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GoNOMAD Do It Yourself Guide:
Planning Your Own Safari
By Berne Broudy, GoNOMAD TOURS GUIDE
The continent of Africa is home to some of the last large game on the planet. Species like elephants, lions and tigers, animals most of us have seen in captivity, roam free in national parks and conservation areas. Many travelers visiting Africa take a safari to see these great mammals in their natural habitat.
With the increased popularity safaris amongst visitors to Africa, "going on safari" is no longer limited to camping in a canvas tent and riding through the African veldt by Jeep. With many safari options to choose from, an increasing number of travelers are planning their own safaris.
Though researching and planning your own safari can take more time than booking with a domestic tour group, there are advantages for many travelers that outweigh the inconvenience. The biggest is price. Booking with an in-country safari provider will generally be a fraction of the cost of an all-inclusive safari from home. You may also be able to arrange for a private guide if you go direct.
The other advantage is flexibility. If you plan to combine your safari with other activities in Africa, and you dont have a set itinerary, you may opt to wait to plan your safari until you arrive.
And with the Internet, its easy to find local safari providers. But youll need to ask yourself a number of questions before you head out in your khakis and safari hat.
First and foremost, choose a country that is relatively stable and safe for travelers. Second, consider that countrys position on land conservation. You may want to go on safari somewhere your tourist dollars will contribute to continued conservation of the natural habitat. A preserve, park or conservation area may be defined differently from country to country. Ask questions.
There are two principle ecosystems for safari: the savanna and the jungle. Depending on time and budget, you may need to make a choice between the two.
Decide if remote and undeveloped or easily accessible is more important to you. In some countries, the safari location may be far from the nearest city, and that might determine your plans.
Some countries also specialize in certain types of safaris. For example, you cant see the Wildebeest Migration in Liberia, but you can in Tanzania.
It used to be that going on safari necessarily meant seeking out large game like rhinoceros, elephant, giraffe, and lions. Big game safaris are still the most popular, but if you have a special interest, there may be a safari to accommodate you. There are safaris that focus specifically on birds, for example. If you want to see a particular animal, perhaps the fanged, hooked, primitive chevrotain, you might choose a safari in Liberia, where the chevrotain still roams free inside Sapo Park.
If culture is important to you, make sure to choose a safari in a park where indigenous residents have been allowed to remain or even run the park. In some parks, permanent and nomadic settlements are prohibited.
Safaris run from a half-day, or one game drive, to weeks at a time spent on the steppe or in the jungle. Depending on where you choose to go on safari, you may be fairly restricted to your campsite when youre not animal watching. Be realistic about how long you want to be out in the bush, and what else you want to see on your trip to Africa.
Some all-inclusive safaris can run over US $500/day for luxury tent sites, lodges, game drives, fees and catered meals. A Do It Yourself budget can be as low as US$50, if you camp in your own tent, pay your own park fees and take a day drive with a local guide. Your budget will also determine how long you stay out in the bush and where.
Most tourism boards for African nations have listings and recommendations of local safari guides.
Also, search GoNOMADs LISTINGS of local tour guides. Be sure to follow all the guidelines for choosing a local guide (see GoNOMAD GUIDE TO FINDING AND CHOOSING A LOCAL GUIDE).
As always, ask for references, safety records, guide certifications and other documents. Check prices and what is and isnt included. Pay with a credit card, if possible, get a receipt, and, if the service is good, a tip is appreciated.
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Copyright 2001. Berne Broudy. All rights reserved.