First Time On Safari : The Insider Guide to an East African Safari

By Britta Foulis | 16 September 2018

Going on a safari in Africa, at least once in your life, is on most people’s bucket list. Safari dreams conjure up images of never-ending grasslands, massive migrating herds of wildebeest, canvas tents with lots of wood and copper, prowling predators, circling birds of prey, and sipping cocktails as you look out to the horizon watching the sun slinking away and giving way to another night in Africa.

Most people are not sure what a safari actually entails though, so we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to your first ever safari.

Looking for a quick answer? Jump to the section which interests you:

 

What to expect

The first thing to remember is that a safari is, by definition, a journey and one in a pretty unusual environment, compared to say a holiday at Disney World. Safety is rightly a concern of most first-time safari-goers, but by simply following your Guide’s instructions and not doing anything foolish, your safety should not be in jeopardy at all on a safari. You do need to keep in mind that when on safari you are probably going to be way out of your comfort zone. Expect dust, insects, noisy animals, bumpy game drives and early mornings. However, these are all small discomforts when compared to the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing a lion take down a wildebeest calf right in front of your eyes or being entranced at the sight and sound of an elephant stripping leaves off a tree and noisily scoffing it down a few metres away. The absolute serenity of sitting around a crackling fire enjoying a drink as you stare up at the clear sky littered with stars and hearing a lion roar in the distance is not too bad either! The fact remains: you'll love Africa.

Different types of safaris

The type of safari that you can go on varies according to the location of the camp, and of course, the season you are travelling in. Options include small tented camps (which are normally seasonal, meaning they aren’t open throughout the year) through to large permanent structures with many rooms. Depending on the terrain and animals in the area, game-viewing can be done on foot, in vehicles or even on horseback.

Where camps are in close proximity to rivers and bodies of water, safaris by boat are often also an option. East Africa has a dry season which is the more popular option for safaris and a wet season also known as the Green Season. Get an idea of what a safari during the Green Season with Asilia entails.

We’ve put together some posts to showcase exactly how these kinds of activities can be experienced in our camps:

Safaris in the dry season generally see animals congregating at waterholes and the less dense bush makes them easier to spot. Asilia offers an extensive selection of safari type options ranging from Family and Romantic Safaris to Classic and Active Safaris including an option to have an entirely exclusive Private Safari.

How to travel to East Africa

East Africa is very accessible from both the USA and Europe as well as the East. The first thing you should probably do, even before booking your tickets, is to take out Travel Insurance. This will cover you for anything unexpected, especially for things that may even happen before you travel. Select a policy that not only protects you while away but also if you have to cancel the trip for any reason. You will also have to do reading beforehand regarding what vaccinations or medical precautions you will need to take prior to travelling to East Africa. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention is a valuable resource in this regard and a good starting point for your research.

Once in the region, you will most likely have to board connecting flights and possibly even additional small plane flights, boat trips or long car rides to get to your final destination in camp. If you are travelling in a group and boarding a small aircraft en route you may want to consider booking a freight seat which could provide you with an additional 75kgs of luggage. This is especially handy if you are heading on a photographic safari with extra equipment. Internet access is not as widespread as mobile phone connectivity in East Africa, so prepare yourself before-hand that you will not be able to access the internet all of the time while on safari. Truthfully, this is probably a blessing in disguise and an ideal opportunity for you to go on a Digital Detox.

What to pack

You’ve probably seen photos of people on safari all dressed in khaki’s and muted tan colours. That is not simply a Safari Chic style of dress, these are actually the most suitable colours to wear while in the bush. Brighter colours like blue or red are proven to attract insects while the tan range of colours show dirt less obviously and also do not absorb heat as much as darker colours. All of our camps offer a daily laundry service, so you probably can do with packing a lot less. Footwear is also very important. You will be outdoors most of the time and possibly even head out on a walking safari, so it is worth investing in a good pair of boots or walking shoes which you’ve worn in ahead of your departure. If your safari falls over the wet season you are likely to encounter much more insects than in the dry season, so insect repelling spray or cream is vital – we do provide this in all of our camps so you do not need to bring your own.

You will certainly want to capture every moment of your safari on video or film, so be sure to bring a good quality camera and remember that a great camera means nothing without charged batteries or memory cards with enough storage for that National Geographic worthy footage of yours. Plan your electronic storage strategy ahead of time. Another essential piece of equipment is a good pair of binoculars. As much as you may hope to get really close and personal with the amazing animals of East Africa they aren’t all going to be close enough to touch, so a pair of binoculars is actually a very handy tool to have with you. In addition, you may also find that you are an ornithologist at heart and your binocs will help provide you with hours of bird-watching pleasure. For more ideas and packing tips, have a look here.

A typical day on safari

Asilia runs and operates authentic East African safaris on around Kenya and Tanzania. The very best time for rewarding game viewing is in the cooler early mornings and late afternoons when the animals are at their most active.Depending on the season, your day may start slightly earlier or later, but the general pace of life in camp is focused on giving you the very best possible game-viewing experience. If you have booked a private game-viewing vehicle do discuss personal schedule preferences with your guide.

 

A typical day might look something like this:


05:30–06:00–Wake-up call with hot tea & coffee
06:30–07:00–Depart for a morning game drive or walk and take a picnic breakfast with you
09:30–11:30–Arrive back in camp after game viewing, followed by breakfast (if you are hungry)
13:00 – Lunch
13:30–16:00 – Siesta time: read a book or just relax
16:00 – Afternoon tea
16:30 – Depart for afternoon/evening game drive or walk with sundowners
18:30–Arrive back in camp
19:30–Drinks followed by dinner under the stars

Activities and experiences to enjoy while on safari

It is impossible to go on a safari and not be changed. The experience is just so profoundly different to most of our everyday lives. You are out in the wilderness, 1000’s of kilometres from home, there are no buildings to block your view as you look out over a never-ending horizon, you come face to face with animals that are all at once both beautiful and terrifying. Life has slowed down, you have disconnected from the busy life you lead back home where you are tethered to technology and shown a glimpse of a simpler life.

The close-knit nature of safari camps, shared safari drives and opportunities to eat together and chat around the fire mean that you will get to interact with a variety of people from all over the world in a very intimate setting. The exciting shared experiences of seeing a predator take-down its prey while out in a safari vehicle, and recounting the stories afterward in camp will create a bond with your fellow safari travellers that may be the forging of life-long friendships. Interaction with local staff and community members in areas surrounding the camp will expose you to an entirely different worldview and way of living which may also profoundly impact your view of the world.

Being in nature and seeing some of the most majestic animals on the planet at close range, watching their interactions with each other, their hunting techniques and defences, and then there are the smaller animals, too! Besides the Big Five, there is the Small Five as well as the Ugly Five.

The pinnacle however of any safari experience in East Africa is to witness the Great Wildebeest Migration, commonly known as The Greatest Show on Earth.

To find out more about Asilia Africa’s authentic East African safari experiences, make an enquiry below or get in touch with your usual travel agent.


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Faqs
General
  • What is included in an Asilia safari?

    A safari with Asilia Africa offers visitors the opportunity to visit a number of camps in prime locations in the East African bush, discover insights into the environment with a trained local guide, as well as an unparalleled viewing of African wildlife (including the Great Wildebeest Migration and the famed Big 5) while staying in our award-winning camps. In addition, daily game drives are included, as well as your selection of the many optional activities on offer dependent on the camp you’re staying at. In the spirit of warm African hospitality, all your meals and drinks are provided so you’re free to relax and enjoy your safari.

    Find out more about what to expect on your first safari with us here.

  • Types of Safari

    A safari with Asilia Africa is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Depending on your interests and desires, and time of year you wish to visit, there’s a safari experience to suit you. Whether you’re looking for something romantic and intimate, or even something a little more active, it’s entirely up to you. If it’s a family experience you’re after, some of our camps cater specifically to creating a magical experience for all ages, while others might want a more private safari experience for a small group. Get a better idea of what a safari with Asilia entails here.

    In addition, Asilia Africa also offers guests the opportunity to combine an authentic bush safari with an idyllic island escape in Matemwe in Zanzibar.

    Searching for something more meaningful, unique, and engaging? Then you need to see our Asilia Adventures. A collection of specially designed packages ranging from two to seven days, offering intrepid travellers something immersive and rich in experience as part of their trip to Kenya or Tanzania.

  • What is there to do on Safari?

    Asilia Africa’s camps are ideally situated for access to the incredible wildlife of East Africa, as well as the beauty and serenity of the landscapes.

    Our safari holidays offer unparalleled and unforgettable wildlife experiences, from the Great Migration, Big 5, birding and more.

    In addition to daily game drives, East Africa boasts many activities, including climbing Kilimanjaro, hot-air ballooning, walking safaris, meaningful cultural experiences and relaxing on the beach amongst others.

    We've compiled a month-by-month guide to safaris in East Africa, read more here.

  • What is a typical day on safari like?

    Life on safari has a rhythm of its own, largely dictated by the animals’ movements. Generally, the most rewarding times for game viewing is in the cooler early mornings and also late in the afternoons when the animals are at their most active.

    A typical day on safari will vary depending on the camp you’re staying at, but will include early morning and late afternoon game drives, with time during the hottest part of the day to relax in camp. Get a better idea of what a safari with Asilia entails here.

  • Is it safe to go on safari?

    Absolutely. Asilia Africa has operated camps in East Africa for two decades and has maintained an exemplary safety record over this time. Our safety practices and procedures are not only effective in managing any emergency situation but also in preventing any unsafe situations from occurring both in camp and outside in the bush.

    Other than Encounter Mara, all our camps are unfenced, which guests soon find forms an essential part of connecting with nature.

    Our guests are safeguarded by 24-hour Askaari security who keep a lookout for animals, escort guests when necessary, and through their presence, help to keep the animals away from the camp area.

    Additionally, our camps maintain strict operational safety protocols, which all guests are briefed on upon arrival. In the unlikely event that a medical situation does occur, we have 24-hour medical back up available with offices in all our operating countries to ensure that our guests are safe from the environment and any unknown medical threats.

  • Can I bring my children along on safari?

    Without question! Family safaris in Africa are a worthwhile and meaningful experience, as can be seen in this video. Aside from spending quality time with your nearest and dearest under a wide blue African sky, a safari in Africa offers invaluable experiences including unique cultural experiences, memorable wildlife sightings, and the opportunity to learn more about nature. You can read more about our best family camps here.

    If you're thinking of bringing your teenager on safari, you may have a few questions so here's a quick guide to taking teens on safari.

    It is worth noting that some of our camps can unfortunately not accommodate children under the age of 5. Feel free to get in touch with us to confirm which of our camps are suitable for smaller children.

  • How does the weather influence a safari?

    While a safari holiday can be had at any time of year, it is worth noting that seasonality will impact the type of experience you’re likely to have as well as the cost of your safari.

    During the dry season, the wildlife tends to congregate around the few remaining watering holes. Vegetation at this time is sparse making the animals easier to spot.
    The wet season is abundant both in vegetation and wildlife, as this is the birthing season – which means predators come out in force to prey on vulnerable newborns.

    Whichever season you choose to travel in, rest assured that our camps are well equipped for the East African climate and to ensure your comfort at all times. We've compiled a month-by-month guide to safaris in East Africa, read more here.

  • What happens on a game drive?

    Game drives are an integral part of any safari. You’ll head out into the wilderness with your trained and knowledgeable guide in one of our specialised vehicles. We have both closed and open-sided vehicles and try to have no more than six guests in one vehicle, so everyone is guaranteed a window seat for the best view of the action. Our vehicles also have the added benefit of charging stations to ensure your gadgetry is never at a loss, and a cooler to ensure you’ll have a cold beverage or two along the way.

    We now have one of the first electric safari vehicles available at Ol Pejeta Bush Camp as well as an incredibly nifty photographic safari vehicle that is available for guests on request. Private vehicles can also be arranged in advance at an additional cost.

  • Is there wifi available?

    All of our camps do have basic wifi available in certain areas.It is important to note that while wifi is available, it is more than likely not at the same fast speeds that you may be used to, but sufficient for checking emails and keeping in touch with home.

  • Can I charge my phone? What type of plugs do I need?

    Electricity is available at 220/240 volts AC, 50 Hz. Primary Socket Type: British BS- 1363 (British Standard). Adaptor plugs will be available in some lodges but we advise that you bring at least one with you.Please be aware that the power supply is subject to cuts and voltage fluctuations even in major cities!On safari, most of the lodges are powered by generators or solar panels and these are often turned off during parts of the day and night to reduce noise and fuel consumption. Please also note that in most camps and lodges, power sockets for charging are only available in the main area.

  • What is the accommodation like?

    Most of our camps feature stylish and authentic tented suites in keeping with the classic safari experience. Each tent has a main bedroom with an ensuite shower, toilet and basin, decorated to reflect an authentic safari style while providing the necessary amenities and furnishings to provide a comfortable retreat.

  • What toiletries are included?

    Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand wash, and body lotions are all provided in camp. Please do note that hairdryers are only available at Matemwe and Sayari Camp. This is because, in the bush, electricity is a precious resource and is supplied largely from solar power and generators, so not all of our camps can support hairdryers.

  • What are the tipping guidelines?

    Please note that gratuities are completely at your own discretion and are much appreciated by our staff for service that went above and beyond your expectations. As a guideline, we suggest tipping your guide between US$5 and US$15 per group (depending on group size) and the camp staff between US$5 and US$10 per traveller per day. Tipping is usually done on departure from your camp. You can tip your guide in person and the camp staff collectively using the tip box found in the public area of most of our camps. Tips can be made in Tanzanian Shillings, US Dollars, Euros or Pound Sterling.

  • What is the Great Wildebeest Migration?

    The Great Wildebeest Migration is the largest animal migration in the world. Every year, more than 2 million animals (wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle) migrate in a clockwise direction across the ecosystems of the Serengeti (Tanzania) and the Masai Mara (Kenya). On the way, they have to cross crocodile-infested rivers, are hunted by predators, and face natural disasters such as droughts and flooding in a daily struggle for survival.

    Asilia Africa operates a number of camps specifically along the route of the migration to offer you a front-row seat to all the migration action. For example, Sayari Camp is located close to many of the Mara River crossing points in the Northern Serengeti. We have three mobile camps in the Serengeti which move to two or three locations in a year to ensure proximity to the action of the migration, while other camps are in a fixed location and offer additional amenities such as swimming pools.

    Still feel like you need to know more about The Great Migration? Read this blog post for everything you need to know about the Migration.

  • Which is the best camp for the Great Wildebeest Migration?

    Since the Great Migration sees the herds migrate slowly over a route thousands of kilometres long, the best camp for experiencing it will largely depend on the time of year. In addition, although the animals broadly follow the same ancient migratory route every year, there are occasional variations based on environmental or weather conditions, such as the rainfall in a given year.

    For this reason, Asilia Africa has permanent camps that cover the traditional migration route as well as semi-permanentcamps which are moved 2 to 3 times a year to ensure prime game viewing.

  • What is the best time to see the Great Wildebeest Migration?

    The Great Migration can be enjoyed year round. Different times of year and location will offer different encounters, so it’s a good idea to work closely with your travel agent to ensure you plan the ideal migration safari to suit your needs.

    The first few months of the year offer exceptional predator encounters in the Serengeti as this is the calving season for the wildebeest and newborns make for an easy kill.

    By July, the herds are heading into the central Serengeti where the wildebeest make their first river crossing, and take their chances against the waiting (and hungry) crocodiles.

    In August, the herds cross over into Kenya’s Masai Mara and by September, the big herds have fragmented into smaller groups. The last few months of the year bring the short rains, causing the Wildebeest to move back into the Serengeti where the animals brace themselves for the next calving season and predator attacks.

    You can read more here about what to expect from the migration each month as well as which of our camps are best positioned to enjoy this spectacle at those times of year.

  • Are all Asilia Camps open year-round?

    You can enjoy a safari with Asilia all year round, however, the season will influence the kind of experience you’re likely to have. To get an idea of what the different months have to offer, have a look here. If your dates are not flexible, drop us a line and we’ll structure the ideal safari to suit your needs.

  • How do I choose which camp to visit?

    Choosing your ideal safari will generally depend on a combination of the following factors: who you are travelling with (e.g. are you going with your family), where you want to go (e.g. Kenya or Tanzania), what you would like to see (e.g. Great Migration) and any special activities you are interested in doing (e.g. hot air ballooning or climbing Kilimanjaro).

    You can narrow down your choices using our safari tools for where to go and what to do, or you could check out some of our itineraries to get you started with some ideas.

    We’d love to hear from you so we can create the perfect safari to suit your needs.

  • Where are Asilia’s camps?

    We specialise in Kenya and Tanzania, home to some of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the world. Our camps are positioned in prime locations ranging from the world famous Serengeti and Masai Mara, through to critical private conservancies, as well as more pioneering areas somewhat off the beaten track.

    Kenya: Greater Maasai Mara, Mara Naboisho Conservancy & Ol Pejeta Conservancy

    Tanzania: Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Ruaha, Rubondo, The Selous, & Tarangire

    Zanzibar: Matemwe

  • How do I choose between Kenya or Tanzania?

    If you have more time available for your holiday, the bordering countries of Kenya and Tanzania can easily be combined with each other as well as with other nearby places like Uganda, Rwanda and Zanzibar. If you are going on a shorter trip (less than 10 nights is a fair guideline), choosing which country to enjoy will depend on what you want to see and do. For example, if you’re planning a migration safari, your destination of choice will be largely dependent on where the wildebeest are at your chosen time of travel.

    To provide you with the best advice tailored to your particular travel needs, we recommend contacting your preferred travel agent or simply enquire with us and we’ll get right back to you.

  • Can I combine my safari with a trip to Zanzibar?

    Definitely - Zanzibar is a great addition to any safari itinerary or even just as an idyllic escape on its own!

  • What are meals like on safari?

    Meals on safari feature wholesome homemade dishes with a hint of local flavour. We take great pride in growing our own fresh, organic produce wherever possible and supporting local communities.

    Our camp chefs are able to cater to any dietary requirements with advance notice, including preparing gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and halaal meals.

    Lunch is usually a buffet featuring fresh salads and meaty mains, while dinner is a 3-course meal served beneath the stars. Dishes feature beef, chicken or fish, and wholesome organic produce with a hint of local spices and flavours. You can read more about Asilia's culinary experience here.

  • What is the accommodation on an Asilia safari like?

    Most of our camps feature stylish and authentic tented suites in keeping with the classic safari experience. Each tent has a main bedroom with a shower, toilet and basin, decorated to reflect the local cultures while providing the necessary amenities and furnishings to provide a comfortable retreat. Do not worry about packing in shampoo, conditioner, body wash, or lotion - these are all provided for you in camp.

    Please note, all laundry in camp is done by hand and dried outdoors, therefore turnaround time is dependant on the weather. Out of respect to local culture and customs, we do not wash underwear. Washing powder is provided in all of our guest rooms should guests wish to wash their own.

  • What is included in the price of my safari?

    The overall cost of your safari can vary depending on a range of factors including seasonality, activities, any special offers that may apply as well as other factors.

    Generally, a safari at Asilia’s properties will cost you anything from USD $450 per person, per night, and upwards. Your accommodation costs are all-inclusive, which means that all meals, local alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and game drives with our expert guides are included.

    For a more accurate estimate, it’s best to contact a safari specialist travel agent who can package an itinerary to suit your needs and budget. Alternatively, you can get in touch with us.

  • Can I book my safari directly with Asilia?

    We handle our booking process through a trusted group of highly experienced East Africa safari experts. We operate this way due to there being many nuances involved in planning a well-arranged, unforgettable safari holiday in East Africa. We know through experience that this is simply the best way to ensure our guests enjoy a seamless trip matched to their individual needs. Due to the volumes handled by these agents, they’ll also ensure you get the best possible overall price. If you’re thinking of joining us on a trip to East Africa and you are not currently working with an agent, simply enquire on our website and we’ll arrange for the best agent matched to your needs to tailor-make the ideal itinerary to suit all your needs.

    If you're unsure whether to book far in advance or not, this blog post may help provide some clarity.

  • How do I get from the airport to your camps?

    Getting around in East Africa requires significantly more planning than other destinations. Distances can be large; roads may be few. Our safari experts know their way around and can arrange all the transfers you require.

  • What are the vaccination requirements?

    Certain vaccinations may be required for travel to Africa, for example, often you will need a yellow fever vaccination. To be sure, consult your travel agent and your local Travel Clinic to obtain the latest health travel advisories. Concerning Visas, your travel agent will help there too.

  • What are the visa requirements?

    Kindly consult your relevant embassy for full details of visa requirements. Please indicate clearly that Asilia Africa is the DMC / ground handler and not the address of first overnight stay.

    For addresses and telephone numbers please visit our "contact us" page and either use Kenya (Nairobi) or Tanzania (Arusha) information depending on which country you are visiting.

  • What are the points of entry to get to your camps?

    For International visitors, the following apply:

    Kenya: Nairobi
    Tanzania: Dar es Salaam or Kilimanjaro Airport

  • Help! I’m planning my first safari. Where do I start?

    One way to start researching is by reading up more on the different safari destinations to visit, such as Tanzania or Kenya.  We also have some handy tools to help you along, including our camp finder and our experiences page. Another great place to draw inspiration from and to whet your appetite is by browsing our list of itineraries. These can be booked as-is, or customised to suit your needs.

    We recommend talking to a specialist East Africa consultant who will assist you with your plans.  In addition, they’ll be able to arrange your transfers, flights, and any additional activities you require. If you do not already have an agent, simply enquire with us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our trusted East Africa specialists.

    Find out more about what to expect on your first safari with us here.

  • Can I still go on safari if I have special medical needs?

    A safari can be suitable for a wide range of ages and physical conditions. With advanced notice, our camps are capable of catering to certain special requirements, so it’s best to advise your travel specialist early on in your booking process.

  • Are safaris suitable for people in wheelchairs?

    Some of our camps are accessible by wheelchair. It’s best to chat to your consultant as they will be able to advise which of our camps with be most suitable.

  • What do I pack for my holiday?

    There are a few handy items you won’t want to forget when going on safari such as a hat and sunblock to name a few. However, it is important to note that certain light aircraft transfer flights will have a smaller and stricter luggage limit. Please note, all laundry in camp is done by hand and dried outdoors, therefore turnaround time is dependant on the weather. Out of respect to local culture and customs, we do not wash underwear. Washing powder is provided in all of our guest rooms should guests wish to wash their own.

    Do not worry about packing in shampoo, conditioner, body wash, or lotion - these are all provided for you in camp. You can read our recommendations on everything from clothing to photography to toiletries in this blog post.

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