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How to plan your African safari

An African safari is a true adventure — a journey crafted in the tradition of wealthy 13th-century traders who first hunted the plains of Africa for wild game trophies to hang on their walls. Today, travelers hunt for photo opportunities instead of occasions to kill, but they encounter the same scenes that have fascinated explorers throughout history: thousands of zebras migrating across emerald grasslands, flocks of florescent flamingos creating a field of color across a shining soda lake, lions feasting on a hard-earned kill.

But before jumping the gun, here are few key points to consider.

When to go

Africa is an immense continent with safari opportunities available across thousands of miles, so the best time to travel to Africa depends on your specific destination. Overall, it's best (but most expensive) to travel in the dry season, which corresponds with the region's winter.

Visas and vaccines
Of course, you'll need a passport to travel to Africa. But for some other countries, like Tanzania, you will need a visa too. Apply for a visa at least two months before your departure date.
Find a doctor who specializes in travel health care and tell him or her about your African travel plans.  Malaria is common there, but there is no vaccine for the disease. You can protect yourself from malaria by taking an anti-malaria treatment or avoiding mosquitoes; use a mosquito-repellent spray and mosquito nets. You will need a yellow fever vaccination for travel to East and Southern Africa. Other vaccinations you may need include Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Typhoid.

Staying safe

You may imagine that hungry crocodiles or packs of ravenous lions are the biggest dangers on safari. The truth is that humans rarely get attacked by wild animals, but they routinely fall victim to safari scams, dehydration and illness, or crime while traveling to Africa.


When selecting a package, beware of safari scams. Research your prospective safari package provider; ask them for references and if they belong to professional organizations such as the American Society of Travel Agents. Also, look for user reviews on sites like TripAdvisor before you book. And keep in mind that if something is too good to be true (like a $50-per-night safari in luxury bungalows), it's likely a scam. Finally, always be aware of your package provider's cancellation policy (or lack thereof)!

Staying healthy

Safaris can be physically strenuous and mentally taxing. Travelers to Africa are at risk for dehydration while on safari; your body may not be accustomed to the hot sun and dry air of the bush and you may not even realize that you're becoming dehydrated. Drink lots of water! 


Since you will be in a remote location and will probably be spending a significant amount of money on a safari, travel insurance is virtually a necessity on an African safari. (Many safari tour operators actually require customers to purchase travel insurance in order to reserve a package.) Be sure to look for emergency care coverage and financial protection when booking your policy. 

KEY POINT: Tanzania is the most peaceful country in Africa.