Unforgettable Travel Company

Luxury First Time Africa 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 choose from, there are certain countries and national parks that work well for first-time safaris. We have put together a guide to help narrow your ultimate safari down.

But what makes a luxury first-time safari unforgettable? For most, wildlife sightings are the most important aspect of planning a safari. The Big Five is a collection of animals that historically, were the most difficult animals to hunt on foot. Of course today, the Big Five – consisting of the elephant, the buffalo, the lion, the leopard, and the rhino – have become a top priority for travelers on their first-time safaris. If this is the case, some national parks offer a greater opportunity to see the Big Five, such as private reserves bordering the Kruger National Park in South Africa, or the Masai Mara Conservancies in Kenya.

Meet the Expert

First time? You’re come to the right place! Whether you’re looking to experience the dense wildlife of the Serengeti, take a hot air balloon ride over the Masai Mara, or tick the Big 5 off your list in South Africa – I am here to curate your ultimate, unforgettable safari.

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Gemma D Souza

Africa Specialist
Gemma DSouza Expert profile

Recommended First Time Safari Itineraries

To give you some inspiration, here are some itinerary ideas for your first-time safari to Africa. All of our safari itineraries are curated and designed with you in mind, and our specialists can customize everything to best suit you.

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What Makes Your First Time Safari Unforgettable?

Gemma 184


Africa Specialist

There is nothing quite like waking up before sunrise in the comfort of your luxury safari camp, in the middle of the wilderness, with nothing but the sounds of the bush. Hearing lion roar, hyenas cackle, and the crunching of leaves as the gentle giants – the elephants, giraffe and buffalo – wander through the night. The thrill of a safari can be felt in almost every national park on the continent. It’s that magic of the wilderness and the simplicity of it all, that makes a safari so special.

The main points to consider for first-time safaris are 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, and we will be very happy to create this safari for you.

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.

  • Chem chem Tanzania

    Serengeti National Park

    The park is home to the Great Migration which is one of the most exciting sightings in the safari world. The Serengeti is also accessible to get to by either driving or flying, depending on what else you combine in the itinerary and how much your budget is. It offers so many accommodation experiences and is a real gem in the safari world.

    Serengeti National Park
  • Kneya Masai Mara angama

    The Masai Mara National Reserve

    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. 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.

    Masai Mara National Reserve
  • Tengile south africa

    Kruger National Park

    The Greater Kruger National Park comprises of several private game reserves. The Kruger is home to 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 behaviors.

    Kruger National Park
  • Gorilla bwindi uganda

    Gorilla Trekking

    Although neither Uganda or Rwanda isn’t your conventional first time safari destination, it is definitely one to consider if you have mountain gorillas on your bucket list.  For a first time gorilla trekking experience, Uganda’s Bwindi National Park, or Rwanda‘s Volcanoes National Park is a fantastic option: the rangers, guides and trackers are excellent and the experience is completely humbling.

    Gorilla Trekking
  • Selous hippo

    Nyerere National Reserve

    As one of the largest reserves in Tanzania, the Nyerere National Reserve is very accessible as it’s only a 30-minute flight from Dar es Salaam on a light aircraft. The park itself offers a very diverse safari experience as the Rufiji River facilitates a range of activities that other parks cannot. These include boat safaris and sundowners on the lakes.

    Nyerere National Park
  • Mokete okavango

    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 Okavango Delta
Okavango delta tebu2

When to go on a Luxury Africa Safari

We offer luxury African safaris to a variety of countries across East and Southern Africa. While you can generally go on safari year-round, each national park has its own best time to visit. East Africa has two rainy seasons that take place both in April, May and November. The arrival and intensity of these rains differ each year depending on weather patterns and ongoing climate change, but generally-speaking, these are months to avoid when planning an East Africa Safari.

Southern Africa also has seasonalities within each country and region. The winter period in South Africa is June to September, so these months will feel cooler on safari, especially morning and evenings. Some safari destinations are restricted to a shorter seasonality, such as Zamiba’s and Botswana’s National Parks.

Reviews From Our Clients

Mr and Mrs Inskip


Mr & Mrs Inskip

We booked our South Africa first-time safari through Unforgettable Travel Company and it was the most amazing experience from start to finish. Gemma organised the trip for us and was incredible. She kept in contact throughout, was very responsive, very kind and all the little details she organised for us did not go unnoticed! They were really appreciated and added to an amazing time. Honestly could not have asked for more from her and would 100% recommend.”

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Safari advice from travel experts

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    15 reasons to go on a safari in Kenya

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    Guide to South African Safaris

    With South Africa’s long list of animals that most people rarely get to see in the wild. Going on a safari is one of the top things for visitors to do when visiting the country. Most of its parks and reserves offer the opportunity to watch the “Big Five,” elephant, leopard, lion, rhino and buffalo. There’s a good chance that you’ll see them all in one visit. Listening to the sounds of a lion’s roar, hearing the raspy call of the leopard, feeling the vibrations of thundering elephant herds. And enjoying relaxing evenings punctuated by the whooping of a hyena is something you won’t soon forget.

    The country is home to many national parks and game reserves, all offering something unique. The lodges typically offer game drives that allow you to head out with an expert guide who knows to find the wildlife, even when the animals are well-concealed in undergrowth or grass. Bush walks are possible too, bringing the chance to focus on smaller animals and the little things that are often missed when tracking from a vehicle.

    Image Credit: Baobab Ridge

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First Time Safari Q&A

Whether you have always had a safari on your bucket list, or whether it is something you are now starting to consider, there are lots of unanswered questions you may have regarded your first safari.

What should I pack for my African safari?

You don’t have to invest in pricey bush wear, but there are certain things to keep in mind. It’s important to blend into the environment. Keep in mind that it’s not always blazing hot, early mornings and nights can be quite chilly. That means you should pack clothing that can be layered and removed as temperatures rise. For destinations with higher altitudes like the Ngorongoro Highlands in Tanzania, it’s adviseable to bring a warm hat. Practical items to take include bug spray, a sunhat, suncream, and swimwear. When you book your luxury Africa safari with us, we will send you pre-departure documents including a comprehensive packing list.

Can I combine a safari with the beach?

Our clients often combine their first time safari 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).  South Africa’s Natal coast is also home to some fabulous beach wilderness lodges where whales and turtles can be seen seasonally.

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 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 to Africa, 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.

What does a safari entail?

The word ‘safari’ is of Swahili origin, meaning ‘a journey’ or ‘expedition.’ It is generally used today to refer to a trip where wildlife watching is the main activity. While it may still be a journey, traveling to various camps, it can also mean that you spend the night in one place and enjoy daily guided walks, game drives or boat excursions from there.

To give you an idea, a day on safari includes an early morning game drive (around 6-10am), and an afternoon game drive (approx 4-7.30pm). The middle of the day is the hottest time of the day – most of the animals are at their least active, so your game drive would be unproductive. Instead, this gives you time in the middle of the day to enjoy lunch, relax, have a siesta, use the facilities etc.

What is the best time to go on safari?

The best time to visit Africa for a safari depends on the particular destination. Safaris can generally be enjoyed in Namibia and South Africa year-round (although South Africa is warmest between November and March). May through October are the months you’ll want to aim for in Zambia and Botswana as they are much more seasonal, while East Africa is good for safaris every month other than April, May and November, which are the rainiest months of the year. If you’re hoping to watch a certain spectacle like the wildebeest migration, your visit to the Masai Mara in Kenya or the Serengeti in Tanzania will need to be timed correctly. Please get in touch with us to find out more about the best time to go on safari.

What activities can you do on safari?

Most safaris are focused on game drives, which are done early morning and late afternoon. Each game drive lasts a few hours, with plenty of coffee breaks and sundowner breaks throughout. In some private reserves, there are opportunities to do night drives, which allow you to hear the sounds of the bush from complete darkness. Some destinations specialize in walking safaris too, such as the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, or the southern parks like Ruaha in Tanzania.

Aside from these core safari activities, there are plenty of other activities you can do to enhance your safari expedrience. The options are practically endless – riding the famous Blue Train or Rovos Rail in South Africa is always a highlight for rail enthusiasts. Or you might enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the spectacular landscapes with a hot-air balloon ride in Zambia, Kenya or Namibia. Horseback riding in Botswana, South Africa and Kenya is possible, and you can paddle the Okavango Delta in a mokoro canoe too.

Ready to plan your trip?

What ever you want from your dream trip, our team of
experts are ready to help.