Zoooom

2018 Safari for First Timer

16 posts in this topic

Hi all, I am from Singapore, about 30 y.o., my wife and I are looking at doing a wildlife safari in Africa next year (before we plan to have kids :o),

It is our absolute first time to this continent, have been doing some research but still feel very lost and would like to ask for the advice of those who went before us (I understand many questions do not have absolute answers, but doesn't hurt to hear from other's experience and opinions); so hear it goes

 

1) Best Country/ies to Visit for the 1st Time? - am looking at Kenya, but saw that Tanzania, and even other countries might be good - main aim is to see the great migration. Wondering what is the best plan for a couple looking first experience at a wildlife safari (not a photographer); probably looking at 2-3 weeks 

 

2) Best Month(s) to Visit the Suggested Country above and why? 

 

The above questions would be of utmost help to kickstart our planning. Thanks in advance! :lol:

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Hi @Zoooom Welcome to Safaritalk. It must be really exciting to be planning your first Africa Trip. :)

 

It sounds as if you have done some research already. Kenya and Tanzania both have the migration at some point so a good start there. If you focus on the migration the choice of country will dictate your travel time frame as the migration moves from Tanzania up to Kenya etc and back according to the rains.

 

Others with more recent experience of Masai Mara and Serengeti will no doubt be able to advise you of the best times etc but please bear in mind that seeing the migration cannot be guaranteed as weather patterns are somewhat unpredictable! You will no doubt enjoy the trip whatever you see.

 

As you move forward with your plans you will need to be thinking of what you are prepared to pay per night as a couple. Costs vary enormously at the different camps but perhaps you have researched this side of things already.

 

Happy planning!

 

 

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~ @Zoooom

 

Welcome to Safaritalk!

 

Thank you for joining us and telling us of your safari plans.

 

I've enjoyed visiting Sungei Buloh in Singapore, where I met one of my best friends, a former River Valley High School student.

 

If it's ever convenient and comfortable, a post about yourself in the Introductions section would be most welcome.

 

Kenya was where my first safari occurred.

 

Masai Mara National Reserve is a treasure, as are such areas as Meru National Park, Tsavo West National Park and Samburu National Reserve.

 

Not being overly concerned with photography will give a degree of flexibility for direct observation.

 

I've enjoyed superb visits to Kenya in all four seasons, including the rainier green season.

 

I hope that you'll have a wonderful time whenever you do visit.

 

Tom K.

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@wilddog Thanks for the welcome! It is indeed very exciting to be planning for it.

 

I have only done shallow research on the varying costs, we are indeed on a tighter budget as we are still young and don't have much savings,

do let me know if you have any suggested itinerary or tours to go on, that will be of great help!

 

Thanks for the tips, will take careful note of them! :lol:

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@Tom Kellie Hi Tom! Sungei Buloh is one of the few nature reserves in Singapore, am glad you enjoyed it!

 

If you could turn back time, how would you plan your first safari - just Kenya alone, or include Tanzania (or even Uganda?), and which season would you choose to go in having visited all four seasons, based on your personal preference.

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Posted (edited)

42 minutes ago, Zoooom said:

@Tom Kellie Hi Tom! Sungei Buloh is one of the few nature reserves in Singapore, am glad you enjoyed it!

 

If you could turn back time, how would you plan your first safari - just Kenya alone, or include Tanzania (or even Uganda?), and which season would you choose to go in having visited all four seasons, based on your personal preference.

 

~ @Zoooom

 

Yes, Sungei Buloh was where I celebrated my 60th birthday. There was almost no one there as it was a weekday and fairly overcast.

 

A pair of elderly gentlemen very kindly pointed out an immense saltwater crocodile which I would have otherwise overlooked.

 

*********************************************************************

 

It happens that I was an invited guest on my first safari, so I had no direct role in the planning. It was a thrilling experience. Looking back, I now realize that it was an especially lucky safari in terms of excellent sightings.

 

However, if I could turn back the calendar to do it again...

 

As the overall safari experience is so engrossing on many levels, I'd not be overly ambitious.

 

In other words, as has been the case with so many Safaritalk contributors, one safari leads to another and then another and then...well, you get the picture.

 

I'd choose one country for a first safari, whether Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa — they're all fine destinations.

 

The primary reason for a single country would be to minimize time and trouble spent with border crossing, currency exchanges and other adjustments.

 

Rather than a rapid one place after another “get it all in” journey, as in “I wanna ‘do’ Botswana” — I'd prefer to select two to four destinations in a given country for multi-day stays in order to get the most out of it.

 

Such an approach would familiarize me with safari conventions — game drives, sundowners, early morning wake-up calls, taking photos of distant birds with inadequate equipment — and enable savoring of the experience in the company of fellow guests around the campfire at night.

 

The happy evenings around the small bonfire at Murera Springs Eco Resort near Kenya's Meru National Park were one of my happiest safari memories. I enjoyed that so much that I returned for three visits.

 

The other guests from Germany, local Kenya residents, and from New Zealand added to the friendly ambience. We shared our excitement about sightings as bushbabies loudly called overhead, the sparks flying upward.

 

As to a season, they really are all fine in their own right. If the Mara River crossing of the Migration is a priority then from July to September.

 

Yet my favorite season has been January and February, when it's never been overly crowded, there was more to see than I could photograph and the weather was changeable yet pleasant. Numerous flowers blooming then, too, with attendant butterflies.

 

Were I going on a first safari in Kenya on a modest budget, I'd give careful consideration to a night or two at the beginning or at the end staying in Nairobi National Park at the Nairobi Tented Camp, where the probability of observing rhinos is substantial. I'd also take a look at the Emakoko, which would make an ideal end-of-safari splurge, with pampering friendliness and fine cuisine prior to the long return flight to Singapore Changi Airport.

 

While I've mentioned Kenya, the same sort of moderately in-depth, single country approach would work just as well with Tanzania or Uganda.

 

What's essential is to work with a tour operator who is responsive to your budget, your preferences and your concerns as a couple.

 

As another Asia resident, I'm certain that you'll find Africa to be a lovely contrast, overflowing with the unexpected and the indescribably beautiful.

 

I hope that these thoughts might stimulate your own safari planning.

 

Tom K.

 

Edited by Tom Kellie
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For first time and if you want to do it fairly independently, the two best choices are probably South Africa and Kenya, because they have very well developed industries, both have some kind of domestic market and both have convenient and comprehensive transportation options (especially South Africa). This gives you a wide range of options. However, other countries are barely more difficult so once you decide what you want and how to do it, do compare e.g. Kenya with Tanzania or Uganda or  South Africa with Namibia, Botswana, Xambia or Zimbabwe.

 

AS for time of year, that really depends on what you want to do, what your budget is and where exactly you are going. However, generally speaking June to October is going to be good for wildlife and travale won't be made difficult by heavy rains. Can't stress enough though that you can't really decide on this until you decide where you want to go and what you want to do. However, if you find what you want to do and see is outside your budget, traveeling in the "green season" can be a lot cheaper and still very good. I'd recommend the green season option more for small camps in remote locations, flying in though.

 

If the East African wildebeest/ zebra migration is a must (and it is only one of the wildlife spectacles) then Kenya and Tanzania are your only options. Questions to ask yourself.

 

Do you want to do other things? Hiking, mountain climbing, climb a volcano, fishing, tropical hideaway, water sports, diving, birding, cultural experiences, selfies on the equator, see spectaular arid scenery, esperience tsome of the driest places on earth, etc. These can all be done much more cheaply than safari and so can make a 2-3 week trip more affordablle -provided they are of real, genuine interest.

 

Would you do self-catering, camping in small tents, drive yourselves? Sleep in hotels that smell fiunny? What would your limit be? 

 

Get some guidebooks to start with. Both Rough Guide and Bradt do East Africa well. Bradt seem significantly better for Souhern Africa but I haven't read them all and don;t use them a lot now. Really that is where to start. Kenya and South Africa. You'll have a much clearer idea after that and people will be able to help you fine tune (even if fine tune includes movung country!)

 

 

 

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@Tom Kellie

 

Wow Tom, thanks for the reply, I can't express how immensely helpful that post was,

 

will probably follow in your footsteps and choose Kenya, time for more research! 

 

Very good specific and practical suggestions for me to explore,

once again thanks alot for sharing your experience, Tom!

 

 

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@pault Hi Paul,

 

thanks for your reply! It seems more and more like these visits should not be "once in a lifetime" as there are just so many places to cover!

Great questions for me to answer and find out, personally cultural experiences and seeing spectacular arid scenery seems like good things to do too!

 

However, my wife and I are still more atuned towards some basic comforts (decently clean); self-catering, driving, and camping are possible options too!

 

Will grab a look at some of the guidebooks mentioned!

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there are a whole lot of things to consider

  • if cost is the main thing you are looking at basic camping  and look up under that term  ,you get a simple small tent
  • self catering  and driving  involves more organisation but people do it all the time
  • the best vehicle  would  be a  heavy 4WD /SUV
  • some areas are more crowded than others
  • there are a whole lot of options , it is a matter of deciding what is most important and how much you have to spend

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@Zoooom. You are welcome and sorry for the typos. 

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Hi @Zoooom!

 

So awesome that you are considering a safari!  Such an amazing experience and one that will bring lasting memories!

 

Just a couple thoughts to add...

 

I highly recommend that you give South Africa some serious consideration. First, the RAND is still at a historic low so your travel dollars will extend further for you than countries that book in USD such as Kenya and Tanzania. Secondly, since this is your first safari, it will not only give you an incredible game viewing but also a very well-rounded experience unlike other safaris that perhaps have a strong focus, like the Migration or Gorilla-trekking just to give a couple examples. Third, as others have pointed out, moving around is quite easy in South Africa whether it's planes, road transfers, trains etc. Even self-drive options! There are so many lodge stay choices and travel options available to you that can make your itinerary unique from others as well as meet your vision and budget. 

 

I am a big fan of the private game reserves, especially for those who consider their trip a once-in-a-lifetime experience or who are on their first safari. Private game reserves offer some added benefits over National Parks that are especially great for a first timer. In a National Park, you are restricted access via gate times so early AM game drives when animals are often on the hunt are not an option as well as night game drives when you can enjoy the nocturnal side of the bush sight and sounds, not to mention the incredible African sky illuminated with more stars than you can imagine. Also, in a National Park, you are restricted to driving on the roads. Therefore, your ranger can't drive off road and your game viewing is limited to the road. In a Private Game Reserve, you can drive over small bushes/scrub and in and out of river beds to stay on track with an animal or to follow an animal to learn more about its behavior which is incredibly exciting! Lastly, a Private Game Reserve restricts access to only those guests staying in the lodges of the reserve. Therefore, the only guests in jeeps are those in nearby lodges unlike National Parks that are open to the public and include weekend'ers, busses with backpackers, jeeps with visitors from outside the park etc. I have thoroughly enjoyed my National Park safari experiences but have been a choice for safaris such as the Migration for example which has a specific focus.

 

In addition to Safari, you could visit Cape Town. Cape Town is such an amazing city that's vibrant and rich with culture, food/wine, history and nature. There's something for everyone! Have you ever looked at a picture of Table Mountain and see how it hovers over a city where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans converge! Really spectacular. A day trip to visit the penguin colony at Boulder's Beach with a further stop at Cape of Good Hope (tip of Africa) in an area where you'll see Baboons and Ostrich along the road. Horseback riding on Noordhoek beach is beautiful too. The Centenary Tree Canopy Walk is pretty at sunset. It was architecturally designed like a "boomslang", local for tree snake. There's Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his imprisoned years as a freedom fighter and if you are into Wine and Food, the Wineland region of Franschooek and Stellenbosch and Paarl are incredible. I think the City and its surrounds have so much to offer and again, lots of choices to meet your vision, style of travel and budget.

 

No matter where you go and how you choose to travel, you will have an amazing time. I do think you should give some thought to SA and, while I don't know the specifics of your budget and your vision for the trip, I think it would be a great fit for you! One caveat.. It's easy to get addicted to safaris. So many of us have returned many times and some of us focus on inspiring others to do it! :)

 

Best

Dianne

Africa Direct USA 

 

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@Zoooom and @diannelovestravel Welcome both to the new look Safaritalk, I hope you can take a moment to introduce yourselves by starting new topics in this subforum.

 

Thanks, Matt

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Posted (edited)

@Zoooom welcome to safaritalk.

I did my first safari to South Africa way back in 2009. I still remember as if it was yesterday. I was also in my early thirties and so was my wife! So we were on a limited budget as well.

Looking back, after visiting numerous other destinations,  I would strongly recommend Kenya, especially Masai Mara during migration season (July-October) for a first time safari goer.

The plethora of animals is just incredible and cat sightings are relatively easy. I remember big cats were my top priority when I went on safari for the first time and I suppose they would be high on your list too.

I would also recommend that you spend at least a week in one park (may be 2 different camps) rather than rushing around trying to see everything. There's not a day when it gets boring in Africa.

As far as budget is concerned, I would strongly recommend that you reduce your trip duration to fit the budget rather trying to fit in as many days in the budget as possible. A week in a great camp with superb guides beats 3 weeks in a poor camp with mediocre guides.

If you have the budget, you can add Amboseli or Laikipia or Samburu to Mara.

Hope this helps.

Regards,

Vikram

Edited by vikramghanekar
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Yay! another Singaporean found his way into ST forum; it's nice not to be the only singaporean here. welcome to the home of safaristas @Zoooom. this is the best place to ask for advice. 

 

1) Best Country/ies to Visit for the 1st Time? - am looking at Kenya, but saw that Tanzania, and even other countries might be good - main aim is to see the great migration. Wondering what is the best plan for a couple looking first experience at a wildlife safari (not a photographer); probably looking at 2-3 weeks 

I started my safari in Tanzania because of the migration. but having been to a few places since, I agree that Kenya and South africa would be good places to make a start mainly because infrastructure facilities are very advanced and it's easy to get to these places from Singapore and the two countries give you the entire list of wildlife species you want to see, and beautiful landscapes. South Africa may be slightly more expensive while Kenya I think gives a more authentic flavour of a safari stay but south africa lodges are a comfortable place to ease anyone who think safaris mean roughing it out there. 

 

2) Best Month(s) to Visit the Suggested Country above and why? for south africa - i would say anytime of the year while for Kenya the peak season is from July to October which means more people and higher costs. I visited Kenya in February and it was incredible with animals but I enjoyed good promotional offers. rainy or green season are usually less popular as grasses are long and roads are wet and your game drive may be rained out. but costs are far lower, and you still get to see pretty good wildlife in some places 

 

Its so fun to plan a safari! a warning though - after what we considered as a once in a lifetime became many in a lifetime as many of us were struck by the safari addiction. 

 

Have fun planning.  

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I'm about the same age as you and went on my first safari with my husband in September 2015 for about 3 weeks. We too were keen to see the great migration so decided on Tanzania based on using maps like this one in conjunction with planning our annual leave from work:

https://www.discoverafrica.com/migration/map/

 

Also while Kenya looked amazing my country has a stronger travel warning for Kenya than Tanzania which nudged us in the direction we ending up taking.

 

For reference, the itinerary of our first safari was something like this:

2 days commuting

1 day Tarangire

1 day Manyara

3 days Ngorongoro Crater

2 days Central Serengeti

3 days Northern Serengeti (migration)

1 day Mikumi

2 days Ruaha

2 days Selous

5 days Kruger (South Africa)

2 days commuting

 

More time in each park would obviously be nice but time constraints unfortunately limit you to either doing a couple of parks in depth, or a "taster" of more parks so you know what you would like to come back to next time.

There are pros and cons with each approach.

 

While you've mentioned that the migration is the main focus, which other animals are a priority for you? 

 

My 2 cents is that you shouldn't miss the Ngorongoro Crater. It is seriously touristy BUT it is popular for a reason. It's stunning and is effectively a bowlful of animals, all the variety you might hope to see on your first safari :)

 

 

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