If you have been reading my blog for a while, then you probably know that I am going on my dream trip: a South African safari this October. I still can’t even believe that it’s finally happening. I am beyond ecstatic to go on safari and see all of the amazing wildlife, try the authentic foods, and see the red African sunsets. It’s going to be a remarkable experience, but that doesn’t come without preparation. I started planning this trip about six months in advance of my departure date. It takes a lot of planning and while the process isn’t completely finished yet, I feel like I’ve got it handled now. I would love to share some ways to prepare for a safari in South Africa with you. Hopefully this will make things easier for you once you decide to embark on this trip of a lifetime.
How to plan the perfect South African safari:
Pick the Right Time of Year
If you’re trying to choose when to visit South Africa, you must consider several different factors. And don’t forget, since South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere all of the seasons are the opposite of those in North America.
For a South African safari, winter (June-August) has the best game viewing and the least rain. A shortage of water supply means that the animals will be gathering around watering holes, making them easy to spot for that perfect photo. However, this season can be quite chilly so dress accordingly.
If you would rather go on safari when it’s warmer in the summer (December-February), it is the wet season, but you can still have a great time. The summer is the best time for bird watching and the parks will be less crowded, resulting in cheaper prices.
I will be going on my South African safari in October and I chose this month for a few reasons. I’m not a big fan of cold weather (although I do love cold destinations such as Iceland and Finland!), so I immediately knew that I didn’t want to go between June and August. Since most safari vehicles are open-air for optimal game viewing and I would be more concerned about freezing (anything below 70° Fahrenheit is cold to me) than looking for animals, it just didn’t seem like an ideal time. I also knew that I didn’t want to go in the wet season because I really want to see a lot of animals, so December to February was out. In October, it is beginning to feel like summer and there isn’t a ton of rain yet, so it’s possible to see many different animals without being cold. October also happens to be one of the best times to see newborn animals. I mean, how could I say no to seeing baby elephants?!
As you can see, choosing when to go on South African safari really just depends on your interests. No matter which month you ultimately choose, you’ll be sure to have an unbelievable time.
Find a Suitable South African Safari Tour Company
Sure, you can rent a car and explore South Africa on your own, but the easiest way to go on safari is with a tour company. They’ll know the best areas to spot wildlife and you won’t have to worry about navigating the roads in a foreign country. Going on South African safari with a tour company may be a bit expensive, but it’s well worth the cost to have the ultimate experience.
I will be traveling with Epic Enabled, a tour company that specializes in wheelchair accessible safaris. When I was searching for an accessible South African safari online, I came across a couple different companies, but Epic Enabled immediately seemed like the best fit. They were friendly over email, had a reasonable price, and offered exactly what I wanted – an 8 day safari through the world famous Kruger National Park, with authentic meals and nice lodging included. When researching for your ideal tour company in South Africa, make sure that they offer everything that you desire. After the extremely long flight to actually get to South Africa, you’ll want to know that you’re well taken care of by professionals upon arrival.
Get Travel Insurance
If you’re planning to visit South Africa, then you probably want to get a little adventurous, right? Whether you will be cage diving with great white sharks off the coast or going on a South African safari, there’s an element of adventure in almost everything that the country offers. That’s exactly what I’m looking forward to, but with adventure comes risk as well. And for that reason, it’s always good to have travel insurance.
I’ll be honest with you – I’ve actually never purchased travel insurance before. Not the smartest way to travel, I know. But if you’re going on a safari, most tour companies require every visitor to have travel insurance just to be safe. As the saying goes, “Better safe than sorry”. So if you’re traveling with a tour company, you most likely will need travel insurance.
When I learned that I’d definitely need this, I started searching around online to try and find travel insurance companies that covered pre-existing medical conditions. To my surprise, there weren’t very many options. I finally stumbled upon Allianz Global Assistance though, and they do cover pre-existing conditions. For about $250, my traveling companion and I can both be covered for our entire 10 day trip to South Africa. That’s not a bad price for everything that it covers and it puts my mind at ease for our adventure.
Purchase the Right Clothes and Accessories
What to wear on safari completely depends on when you go. If you visit during the South African winter (June-August) then you’ll definitely want to layer up. On the other hand, in the summer it gets extremely warm.
Since Kruger National Park is in the malaria zone in South Africa, it’s always a good idea to wear long sleeves and pants so more of your body will be covered. In the summer, maybe some light khaki pants and a thin shirt would be ideal, along with a hat to block the intense African sun. As far as clothing goes, try to wear neutral colors also. A bright yellow shirt would be easily noticeable by the wildlife, but a khaki or green color would be better received and help keep you out of potential danger.
You may also want to take some useful South African safari accessories, such as a good camera to capture that perfect shot or binoculars so that you can see animals in the distance.
Get Any Immunizations You May Need
This is probably the least glamorous part of traveling to South Africa, but it’s necessary and important. What immunizations you will need depends on what country you’ll be visiting from, so for up to date information check out this website.
Everyone visiting Kruger National Park, an area affected by malaria in South Africa, should get a vaccine or pills to prevent malaria. This is not required, but as I said earlier, “better safe than sorry”. With the pills you will start taking them a week or two before your trip, during your trip, and you’ll continue taking them for about a month afterwards in many cases. A primary care doctor can give you a prescription for these pills.
Experiencing a South African safari does take some preparation as you can see, but in my opinion that’s a small price to pay for the ultimate bucket list experience. Hopefully this list of ways to prepare will help you get to the amazing wildlife a bit quicker and with more ease.
UPDATE: The safari was amazing! Here are a few other posts I’ve written about my experience and what you should expect:
** To plan your own wheelchair accessible South African adventure, visit Epic Enabled!