First Time Safaris
First Time Safaris
Our Guide to First Time Safaris
Whether a first time safari has been on your bucket list for a while, or whether it is a new type of trip that has been sparked by interest and curiosity, an African safari will not disappoint. Although there are many destinations to chose from, there are certain countries and national parks that work well for first-time safaris.
The main points to consider for first-time safaris is the destination and the amount of time spent on safari. Although it doesn’t sound particularly long, a 3 or 4 day safari is sufficient for a first-time safari as the days are very long, with early starts and warm temperatures. A huge amount of wildlife can be seen during this time.
For destinations, a country that offers a range of experiences to compliment the safari is a good option. For example, South Africa not only offers the iconic Big Five (rhino, elephant, leopard, cape buffalo and lion), but also good whale and dolphin watching opportunities, scenic coastlines, mountain hikes and the Cape Winelands for wine enthusiasts.
Recommended First Time Safari Itineraries
Cape Town, Franschhoek, Kruger National Park, Bazaruto Archipelago (Mozambique)14 NightsFrom $6,384 PPDiscover iconic Cape Town sights, explore and sip in the Cape Winelands, and marvel at Kruger Nation...
Arusha, Tarangire, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater & Zanzibar12 NightsFrom $7,788 PPThis itinerary includes three national parks in northern Tanzania - Tarangire National Park, the Ngo...
Nairobi, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Samburu National Reserve, Masai Mara National Park10 NightsFrom $8,463 PPThis itinerary is a combination of flying and driving, offering safari highlights in Kenya.
Cape Town, Swellendam, Oudtshoorn, Plettenberg Bay, Amakhala Game Reserve12 NightsFrom $5,151 PPTravel from Cape Town to the mountains and seaside cities, enjoying many outdoor adventures before c...
Arusha, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park10 NightsFrom $7,972 PPThis 10-night safari is designed to maximize your chances of seeing the Great Migration as the herds...
Arusha, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti, Zanzibar12 NightsFrom $6,617 PPThis iconic Tanzania safari and beach trip offers 14 nights of luxury accommodation in three destina...
Best Countries for First Time Safaris
With so many safari destination options across East and Southern Africa, we understand that the choice may be a little overwhelming if it’s your first safari. We have recommended a couple of countries that are best options for first time safaris:
South Africa is often regarded the best country for first-time safaris and this is for a number of reasons. First of all, there are malaria-free national parks and reserves which is desirable for people who have never been to Africa before. South Africa also offers a variety of destinations and experiences aside from safari. These include visiting Cape Town, the wine-lands, and the Drakensburg mountains among others. These work well to compliment the safari experience which in itself, offers very good value for money.
Located in East Africa, Tanzania is a fantastic choice for first time safaris because it offers incredible wildlife populations and unique sightings. The northern parks of the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park are good first-time safari destinations as the accommodation and guiding is superb – you will feel comfortable and well looked-after at every stage of your trip. You can also combine Zanzibar for a twin-center trip, which is a tropical island off the eastern coast of Tanzania.
Kenya is another great choice for first time safaris. It is a particularly desirable destination because of logistics: there are direct flights from London to Nairobi on a daily basis, and New York to Nairobi with Kenya Airways on a regular schedule. Kenya was once renowned as a cheaper family safari option but today, it has taken its guiding to a new level, and with exceptionally luxurious lodges and camps across the country, it is a safe option for those wanting an all-round safari experience.
Our Recommended Safari Camps and Lodges for First Time Safaris
One of the most common questions we get asked from people who have never been on safari before, is what is the accommodation like? There is a variety of accommodation options including tented camps and larger safari lodges. Here are a few recommendations:
The Best National Parks for First Time Safaris
As well as having seven or eight countries to choose from for your safari experience, each country then offers around 10-15 national parks and reserves to choose from. There is so much choice, but we have put together some of the best national parks for your first time safari and why they offer such a good experience.
Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti National Park is iconic in every way and the reason it is so attractive for first time safaris is because of its diversity. The park is home to the Great Migration which is one of the most exciting sightings in the safari world. For first time safaris, the sight of even 2,000 wildebeest would be mesmorizing but, with over 2 million wildebeest, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Serengeti is also accessible to get to by either driving or flying, depending on what else you combine in the itinerary ad how much your budget is. It offers so many accommodation experiences and is a real gem in the safari world.
The Masai Mara National Reserve
The Masai Mara National Reserve is located in the southern Kenya and shares the same ecosystem as the Serengeti National Park. Although the Mara is five times smaller, it offers a dense wildlife experience. Every game drive you go on, expect to see lion prides, elephant families, buffalo herds, hyena and hippo aplenty. The Masai Mara can be accessed via road from Nairobi although this is a long drive, and we would always recommend flying in via a light aircraft. This park offers good game viewing throughout the year but try to avoid the rainy months between April and May. Although this can be a dramatic landscape, most of the camps are closed during the rains.
Greater Kruger National Reserves
The Greater Kruger National Park comprises of several private game reserves. These private reserves have unfenced borders with the main park, the whole area totals 20 000 000 hectares. This enormous area has a very high concentrations of wildlife which increases your chances of seeing the Big 5 (elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo) as well as the other animals you want to see on safari. These parks also have fantastic guiding, the rangers are highly trained and are a source of so much information for guests who are new to safari. The rangers will explain how the reserve works and the animal behaviours.
Although Uganda isn’t your conventional first time safari destination, it is definitely one to consider if you have the mountain gorillas on your bucket list. The safari experience is very different to other countries in East and Southern Africa like Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa. Instead, the parks are very green and dense but, with elephants, buffalos, lions and hippo aplenty, Uganda still offers a good safari experience in Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Park. For a first time gorilla trekking experience, Uganda’s Bwindi National Park is a fantastic option: the rangers, guides and trackers are excellent and the experience is completely humbling.
Selous Game Reserve
Although the southern parks of Tanzania are regarded as parks ‘off the beaten track’, the Selous Game Reserve is a destination we would also recommend for first time safaris. The reserve is very accessible as it’s only a 30-minute flight from Dar es Salaam on a light aircraft. It’s also a short flight over to Zanzibar so combining a twin-center safari and beach trip is great with Selous. The park itself offers a very diverse safari experience as the Rufiji River facilities a range of activities that other parks cannot. These include boat safaris and sundowners on the lakes.
Madikwe Game Reserve
This beautiful reserve is just a four hour drive from Johannesburg Airport and offers world class game viewing. The reserve is malaria free and that often appeals to people on their first safari. Madikwe is up near the Botswana border and is a remote part of the country. The perfect destination to find some quiet and enjoy the beauty of the African bush. The reserve is home to the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) as well as excellent cheetah and wild dog sightings. The general public is not permitted into the reserve, only people staying at the lodges can go on safari in the Madikwe Reserve.
The Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta is one of the premier safari destinations and is one of the last true wilderness areas left in Africa. If you are going on safari for the first time, it offers an authentic African wildlife experience, far from the crowds of modern life. The number of visitors is very tightly controlled, you can experience the beauty of the area as it has been for hundreds of years. The Delta is a huge network of water ways, best explored on a mokoro (a local canoe) or on game drives through the reserve. The wildlife has been undisturbed for generations, resulting in spectacular game viewing.
First Time Safari Q&A
Elaine our Africa Safari Specialist
Is a twin-center trip good for first time safaris?
When people are going on safari for the first time they will often combine it with another destination. Most people will start with 3 or 4 days on safari as part of a wider itinerary. Popular itineraries include: Cape Town & safari, Mozambique beaches & safari, Serengeti safari and Zanzibar, Victoria Falls & safari, garden route & safari, and Masai Mara and the beach (Diani Beach, Zanzibar, Seychelles for example).
How much is a first time safari?
The price range for a safari is huge, the price starts at around £200/$300 per person per night. This price includes all your meals, drinks and game viewing activities. The price can then rise all the way to the top end of the market at £3000/$4000 per person per night. South Africa is generally one of the most affordable safari destinations in Africa. If you have a budget in mind, a good option is to discuss it with us on the phone so we can be realistic about which destinations to recommend.
Which safari camps are best for first time safaris?
This is quite a difficult question to answer because all the camps we use offer excellent guiding and accommodation. It is more of a question of personal taste and budget, each camp and each area offer a very different experience. I would also consider the wider itinerary, for example if you really wanted to go to the beach, I would select lodges near the sea. For those who are nervous about the idea of a tented camp, I would go for something that’s a little more secure in terms of the accommodation style and size. For example here are safari lodges which are are much larger in terms of room numbers and facilities. They are also more likely to have air conditioning and WiFi, which some people look for.
What vaccinations do I need for my safari?
Before you travel, we would suggest visiting your doctor to ensure all your standard vaccination are up to date. Your doctor will also be able to advise you on the current recommendations for travel vaccinations. Generally, the only additional medication you may need is malaria tablets if you are entering a malaria area. For travel to East Africa, you will need a yellow fever certificate.
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