Safari Newsletter Dated March 18, 2019
Dear Vacations To Go Customer,
Today's newsletter is filled with tips for anyone gearing up for a
safari in Africa for the first time, with a few good reminders for those
considering a return trip.
The first step in planning an African safari is to decide where to go. There are organized safaris in three distinct African regions, and each offers a different experience. Some itineraries concentrate on a single country while others combine two, three or more countries into a single trip. Here's a look at the three regions.
East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda) has the largest concentrations of animals, world-famous Serengeti National Park and Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest mountain. In Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge, Drs. Louis and Mary Leakey discovered 2 million-year-old bones and tools from what some believe were the earliest humans. My first safari was in Tanzania, during the Great Migration.
The world's entire population of mountain gorillas (fewer than 900) lives in a mountainous region split by Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. A few years ago, I was able to observe these magnificent animals up close in the Rwandan side of the Virunga Conservation Area.
Southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia and Zambia) offers game viewing on foot and in boats (in addition to open-air vehicles), unique species of birds and amazing Victoria Falls. I visited Zambia and Botswana on safari several summers ago and was thrilled with the game viewing from dugout canoes in the Okavango Delta.
South Africa (the country) is unique in that safaris frequently are combined with a cosmopolitan segment to form a very diverse vacation. Game reserves feature the continent's most deluxe safari lodges, and it's easy to add time in the beautiful city of Cape Town or the scenic Garden Route stretch of the southern coast. Click here for a complete list of possibilities.
Once you've chosen your destination, it's time to consider safari operators, which can be roughly classified as budget, first class or deluxe -- in ascending order of cost and quality. Factors in classifying a safari include quality and location of accommodations, the number of included activities, size of the group and the level of personalized service.
Budget safaris offer price-conscious travelers a way to explore the African continent without breaking the bank. Budget safaris may feature modest accommodations and are offered by Contiki, Cosmos, G Adventures and Intrepid Travel.
First-class safaris stay at more comfortable, full-service hotels and lodges and have more inclusions than budget trips. They are operated by by CroisiEurope, Gate 1, Globus, Monograms and Trafalgar.
Deluxe safaris are even more upscale and inclusive, and groups are smaller. You'll stay in the finest accommodations and enjoy gourmet dining and personal attention throughout. Deluxe safaris are offered by Abercrombie & Kent, Adventures by Disney, African Travel (the company I chose for my Southern Africa trip), Alexander+Roberts, AmaWaterways, Collette, Luxury Gold, Natural Habitat Adventures, Scenic, SITA (the company I chose for my Uganda and Rwanda trip -- it also has itineraries categorized as first class), and Tauck (the company I chose for my Tanzania trip).
Once you've decided on your destination and safari operator, you must determine what documentation is required for each of the countries you'll be visiting. Passports valid for at least six months beyond the end of your trip are required for all safari destinations but South Africa, which requires that the passport be valid for at least 30 days after the date of departure.
Travelers should make sure that there are enough blank, unstamped pages in their passports for visas and immigration stamps for all countries that will be entered on the itinerary. The following guidelines are from the U.S. State Department: At least one blank page for Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda; at least two blank pages for Kenya and South Africa; at least three blank pages for Botswana and Zambia; and at least six blank pages for Namibia.
Next, it's essential to visit a doctor who specializes in travel medicine or the travel medicine department of a local hospital to learn about health issues in your destination. Certain immunizations are required, and others are highly recommended. It's best to make this visit well in advance of your trip, as some health threats require a series of inoculations over time, all prior to travel.
Now it's time to shop for safari essentials. Some items to consider are the right camera and lens for wildlife photography, binoculars and clothing suitable for safaris. Blue and black clothing attracts insects; earth colors of tan, green and brown are preferable. Clothing coated with Permethrin will discourage most flying and crawling insects, including malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Outdoors outfitters such as REI usually carry shirts and pants that are pretreated. You also can find Permethrin at these types of stores to coat the rest of the clothes you plan to take.
For my gorilla trek in the mountains of Rwanda, I tested my hiking boots to make sure I could wear them blister-free for long hours. I also treated the boots with extra water repellent. A small daypack is good for carrying camera equipment and water, and a light rain jacket may be in order for some safari destinations.
Finally, many African safaris involve one or more flights on small prop planes with strict luggage weight restrictions. I've been known to pack for a big trip in 15 minutes, but the fear of having to leave some of my freshly poisoned safari clothes beside a dirt runway somewhere caused me to do the unthinkable before my first safari -- "practice" packing. Something to consider as you make your final preparations for what is sure to be an unforgettable adventure.
Top 10 Africa vacations
1) South Africa: Wine & Wildlife,
10 days with SITA Tours. Begins in Cape Town and ends in Johannesburg.
Starting at $5,800. Daily departures from April 9 through December 17,
2) Kruger, Falls & Zimbabwe, 8 days with G Adventures. Begins in Victoria Falls and ends in Johannesburg. Save up to 20%. Starting at $965. Departures from April 13 through June 15, 2019.
3) On Safari in Kenya, 8 days with Cosmos. Begins and ends in Nairobi. Starting at $2,419. Departures from June 22 through October 12, 2019.
4) Kenya Private Safari, 8 days with Monograms Travel. Begins and ends in Nairobi. Save $100 per couple. Starting at $3,199. Daily departures from May 20 through December 30, 2019.
5) Uganda Gorilla Trek, 6 days with SITA Tours. Begins and ends in Entebbe. Starting at $3,500. Departures from April 20 through December 20, 2019.
6) Botswana Adventure, 10 days with Intrepid Travel. Begins in Windhoek and ends in Victoria Falls. Starting at $3,705. Departures from May 2 through December 19, 2019.
7) Namibia Explorer, 14 days with Trafalgar. Begins and ends in Windhoek. Save $200 per couple. Starting at $5,375. Departures from June 15 through October 5, 2019.
8) Exploring South Africa, Victoria Falls & Botswana, 14 days with Collette. Begins in Cape Town and ends in Johannesburg. Starting at $5,333. Departures from May 8, 2019 through April 22, 2020.
9) Spectacular South Africa and Victoria Falls, 12 days with Luxury Gold. Begins in Cape Town and ends in Victoria Falls. Save $600 per couple. Starting at $11,350. Departures from May 16 through November 29, 2019.
10) Mountain Gorilla Safari: Tanzania, Zanzibar & Rwanda (BBC Earth Journey), 13 days with Tauck. Begins in Arusha and ends in Kigali. Starting at $15,120. Departing January 20, August 17, September 14 and December 28, 2020.
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