10 Things to Know Before Going on an African Safari

A combination of never ending savannahs, big skies and wildlife we are only used to seeing on documentaries narrated by David Attenborough, make Africa a special place. Add the friendly enthusiasm of people eager to maintain and share their way of life and it is the destination of a lifetime. An African safari is on many Irish people’s bucket list. If you are lucky enough to be planning a trip, there is a lot to consider. Here are our tips on what you need to know:

1. When to go on an African Safari

The best time to visit most countries in Africa to see wildlife, including the big five, is from August to October. This is also when the awe inspiring wildebeest migration across the Masai Mara reserve takes place in Kenya. This migration of more than 1.5million animals is one of the world’s most remarkable natural events.

The best time to visit depends on what you want to see, charts are useful when figuring out the right times to travel. Our only advice is to avoid cyclone season!

2. Visas

Irish people require a visa to enter most African countries. What varies depending on where you travel is cost and how you obtain it. For some you need to have a visa before you travel but others you can pay for it at your point of entry. Check with your travel agent to know which is applicable to you. If you are organising an African Safari yourself the Department of Foreign Affairs has information for travelling to Sub Saharan Africa including visa requirements.

3. Vaccinations for a Safari

Virtually all African countries require visitors to have vaccinations for tetanus, Hepatitis A and Typhoid as a minimum. Many require more. Don’t forget to speak to your GP or a travel medicine clinic three months in advance. Many vaccinations need to be received a period of time before travel, usually six to eight weeks to be effective. Also ask about malaria tablets if you are traveling to effected regions.

4. Travel Insurance

Comprehensive travel insurance is extremely important for an African Safari. Your adventures are likely to take you off the beaten track and away from easy access medical care. Should something happen while you are away it is important to have a comprehensive travel insurance plan that covers health, lost or stolen luggage and cancel or delayed flights. Whichever option you go for, make sure it covers all activities you plan on taking part in while you are in Africa.

5. Camera

If one of your dreams is to take National Geographic style photos of animals while you are away, don’t leave purchasing a new camera until the last minute! If you don’t already have a camera that you want to bring, consider options well in advance and practice, practice, practice. If you have time a short camera course to pick up some tips from the pros could be worthwhile.

6. First Aid

Away from European standards of healthcare, you will need more than some plasters and medication for a hangover when going on African Safari. Ask in a specialist outdoor store for a first aid kit that contains sterile syringes, needles and cannulas for use should you need treatment in a local hospital. Also make sure you have more than enough of any prescription drugs you may need, rehydration sachets, tropical strength insect repellent, a mosquito net and plenty of sun block.

7. What to pack for your Safari Holiday

Pack as light as you can, especially if you are planning a multi-centre Safari but vary the type of clothing you bring. Although it may be hot during the day, the savannah can get very cold at night so having layers is important. Include a brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face and light outdoor clothing that will dry quickly if there is a shower. Good footwear is essential. Bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots and don’t forget some good quality socks to prevent blisters.

Learn more: 5 Best Scuba Diving Locations in Europe

8. When you get there

Our advice is ask lots of questions, you are sure to have them! The safari guides will be only too happy to answer them whether they are about the wildlife you are likely to see, the best times to go out on safari or the possibility of visiting local villages or the Masai Mara if you are in Kenya. Also don’t miss out on the golden hour! The hour after sunrise and before sunset when the countryside is turned stunning shades of yellow and gold.

9. The Big Five on Safari

A name from a largely bygone era, thankfully, when hunters tried to shoot five of the largest most dangerous animals in Africa. Seeing the big five in their natural habitat is the aim of many people who go on Safari. The big five are:

1. Elephant

2. Lion

3. Rhino

4. Buffalo

5. Leopard

When planning your trip it is important to remember the big five are wild animals so there is no guarantee that you will see them all. Give yourself the best chance by planning a trip to South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania or Namibia.

10. Don't forget

  • Repellent, repellent, repellent and lots of it! It’s not the most pleasant thing in the world but neither is getting bitten to bits by mosquitos and all manner of peckish insects! So spray yourself liberally with tropical strength insect repellent, especially at dusk. Ideally shower it off before bed and sleep under a mosquito net.
  • Get cash out at the airport: ATM’s are not common outside of big cities so being prepared with plenty of cash is important. Don’t store it all in the one place. Distribute it throughout your luggage and on your person in a security wallet.
  • Put down the camera: don’t spend your entire holiday behind your camera and mobile phone…make sure you take the time to really soak up the beauty of where you are. A safari holiday should leave you with memories that last a lifetime!

Have you been on a safari? Are there any other tips you would add to the list? 

Enjoy your trip to the fullest and don't forget to choose from single, multi or annual trip options and buy your travel insurance policy online in minutes.

Related Articles