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How to Select an African Safari

Select an African Safari: Choose Your Destination

From ground tents to silk sheets, there are as many different types of safaris available as people who embark upon them. Before you choose your safari, do some research to figure out what best meets your budgetary and sightseeing needs.

Just like the first safaris, animals are still one of Africa's primary draws for would-be adventurers. However, today, it's about observation and appreciation rather than hunting (not least because it's highly illegal in most areas these days). In order to ensure that you see the animals of your choice, here's a quick primer on what you can expect to see where:

  • Kenya is known as one of the best countries for animal observation. You'll find lions, leopards, elephants, leopards and rhinoceros -- known as the big five animals -- all roaming the plains of Kenya.
  • The famous Serengeti desert is located in Tanzania just to the south. It's home to animals like zebra, gazelle and all kinds of primates [source: Serengeti Park].
  • Botswana and Zimbabwe, near the southern tip of Africa, boast rumbling herds of elephants whose migrations are major draws for this region. Migration safaris are specifically targeted to these events -- they're the best way to feel like one of the herd without actually putting yourself in danger [source: Zambezi Safari and Travel Co.].

As you might expect, the cost of a safari vacation can vary widely depending on the type of excursion you choose. If you want to experience the African landscape at its rawest, choose a safe but low-cost trip, which usually involves making camp nightly in secure areas right on the plains. You'll also find these mobile safaris offered with more comfortable accommodations, using large buses or RVs to provide sleeping and living quarters as your group travels throughout the area. True luxury safaris are also available, and their amenities range from private guest cabins to large swimming pools and gourmet meals. Of course, you'll pay for these extra accommodations.

Take some time to consider when you want to go on safari. Generally speaking, the best time to go is during the dry season, which comprises most of the winter and early spring (May-October). Temperatures are mildest and the foliage thins out a little bit, making your view of the animals you seek that much better. The wet season doesn't have to be a total wash, though: Many countries experience dry spells during that time of year [source: Siyabona Africa].

Ready to start packing? Read on to find out more about what to look for in a safari and why you should always save space in your bag for a pair of flip-flops.