Safari in Africa – All you need to know

A Safari is one of those things everyone should do! Even if you’re scared of lions, on a low budget or unsure about being in the middle of Africa surrounded by nothing else but wildlife… for us that part sounds like a dream!

When we planned our safari in Kenya, we had so many questions! So we’ve put a post together for you, to help answer those questions & inspire you to go. If there is anything else you want to know, just get in touch 🙂

Where is best?

In short there is no right or wrong answer. We’d say there’s nothing comparable to the absolutely stunning Masaai Mara in Kenya, though we also heard from the Masaai tribe that Tanzania is just as good. The main thing we recommend is to choose a natural park / habitat compared to a nature reserve. It’s important to research what animals you’d like to see / what else you’d like to do as this will be a determining factor of location. For example, would you like to see the big 5 / would you like to travel to local tribal villages?

We wanted to do both of these things in Kenya, we ended up seeing the big 5 by the end of day 1! It was absolutely amazing!

When should I go?

Timing is everything with Safari, so make sure you research what you’d like to see and the best time of year to see it. For example, the great migration was on our bucket list, and we also didn’t want it to be peak tourist season so we chose the end of October! Weather wise you can pretty much go anytime, though it’s best to avoid the peak rainy season (mid November onwards). Outside of that, temperatures are steady during the year. Peak safari season could make a disappointing visit in terms of being in a resort full of tourists and having too many vehicles out on the Safari, that’s without talking about prices!

The end of October worked really well for us, we were caught in a couple of downpours, though not lasting long, and watching the great migration was watching planet earth live! One of the most incredible experiences we’ve ever had and will never forget! Overall, we’d say for Masaai Mara, mid October is best.

Do I need vaccines?

Unless you’re an avid adventurer and have been having all the shots in the catalogue (we have!), most likely yes you will need them. The best thing to do is to check the website that NHS (England) uses to give travel health advice, so at least you know which ones to expect and are mentally ready when the nurse tells you that you’ll need a few injections… £££

If you’re not from the UK this is still a good website to check out for advice.

Vaccines will also include anti malaria tablets, there are a few options here and we’ve tried them all. We’d recommend opting for the slightly more expensive ‘Malarone’. Overall there are way less tablets to take, for a shorter period and you don’t have to avoid the sun! This sounds strange, though with Doxycycline you have to try and stay out of the sun! Don’t think I want to know why!

What should I pack?

This is for the checklist lovers:

  • Light jacket & jumper, shorts & joggers: the savannah is very cold at sunrise and warms up mid morning. On the drive to your safari, you’re likely to be wrapped up in a blanket, and an hour or two later, you’ll be baking in sun! Don’t underestimate this change in temperature by thinking you will grin & bear it! Wear layers you can change as the temperature changes.
  • Sun screen: go for a 50 spf, light spray option, the last 2 things you need when the heat reaches 40oC is covering your body with thick suncream / putting a jumper on because you’re still burning.
  • Light backpack: this will be your best friend each day. A medium size bag to fit your camera equipment, mosquito and sun screen sprays, some water and keep your jacket/jumper when it gets hot.
  • Mosquito repellent: who knew there are so many options!? We found one that kept the feckers away on our trip to Vietnam, so we got the same and it worked wonders. You’ll be familiar with the brand, it may not smell great when you first put it on, and will leave a slight shiny layer on your body, though trust us, having zero bites is worth it! It’s called Jungle Formula, maximum protection.
  • Hat: you can of course go for a discrete cap or a full on pamela. In the words of Madonna – Express yourself, though protect yourself! Definitely avoid a black hat!
  • Sun glasses: goes without saying… fashionable or practical. You’ll be taking them off a lot to take pictures / stare in wonder at the animals, pick a place to put them each time! Not like us… Shay bought a new pair of Ray Bans, wore them day 1 of Safari, took them off to look at a lion & I then sat on them when taking a picture! 1 hour in to the drive 🙈
Iban styling his hat and sunglasses while having a nap.

Where to stay… Eco lodge or resort?

For us this was an easy answer: eco lodge. We love being in the middle of it all, meeting the locals, experiencing the culture, eating traditional food & being conscious of our carbon footprint. We couldn’t be happier with our stay at Mara Engai eco lodge. All the staff are from the Masaai tribe and spend monthly rotations working in the hotel / going back to their villages. We spent time with them to understand how they live and their values / traditions. We can’t lie, it’s also pretty amazing being escorted back to your lodge at night by two warriors, protecting you from any animals, and hearing elephants grazing 50ft of so away few yards away at night or bush baby’s running on your roof! The lodges are quite literally paradise! Check out our post on Masaai Mara to read more about this.

Meet the locals

We can’t encourage you enough to do this! Put yourself out there & get to know local people. The incredible animals are one thing and the amazing people are the second thing, equally as unforgettable! There is nothing like meeting a group of Masaai Warriors and learning their ways, even participating in a jumping competition! (Shay won and got the honour of being named ‘the white Masaai’!)

If your lodge/resort offers the opportunity to go to a Masaai village, definitely go. Parts of it may feel slightly commercialised, though the reality is this is means of income for locals. You won’t regret and it will help you to put everything into perspective. It was a life-changing trip for us.

If you have any other questions or if you have some other advice / tips that you’d like to share with fellow travellers please leave a comment below or get in touch!

Shay & Iban 👬 🦁

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