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What is a Safari? A Look at the Diversity of Wildlife Experiences

What is a Safari?

An African safari is an exciting journey that takes you on a thrilling adventure through some of Africa's most spectacular natural habitats and wildlife. Whether it be game drives in open vehicles, guided walks, canoeing or hot air balloon rides - this unique experience will take your breath away as you explore hidden gems far off the beaten track. If a budget-friendly excursion over just a few days sounds appealing to you—or if luxury full weeks exploring every corner tickle your fancy—there are plenty of options for everyone looking to embark upon their own African Safari Adventure!

A Lioness Walks Part a Safari truck in Kenya
A Lioness Walks Part a Safari truck in Kenya. Photo Craig Howes

Definition of a Safari (African Safari)

The term "safari" refers to a journey or trip to observe wild animals and explore natural habitats, particularly in the savannahs and plains of Africa. Modern safaris primarily focus on observing wildlife and may involve travel to national parks, game reserves, or private conservancies.

The word Safari

The word Safari is derived from the Swahili language, meaning "journey" or "to travel". Today, safaris are typically organized by tour operators. They can be experienced in various ways, including game drives, guided walks, canoe or boat safaris, hot air balloon rides, and horseback riding.

A brief history of safaris

For centuries, Africa has been a fascinating destination for those looking to hunt big game and witness the wilderness up close. But it wasn't until the late 1800s that safaris were born - hunting expeditions under expert guides traversing African terrain in search of wild animals. Soon after Paul Kruger, president of the South African Republic, pioneered photographic safari around the 1900s, more people went south to admire nature and observe unique wildlife- a practice we still see today!

Old Picture of Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park Early Days

In the mid-20th century, Africa opened its wilderness for exploration through national parks and game reserves. Taking advantage of this were pioneers in safari tourism, creating a way to experience nature first-hand while supporting wildlife conservation efforts - today, it's an industry worth billions! From traditional jeep tours to modern luxury offerings, African countries have innovated the Safari Experience so that travellers can explore wild places responsibly, giving locals important income sources and unforgettable memories.

What is Safari in Tourism?

In tourism, a safari is a guided adventure in Africa's national parks, game reserves, or private conservancies. It involves observing and experiencing the region's natural beauty and wildlife, including game drives, walking safaris, cultural experiences, and other outdoor activities. The goal of a safari is to provide a unique and immersive travel experience that allows travellers to connect with nature, learn about local cultures, and appreciate the beauty and diversity of Africa's wildlife and landscapes.

Craig Howes Meeting the Batwa Tribe in Uganda
Craig Howes Meeting the Batwa Tribe in Uganda

Types of African Safari Trips

Whether you’re looking for an exciting expedition, a luxurious escape from everyday or anything in between, there is no shortage of safari experiences to explore. From Big 5 game drives to walking tours and beach getaways - we'll show you some of the most popular types out there!

Traditional safaris:

Traditional safaris are the classic game-drive experiences most people associate with a safari. You'll be guided by experienced rangers in open-topped vehicles for an exciting journey through wild lands full of captivating sights and sounds like never before! This is a great option for people who prefer a comfortable yet still adventurous way to explore the African wilderness.

Luxury safaris:

If you're looking for an exclusive way to experience the wilds of Africa, a luxury safari is your ticket. You'll stay in luxurious lodges and camps surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty while enjoying gourmet cuisine, spa treatments, and private safari vehicles! Get ready to indulge in some serious pampering among untamed nature - this could be just what you need.

Self-drive safaris:

For those looking to take their African safari into their own hands, a self-drive vacation allows you to explore and discover unique wildlife at your leisure. Rent a vehicle and traverse game reserves on your own time - you have total freedom as an intrepid explorer!

Camping Safaris

If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure with a unique twist, look no further than a camping safari in the African wilderness! This immersive experience is perfect if you want to get close and personal with nature - after all, it doesn't get much more authentic or wild than this. You'll be accompanied by an experienced guide who will provide insight into Africa's savannahs' incredible flora and fauna. So buckle up your hiking boots, grab some bug repellent (trust me – they'll need to make friends!), and prepare yourself for an unforgettable trip!

Walking safaris:

Want to get up close and personal with the African wilderness? Try out a walking safari! Take in stunning views while being guided by professionals who will teach you about your surroundings' amazing flora and fauna. If it's an immersive experience that you're after, this is one for your bucket list!

Canoe safaris:

Exploring the world from a new perspective is now possible with canoe safaris. On these exciting trips, people can paddle downstream in traditional dugout canoes or more modern kayaks and rafts to witness wildlife up close like never before!

Hot air balloon safaris:

Take a leap of faith and embark on an incredible journey with hot air balloon safaris! Rise above the African plains at dawn to experience breathtaking aerial views, teeming wildlife, and plenty of adventure. Each flight is piloted by experienced professionals who ensure your safety during this unforgettable trip into nature's great unknown.

Popular Destinations for African Safaris

Here are some of the most popular destinations for African safaris:

Tanzania - East Africa

Tanzania offers the ultimate safari experience! This East African nation has everything from bird-watching and game drives in the Serengeti to admiring nature's splendour at Ngorongoro Crater, Selous Game Reserve, or Tarangire National Park. So get ready for a wild adventure where you'll face some of Africa's most amazing wildlife and stunning landscapes.

Elephant and zebra with the Kilimanjaro at the background, Tanzania, africa
Elephant and zebra with the Kilimanjaro at the background, Tanzania, africa

Kenya - East Africa

Kenya is an incredible safari destination for animal lovers everywhere, with many unforgettable wildlife experiences. Witness the exotic creatures roaming in their natural habitat at Maasai Mara Reserve, Amboseli National Park and Tsavo East & West National Parks. Plus, check out Kenya's luxury lodges & camps that offer incomparable amenities and a glimpse into traditional Masai culture!

South Africa - Southern Africa

South Africa is an adventure playground for the intrepid traveller. From Kruger National Park and Sabi Sand Game Reserve to the Eastern Cape reserves, it's a spot that delivers unforgettable moments in spades - incredible animal sightings combined with awe-inspiring natural beauty and cultural experiences all intertwined make South Africa a must-visit destination for any safari enthusiast's list!

Ulusaba luxury tree house room on safari
Ulusaba's beautiful rooms overlooking the waterhole

Botswana - Southern Africa

From the majestic Okavango Delta to Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana is a playground for anyone looking for an unforgettable safari experience. With its breathtaking landscapes and abundance of wildlife, it's no wonder why this African paradise has become so popular with honeymooners and luxury travellers alike!

Arriving on Safari on Private airfield in Botswana
Arriving on Safari on Private air field in Botswana

Zimbabwe- Southern Africa

Zimbabwe has some of the most spectacular natural beauty in all of Africa. Its iconic national parks, like Hwange and Mana Pools, provide amazing opportunities to experience wildlife sightings up close. Zimbabwe is breathtaking, and its friendly locals add an extra warmth that makes this country so special!

Elephants at Mana Pools in Beautiful golden Light
Elephants at Mana Pools

Namibia - Southern Africa

Namibia is an adventure seeker’s paradise, boasting some of Earth's most striking and exotic landscapes. Explore places like Etosha Park, Namib Desert, Swakopmund, Fish River Canyon & Windhoek. Etosha National Park stands as a popular hub for visitors looking to explore this captivating land - but for those seeking ultimate exclusivity, private reserves and conservancies offer once-in-a-lifetime safari experiences that will leave you with memories sure to last forever!

Beautiful sunrise at Deadvlei in Namibia with Dead tree and sand Dunes
Deadvlei at Sunrise

Zambia- Southern Africa

Zambia is beyond wild! There, you can take an adventure to the far reaches of nature in South Luangwa National Park, Kafue National Park and Lower Zambezi National Park. On your visits there, get ready for amazing spots from game viewing, unbelievable landscapes and some of Africa's finest walking safaris - all within one country!

Romantic dinner for 2 on Zambezi River
Thorn Tree Lodge by Craig Howes

Uganda- East Africa

Uganda is an adventurer's paradise! With incredible treks through the wilds to catch a glimpse of gorillas in their natural habitat, this country also offers stunning wildlife viewing opportunities. Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls allow you to spot chimps and other primates as they roam free in untouched surroundings. Let yourself be taken away by nature at its best on your next Uganda adventure!

Portrait of a Male Silverback Gorilla
Silverback Gorilla in Uganda by Craig Howes

Rwanda- East Africa

Rwanda is an incredible destination for visitors looking to immerse themselves in the local culture and experience some of Mother Nature's most beautiful landscapes. Home to Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda offers unparalleled gorilla trekking opportunities that will forever stay etched into your memory!

Family of Gorillas in Rwanda
Family of Gorillas in Rwanda

Madagascar- Island off of Southern Africa

Madagascar should be at the top of your list if you're a wildlife enthusiast. From the gorgeous biodiversity to endemic species found nowhere else on Earth, this African island is like no other place in the world! Check out parks like Andasibe-Mantadia and Ranomafana for unforgettable animal sightings, including lemurs and chameleons – even some unexpected surprises that may blow your mind!

alley of baobab trees in Madagascar
Alley of baobab trees in Madagascar

Morocco- Northern Africa

Are you seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience? Then consider a desert safari in Morocco! Adventure seekers can traverse and explore the Sahara, either riding camels or by 4x4 vehicle. Afterwards, treat yourself to evenings of luxury accommodation under clear night skies for what's sure to be one unforgettable journey.

Morocco Desert

East Africa

East Africa is a vibrant and diverse region of the African continent, home to six countries that share similar geography, history, culture and natural environments. From Kenya's vast savannas teeming with wildlife to Rwanda's lush rolling hills bordering Burundi, from Tanzania’s snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro soaring above Uganda towards South Sudan - this incredible corner of our world has an abundance for all those keen enough to explore it!

A safari is an incredible experience that lets you get up close and personal with nature's most amazing creatures! Venture into the African wilderness to spot majestic lions, powerful elephants, striking giraffes or graceful gazelles in their natural habitats. Enjoy this thrilling opportunity at one-of-a-kind wildlife viewing like never before – your journey awaits!

  • Lion

  • Leopard

  • Buffalo

  • Rhino

  • Elephant

  • African Wild Dog / Painted Wolf

  • Cheetah

  • Giraffe

  • Zebras

  • Hippos

  • Crocodiles

  • Hyenas

  • Impala

  • Wildebeest

  • Warthog

  • Mongoose

African Wild Dogs
African Wild Dogs

These are only some of the main wild animals.

What are The African Big Five?

The Big Five are often talked about in the same breath as some of Africa's most majestic and powerful creatures. Lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalo have made a name for themselves with their impressive size - not to mention all five were once deemed too challenging to hunt on foot! Nowadays, we admire these awe-inspiring animals from afar rather than push our luck trying to pursue them.

Young Male Lion Relaxing on termite mound

A tracker on a safari is an expert skilled in identifying and following the signs and tracks of wildlife in the African wilderness. Typically a local with extensive knowledge of the area's fauna and flora, a tracker works alongside the safari guide, enhancing the guests' experience by locating animals that are often elusive and well-camouflaged. Trackers are essential for ensuring the safety of the safari participants and the success of wildlife sightings, making them a pivotal part of the safari experience.

Steps to Planning a Safari

  1. Choosing a destination

  2. Selecting a safari type and budget

  3. Researching tour operators

  4. Packing tips and essentials

How to pick a Safari destination.

Start your planning by deciding which country or region you dream of visiting. Consider how much time and money you have while reflecting on what scenery and wildlife experiences get your heart racing! Once that's all sorted out, research the best national parks, game reserves, and private conservancies in the area - so when it’s finally time for your safari escapades, you know exactly where to start exploring.

Man Walking Sunset on Safari
Walking the Sunset on Safari at Singita Photo Craig Howes

Select a safari type and budget:

Once you have chosen your ideal destination, decide on the type of safari that best suits your travel needs and budget. Do you want a traditional game drive experience, a luxury lodge or camp, a walking safari, or a self-drive option? Each type of safari has pros and cons, and prices can vary greatly depending on the level of luxury and exclusivity.

Migration Crosssing in Masai Mara
Migration in the Mara

Research tour operators:

If you want to go on a safari adventure, seek out experienced tour operators in your desired destination. Do some research - reviews and recommendations from friends or travel forums are key! Also, ensure they have the proper licensing and accreditation recognized by industry authorities so your experience is top-notch.

Buffalo with Safari Guide in Foreground.

Plan your Safari itinerary:

Make your African adventure unforgettable by carefully crafting a personalized itinerary with the help of an experienced tour operator. From deciding how long to stay and what activities you want to participate in, all the way down to considering travel time, vaccines, or visas - make sure nothing gets missed so that each moment is as flawless as possible!

What to Pack For Safari?

If you're off on a safari adventure, pack smart! From the right clothes and sunscreen for protection against that intense African sun to bug spray so those pesky critters stay away, plus any meds your doctor may have prescribed, make sure it's all in there. And don't forget to ask your tour operator what other items they recommend or prohibit from being brought along. Get ready because this is gonna be an awesome expedition!

Couple arrives on Safari on Private plan on Dirt Runway
Arriving in Kenya for Safari

Sustainable Safari

Take a journey of discovery into the African wilderness and do it responsibly! By researching tour operators and lodging that practice sustainable tourism, supporting local communities, and avoiding activities harmful to wildlife habitats or conservation efforts, your safari experience can be meaningful and memorable. Let's take a stand for our planet by being conscious tourists - let’s explore Africa with responsibility in mind!

Sustainability and Responsible Tourism on Safaris

  • The importance of responsible tourism on safaris cannot be understated. We must strive to protect our planet and its precious wildlife while providing meaningful experiences for all those who wish to learn more about Africa’s natural wonders. This means promoting sustainable activities such as game drives, game walks and bush camps, choosing tour operators that practice responsible tourism, and avoiding activities that could damage delicate ecosystems.

  • Ecotourism and conservation efforts: when planning a safari, choose an operator committed to sustainability and conservation. These companies support local communities by providing employment opportunities and promoting education and awareness while minimizing their environmental impact. Their commitment to ecotourism helps to protect wildlife, habitats and ecosystems - all of which are essential for our planet’s health.

  • Ethical wildlife encounters: when it comes to wildlife encounters, make sure you choose humane and ethical experiences. Avoid activities such as petting baby animals or riding elephants, as they can be stressful or dangerous for the animals. Instead, observe wildlife in its natural habitat to get an up-close look at how these amazing creatures live and interact with one another. So whether you’re considering a luxurious lodge or camp, a self-drive safari or a luxury train experience, do your research and choose a tour operator committed to sustainable practices and responsible tourism. Safari adventures can be an incredible learning experience, so let’s do it right!

Types of Safari Lodges

  1. Luxury lodges: Luxury lodges are the most high-end safari lodges, offering spacious rooms or suites, fine dining restaurants, swimming pools, spa facilities, and other luxury amenities. They may be in private conservancies or national parks, offering exclusive game drives or other safari activities.

  2. Tented camps offer a more rustic and adventurous safari experience, with canvas tents in the wilderness or on the edge of national parks or game reserves. Tents may have en-suite bathrooms, comfortable beds, and other amenities, including communal areas such as dining tents or lounges.

  3. Treehouses: Treehouses offer a unique and secluded type of safari lodge, with rooms or suites built into the branches of trees. They may offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape and can be located in remote areas of national parks or private conservancies.

  4. Mobile camps: Mobile camps offer a flexible and immersive safari experience, with tents set up in different locations depending on the season or wildlife movements. They may be set up in remote areas of national parks or game reserves and offer exclusive access to wildlife viewing and other safari activities.

  5. Eco-lodges: Eco-lodges are designed to have a minimal environmental impact and may be built with sustainable materials or renewable energy sources. They may offer basic amenities such as solar-powered lighting, composting toilets, and natural swimming pools and may be located in remote or off-the-beaten-path areas.

Tented Room in Masai Mara
Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp by Craig Howes

What is a Safari Tour?

Safari tours may vary in duration, level of luxury, and the specific activities and destinations included. Some safari tours focus on a single park or reserve, while others cover multiple parks or countries.

Some tours may include luxury accommodations, while others may involve camping or basic lodges.

Craig Howes Meets the Masai Tribe in Kenya
Craig Howes Meets the Masai in Kenya

For an unforgettable adventure, there is no better way to experience Africa than a guided safari tour. Travellers can reap the benefits of having someone who knows all the ins and outs of such a unique trip – from pointing out rare wildlife sightings to providing expansive knowledge on local cultures & ecology - making it truly immersive!


Safari is an African adventure—an experience full of discovery and wonder. And it’s important to make sure you travel responsibly and sustainably on your Safari. From researching tour operators that practice responsible tourism and sustainable activities to choosing ethical wildlife encounters—let’s ensure we do our part to preserve these amazing habitats for future generations! Safari is an unforgettable experience - let’s enjoy and explore it responsibly!

Breakfast in the mara after hot air balloon ride

From thrilling game drives to incredibly hot air balloon rides, safaris provide an unforgettable way to connect with nature while supporting conservation and sustainable tourism efforts. The African wilderness is a raw beauty that can't be experienced anywhere else - you'll witness amazing wildlife in its natural habitat while immersing yourself in the unique culture of different ways of life. It doesn't matter your style or budget; there's certainly a perfect safari experience for everyone!

From the thrills of adventure to connecting with nature and cultures unlike your own - safaris offer a truly magical experience that will stay etched in your memory forever. So come along for an unforgettable journey through one of life's greatest wonders!

Article by

Craig Howes

African Safari Mag Editor

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