impact, vanishing without a trace come morning.

Lodge safaris

Lodge safaris embody rustic luxury, with comfy beds and traditional features, they also make the most of modern technology such as solar heated water. You may be in a larger central lodge or individual cabins with en suite facilities and private verandahs. You’re likely to travel between lodges during your safari, but we recommend at least two nights in each, to let you relax and explore your surroundings.

Family safaris

Kids love wildlife as much or even more than adults and a family safari is a great way to bring textbooks to life in a thrilling, open-air classroom, as well as enjoy quality time together. Many lodges and tours cater specifically to children, with pools, family-sized tents and cabins, and tour guides adept at engaging youngsters. Kenya and South Africa are two of the best destinations for this. See our Safaris with kids page for more.

Safaris & beach

Safaris are a thrilling yet busy way to holiday, with pre-dawn starts, and long, juddery journeys... Get ready for the 'African massage'! While the thought of the Big Five will no doubt have you bounding out of bed in the dark, a beach at the end of it all will be a welcome contrast. Zanzibar, South Africa, Mozambique and even Mauritius are perfect for post-safari sea and sand.

Tribal cultures & wildlife

Where once a safari was synonymous with wildlife, in recent years there has been growing interest in the communities that share their land with the Big Five – from the Maasai of East Africa to the Himba of Namibia. Staying on a conservancy, visiting a local village or taking a bush walk with a native guide is an eye-opening part of any safari, giving you a huge insight into the wildlife – as well as daily life in Africa.

Walking safaris

A walking safari brings you up close to Africa – on its own terms. Your guide can show you how to track wildlife, and you’ll discover savannah and desert ecosystems. Meeting animals on foot commands a serious amount of respect! Your senses are heightened, and small things take on huge importance – a print, a plant, a curious insect. Zambia is the go-to place for walking safaris, but other top experiences include walking with the Maasai in Kenya and tracking rhino in Namibia.

Our top trip

Botswana camping safaris

Botswana camping safaris

Botswana's premier game parks, Okavango Moremi Savuti Chobe

From €1970 14 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2024: 11 Feb, 10 Mar, 17 Mar, 24 Mar, 31 Mar, 7 Apr, 14 Apr, 21 Apr, 28 Apr, 5 May, 12 May, 26 May, 2 Jun, 9 Jun, 16 Jun, 30 Jun, 7 Jul, 14 Jul, 21 Jul, 28 Jul, 11 Aug, 25 Aug, 1 Sep, 8 Sep, 22 Sep, 29 Sep, 13 Oct, 27 Oct, 3 Nov, 10 Nov, 24 Nov, 1 Dec, 8 Dec, 15 Dec, 22 Dec, 29 Dec
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Safari or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Small group safaris

Small group safaris are ideal for solo travellers, placing you with a bunch of like-minded people to share your safari tales with over sundowners. Couples, too, will enjoy the peace of mind and expertise of the group leaders, enjoying experiences that would be hard to organise alone. Children will love making new friends, leaving their parents to relax and enjoy the holiday, knowing their kids are being taken care of.

Tailor made safaris

Tailor made safaris offer the flexibility of a self drive holiday with the security and ease of a small group tour. Perfect for people with specific interests, such as birding or photography, or for travellers who would prefer to spend a longer time in a specific place. Let your tour operator know what you want – and all the planning will be taken care of – with your guide meeting you at the airport.

Self drive safaris

See wildlife at your own pace, with time out when you want and the opportunity to beat the crowds by touring the parks at less popular times of day. While the lack of infrastructure and hire cars makes self drive safaris difficult in many destinations, Namibia and South Africa are well set up. With your tour company taking care of all the logistics - and maps - all you have to do is remember to pack your driving licence.
Written by Vicki Brown
Photo credits: [Page banner: Wild Frog Photography] [Family safaris: Tim Williamson] [Tribal cultures & wildlife: Joachim Huber] [Self drive safaris: Mike and Lara Wolfe]