Of the many people I speak with about adventure travel most tell me their ultimate goal is go to Africa for a photo safari.
Such an adventure will probably begin at one of two cities: either Nairobi, Kenya or Johannesburg, South Africa.
The most popular safari itineraries begin in Nairobi. You would stay a day or two in this rather large city to rest up from the long flight before moving into the interland where the animal action lies.
You will travel in safari vans or Jeeps. It depends on the particular vehicles your safari operator uses. Some of you may opt for a small plane safari where you fly from one camp or town to another, and then board vans or Jeeps for your ground photography.
What to pack? Outback clothing, of course - no fashion requirements in this part of the world. Leave the jeans at home. Not only does denim take too long to dry, but blue is the favorite color of the dreaded tsetse fly. And ladies, avoid perfume and cologne and even scented lotions, which can attract unwanted attention from wildlife, particularly flying critters. Some of you may wish to visit safari outfitters before departing.
Let’s first go on tour with a flying safari to Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa. Departing Nairobi by private plane you will wing south to Amboseli, where you’ll discover local wildlife against the stunning backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Your pilot will fly low over the landscape as you press your camera to the plane’s window to get shots of the many forms of wildlife below. You will probably spend two nights here in a comfortable lodge and, pick up your land vehicles for the two days of morning and afternoon “hunts” with the camera. In many of these locations you have the opportunity to view up-close elephant herds, giraffes, lions, monkeys, antelope of all kinds, water buffalo, and many other forms of African wildlife. It will astound you how many of these beautiful animals you will get close to in a safe conveyance. Take two cameras in case one fails at some point during your safari.
From Amboseli you will fly north through the semi-arid Samburu region. Here you are bound to see herds of elephant. There can be as many as 12 to 30 of these magnificent animals wandering about, stripping trees of their bark and leaves and gathering tall grass as they move through the terrain. They like the rivers, streams and watering holes to supply the great amounts of water they require. You might also see giraffe and the long-necked gerenuk. The camps and lodges you stay in are quite nice. Some are even luxurious. It all depends on the type of safari you book.
Perhaps, it will then be on to Masai Mara for three days of safari activities in the area of the greatest wildlife density anywhere in Kenya. Personally, I have witnessed more than a quarter of a million animals from one viewing point in this part of Kenya. It will blow your mind. From your private plane you can photograph many herds grazing the green fields. On land, drive through these herds and click away.
In the Ngorongoro Crater, you drive through rough countryside to the Rift Valley. One excursion will take you to the crater floor to view the local non-migratory inhabitants, which can include lions, water buffalo, elephant and many other forms of life.
The Serengeti will provide many opportunities to capture camera shots of the animals you came to Africa to see. You name them, they will probably be here: zebra, lions, elephant, wildebeest, and so on.
Another flight can take you back to Mt. Kilimanjaro for a balloon ride around the side of this tallest of African mountains. What a thrill this can be. Try it. I was afraid to get in the basket, but now, I wish I had ventured above.
Your tour of East Africa will end where you began, Nairobi. You will most likely return via some point in Europe, which is always good for a stopover or a chance to take a Mediterranean cruise.
The second most popular camera safari will begin in Johannesburg, South Africa. You can first fly to England, then down to South Africa. British Airways do this from the U.S. to London then take British Airways or South African Airlines to Johannesburg. Your tour operator will most likely do the air bookings for you.
Again, perhaps the easiest southern African safari can be achieved through private air tour companies. From Johannesburg you fly southwest to beautiful Cape Town on the southern most tip of the African continent. You would tour here by private car to visit the city, then go to Winelands behind famed Table Rock Mountain, and then view the port area. You might even wish to do some horseback riding in the nearby Grootbos Nature Reserve.
A flight will take you to Hazyview at Mpumalanga to get close up and personal with an elephant and take a short ride atop their back.
Continue to Kruger National Park and into the heart of big game country.
You will probably spend two nights here in a camp, which features gamedrives, walking safaris, elegant dining and superb accommodation. From Kruger, its back to Johannesburg for a night’s rest, then the next day to Botswana for a few nights using safari camps sited in diverse locales to ensure a truly unique experience with a variety of wildlife activities.
Then it is on to famed Victoria Falls in Zambia. You will spend a couple nights here on the edge of the Zambezi River and experience a Sundowner Cruise along with a guided tour of the falls.
There are varied itineraries that can be taken from Johannesburg and all can be enjoyed if your heart and mind are in the right place for what may be a life changing experience.
These flying tours usually take from four to 12 participants, so you are never with a herd of tourists. It’s quite up-close and personal. The camera safaris that do not use private planes carry from 12 to 24 guests and use the same vans and Jeeps to wildlife viewing areas and also use nice lodging and tented camps. The planes cut down on travel times from point to point.
The cost of these African safaris is not inexpensive as you might imagine.
You can figure several thousand dollars per person with air from the U.S.
You will find there are multiple levels of accommodation luxury. Some are quite nice, others rather basic, but clean. Remember, you are in the African outback.
I have stayed in several tented camps and after dinner you are escorted to your private tent and told to zip up for the night. Don’t go out on your own because it’s simply not safe. One night I peered out an opening in my tent and saw eyes of a couple animals.
There will be a chamber pot under your bed.
Another night I remember it rained all night and I spent the entire time zipped up with a light bulb hanging from a power cord with water dripping down over the bulb. I was afraid to turn out the light for fear of getting electrocuted and also, I had zipped in with a large red and yellow lizard which spent the night with me. Not nice at the time, but isn’t it interesting that these are the experiences we remember?
Your travel professional can assist you with recommendations and brochures. Investigate the best weather for the itinerary you plan to take.
You’ll never forget this one!