Safari is a Swahili word that means journey. A journey that traditionally would include camping overnight in desolate places, where only a burning fire would keep the wild beasts at a distance. Thanks to the great explorers Livingstone, Stanley, Thomson, Hemingway and Blixen – safari has become synonymous with an adventurous, exotic way of travelling that still today clings to the essence of going on a safari in Africa, and even in the 21.st Century it is still possible to get close to the same wildlife they saw.
There are many great safari destinations in Africa. Tanzania and Botswana, a safari will often be more expensive than in Kenya but with the chance to be in more remote areas of exploration and with some wildlife less accustomed to having people in vehicles around. For example Tanzania has Katavi National Park, Tanzania’s third largest national park, lies in the remote southwest of the country, within a truncated arm of the Rift Valley that terminates in the shallow, brooding expanse of Lake Rukwa. Katavi that boasts enormous congregations of up to 200 hippoes in single spots by the Katuma river. It is during the dry season, when the floodwaters retreat, that Katavi truly comes into its own forming the only source of drinking water for miles around, and the flanking floodplains support game concentrations that defy belief. An estimated 4,000 elephants might converge on the area, together with several herds of 1,000-plus buffalo, while an abundance of giraffe, zebra, impala and reedbuck.
Whether you stay in a lodge or a tented camp, the usual daily schedule is an early morning game drive before breakfast, then heading back for breakfast around 9:30 – 10am – then another game drive or relaxation untill lunch and finally an longer game drive during the afternoon until sunset.
The great abundance of herbivores provide easy pickings for the numerous lion prides and spotted hyena clans whose territories converge on the floodplains. Katavi is Isolated, untrammelled and seldom visited, Katavi is a true wilderness, providing the few intrepid souls who make it there with a thrilling taste of Africa as it must have been a century ago. And in Tanzania you also find Gombe National Park, made famous by Jane Goodall and her scientific research on the Chimpanzee’s that lives there.
When one goes further down south, Zambias Luangwa Park comes into mind as it is one of the true african wildernesses left mostly untouched. Mozambique is still recovering from decades of civil war and there’s only a few parks to see the typical african wildlife. Botswana is something of a hidden pearl in Africa, the Okavango Delta, the Moremi Game Reserve, Central Kalahari, Makgadikgadi and the “pans” – are all incredible places to visit with rewarding experiences with seeing the best of wildlife in Africa.
Then again Kenya could be argued to boast a more diverse landscape and with that more specialized species of animals in a smaller geographical area, making it possible to see many of the world’s premier places for gamewatching on a one week safari and, as an added bonus, in Kenya you can prolong your safari with a relaxing holiday at the country’s spectacular Indian Ocean coastline.
That combined with the Kenyans reknown hospitality, friendliness and service, has made Kenya the premier safari destination in Africa and more than seventy percent of the one million visitors Kenya receives annually, come to Kenya with the sole purpose of going on a safari to have a first hand encounter with the incredible African wildlife. Going on safari in Northern Kenya is mostly done with special purpose vehicles like a Toyota Land Cruiser, Land Rovers and other sturdy 4-wheel drive vehicles. But in other places of the country the roads are often much better and mini busses are being used for safaris here.
In the Masai Mara there is not only competition amongst the animals, but also between the tourists in minibuses as to whom will be the first to spot the game. The drivers use radio communication to share information about where to find the most sought after animals – which is the big cats, black rhinos and elephants
Acomodation and transportation
When going on a safari, you can either choose to stay in a luxury lodge, a luxury tented camp or maybe take your own camping gear along and pitch a tent in the wild. Definitely going on a safari in Africa is a journey of a lifetime and probably nowhere else in the world will you see as much wildlife as here!
For most safaris in kenya Toyota or Nissan minibuses are being used for transportation though in the rainy season it can be nessecary to have four wheel drive. In Tanzania it is mostly 4-wheel drive vehicles that is being used. For some reason the wildlife don’t seem to take any notice of a car and cheetahs will even use vehicles as a vantage point for a better view of their prey. Also lions wont take much notice of a car full of people, as long as everyone stays in the car! Fatal incidents have taken place, when a foolhardy person wanted to get closer to the seemingly calm and friendly animals, and left the safety of the car. As a warning, leaving your vehicle in Kenyas national parks is strictly forbidden exept if the driver needs to change a flat tire.
Walking has during millions of years been the most widespread means of transportation and a walking safari is probably the most intense and rewarding way to see and experience the life of the wild animals in Africa.
A walking safari is maybe the most intense form of safari because all your senses are being utilized and you will feel the rush of adrenaline when getting close to the African wildlife without the safety of a vehicle, though some places like Crescent Island and Hells Gate at Lake Naivasha.
A walking safari is maybe the most intense form of safari because all your senses are being utilized and you will feel the rush of a, there are no big predators.
However in most of the National Parks a walking safari will probably make you feel how the early humans must have felt like when walking amongst giants from the animal kingdom like elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, hyenas as well as hippos and buffalos – the latter two species competing to be on top of the list of the most dangerous animals in Africa.
But if you are accompanied by an armed ranger or some Masai warriors who understands the behavior of the wild animals, it is possible to leave the car and take a walk on the “wild side” to get a first hand encounter with Africa and her amazing nature – rivers lined by gallery forest, tall yellow grasses glistening with dew in the morning sun, blooming trees and a wealth of butterflies, a birds list hard to beat and an array of wildlife that covers all habitats and niches in the sprawling ecosystems of Africa.
A balloon safari is probably one of the most exotic and romantic ways of seeing the wildlife and in Masai Mara Game Reserve and in Amboseli National Park it is possible to get a chance to silently fly above the savannah, watching the wildlife beneath you as the sun rises.
The elevation of hot air balloons is controlled by just the right combination of air temperature inside the balloon and sacks of sand to act as counterweight. The course of the balloon as well as the altitude is to a high degree determined by the wind and so it can be a bit difficult to make an “itinerary” in advance. Hence, from a photographers point of view, it can be a bit “hit or miss” taking photos from a balloon – especially if one wants to photograph the unpredictable wildlife on the plains. Yet one can be sure though, to get some great views of the landscape and it is a once in a lifetime adventure.
In Kenya tours can be booked in advance online or at some of the bigger lodges. In the Masai Mara that would be Keekorok or Mara Serena Lodge, and it will cost around 400 USD pr. person for a 2-3 hour flight.
After landing a luxurious breakfast is served as a picnic on the savannah and the exquisite endeavour is properly celebrated with a glass of champagne. Watching the sun rise over Masai Mara from a balloon is something to remember for many years to come.