In the middle of planning your first African safari ever? I am legitimately SO excited for you. An African safari is an absolute dream trip and I had the time of my life, and officially want everyone to go on one if they can. So as you enter the planning process for this dream trip, I want to give you my best African safari tips, especially if this is your first safari ever. So keep reading for my top 15 tips for your first African safari and how I recommend you prepare for your trip.
The Short Version
- Pack Light
- Dress Appropriately
- Go for One Week Minimum
- Give Yourself a Day Between When Your Flight Lands and When Your Safari Starts
- Base Your Safari Destination on What You Want to See
- Choose Safari Timing Based on Wildlife Behavior and Patterns
- Consider a Sunrise, Sunset, and/or Night Drive
- Bring Meds and Make Sure to Get Appropriate Vaccines
- Prepare for Early Mornings and Long Days
- Bring Cash for Tipping and Souvenirs
- Bring a Backup Credit Card
- Listen to Your Guide and Follow Their Rules
- Be Quiet Around Animals
- If You Have a Camera, Bring a Zoom Lens
- Choose a Safari Guide or Company With Great Reviews Across Platforms
The Long Version of My Top 10 Tips For Your First African Safari
This is honestly probably my biggest recommendation or biggest of my tips for your first safari. You are going to be moving between parks and/or conservation areas every day or every other day, and the last thing you will want to be doing is packing and carrying big, heavy luggage every day.
So tip number one for your first African safari is definitely pack as lightly as possible.
Another of my most important first time safari tips is regarding what you’re going to wear. I put together a whole What to Wear On Safari Guide, so take a look and make sure to follow it because the wrong clothes can mean scaring animals away or getting attacked by tsetse flies.
Need to know what to pack for your first African safari? Check Out My Safari Packing Guide
Go for One Week Minimum
There’s truly SO much magic to experience on your first African safari, that you’re going to want to go for as long as you can. One of the most common African safari tips you’ll hear is exactly that, and my personal recommendation is at least one week minimum. In a week you can see multiple parks with different types of wildlife in each.
We asked our safari guide when we were there how long he would recommend and he said at VERY, VERY least five days, but I personally think that’s not enough. So for your first safari, try to schedule at least a week to get the variation you deserve on your first safari ever!
Give Yourself a Day Between When Your Flight Lands and When Your Safari Starts
Do not plan on starting your safari the day you arrive just in case there are flight issues. You do not want to be out a day of this amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience because of something completely out of your control, so pad a day into your itinerary before you start your first African safari.
Base Your Safari Destination on What You Want to See
The most common question I get about my safari experience is “how do you choose where to go?” The beautiful thing about going on African safari is that it can mean visiting one or multiple countries! When I was planning, I simply Googled “where to go on your first safari” and read a lot of articles based on where the wildlife that I was most interested in seeing was abundant. A lot of these articles will talk about the parks and conservation areas where specific animals will be abundant, and that certainly helped me decide.
I personally went to Tanzania because of its high concentration of wildlife, reasonable prices, and lower traffic. I’d love to visit so many other countries and experience their safaris as well, but I felt very happy about choosing Tanzania for my first safari.
Choose Safari Timing Based on Wildlife Behavior and Patterns
Once you’ve decided where you’re going to go, research the best time to go to that destination for amazing wildlife experiences. For example, you might want to time your Tanzania safari to when the wildebeest migration is going through. So make sure to look into that when planning when!
Consider a Sunrise, Sunset, and/or Night Drive
You’ll spend most of your time on your first African safari driving around during daylight, which is obviously super magical all on its own. However, if you can work with your safari guide to plan a drive either at sunrise or sunset, you’ll get to experience all of the magic of a safari but with the most amazing, colorful skies. And, a night drive to either get there (to sunrise) or back (from sunset).
We had a sunrise excursion one day and did a night drive to get there and it was super interesting to see the wildlife at night and was a whole different experience that I loved. So talk to your safari guide when planning your first African safari about how you can work that in!
Bring Meds and Make Sure to Get Appropriate Vaccines
When planning for your first African safari, you’ll want to plan ahead for medical or health-based situations.
- You’ll need to get any required vaccines well in advance of your trip to make sure the vaccines have inoculated for the appropriate amount of time
- Do not delay on this because depending on what vaccines you need, you may need to travel a fair distance within your home state/country to get them
- Bring medication for any potential stomach issues, such as Immodium in case you don’t agree with food
- Whatever other medication you need
Prepare for Early Mornings and Long Days
Even though you’re spending your first African safari mostly sitting in a jeep and driving around, the days will be long and you’ll get surprisingly tired. Each day of your first safari, you’re going to be getting up pretty early, so make sure you are getting enough sleep each night!
Bring Cash for Tipping and Souvenirs
Another of my best tips for your first African safari is to make sure to have cash not just for tipping lodge staff and your safari guide, but also for souvenirs you want along the way.
You absolutely cannot count on having a credit card accepted in any or all of the shops you want to stop at, so having cash is imperative.
Bring a Backup Credit Card
I know I just went on about how having cash is a super important first timer’s trip for a safari, BUT hear me out. You’ll definitely want a credit card to be safe, and because you’ll likely be able to use them for larger purchases where they will allow a credit card, like some add-on excursions or jewelry, for example. And to make sure you’re even safer and guaranteed to make any of these big purchases, bring a backup.
My credit card wasn’t working at one point, and my husband’s AmEx wasn’t accepted anywhere. Luckily we both had backups so we were able to make a couple of larger purchases that did accept credit cards, but if we hadn’t both had a backup we would have been stuck.
Listen to Your Guide and Follow Their Rules
Your safari guide is going to give you some ground rules when you start your experience together and make sure to follow those to a T. Their rules are set for a reason and for your safety, so it’s very, very important to follow them throughout the duration of the safari.
Be Quiet Around Animals
This is almost certainly one of the rules your safari guide will tell you when you start, but you’re definitely going to want to be quiet when you’re out looking for or watching wildlife. When it coes to safety, this is probably the most important African safari tip. You don’t want to put yourself or your jeep in danger by making a lot of noise and accidentally antagonizing wildlife in any way. So make sure you keep your voice at an appropriate level depending on how close you are to the wildlife.
If You Have a Camera, Bring a Zoom Lens
If you’re a photographer of any skill level, bring a zoom lens! I rented a zoom lens from BorrowLenses.com and it was the absolute best decision I could have made. I got so many incredible photos I couldn’t have gotten without renting a zoom lens. So especially if you’re a photographer, this is one of my best tips for an African safari.
Choose a Safari Guide or Company With Great Reviews Across Platforms
When you’re researching which safari guide or company to choose on your first safari, a major tip of mine is to make sure to compare the companies’ reviews across platforms. Don’t rely on ONLY Google Reviews or Go2Africa.com or TripAdvisor, but make sure the reviews are consistent across excursion review platforms and on their social media accounts too.
So there you go, these are my top African safari tips for first timers. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out! And also feel free to check out my safari story highlight on Instagram and my safari playlist on TikTok for more of my experience! Have so much fun planning your first African safari, it will be the experience of your lifetime!