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YOUR SAFARI EXPLAINED

Discover More About Your African Adventure

When you first begin contemplating your next African safari, especially if it is your first time, you would be forgiven for prescribing to numerous misnomers or misunderstandings.

Even the term ‘safari’ can lead to misconceptions. Taken from the Swahili verb, kusafiri, to travel, it conjures images of endless voyaging, arduous hikes, rudimentary accommodation and remaining in one location long enough only to refresh and recuperate. 

However, while some of our adventures do intentionally incorporate aspects of significant travel – be it by foot, horseback, four-wheel drive or air – the majority run on ‘Africa time’, allowing you the peace and relaxation you desire of your vacation.

Here are our answers to six of our most commonly-asked questions, providing clarity and allowing you to better understand the opportunities available to you on your African safari:

1. A Tented Camp vs. a Safari Lodge

Some believe that a safari is strictly a camping affair, but there are opportunities for luxurious permanent accommodation even in the most remote of locations.

Tented or bush camps tend to offer far more intimacy. With minimal capacity, guest numbers are significantly limited, so if you are wishing to enjoy a more personalized experience, tented camps are likely your best option. I love encouraging couples or younger families to select a bush camp over lodges as they offer a more immersive, intimate vacation for parents and children alike.

©Kicheche Valley Camp, Maasai Mara, Kenya

Interestingly, I have found that the sense of luxury is only expanded at a tented camp. With staff more present with each individual, your every need is catered to and those decadent creature comforts are provided, such as a freshly-drawn copper bath overlooking the plains or your favorite aperitif poured upon your return from a game drive.

For me, one of the true beauties of a tented camp is in just how enveloped by nature you feel. With little but a sheet of fabric separating you from the expansive wilderness beyond*, the sights, sounds and even the smells of the bush are utterly immersive. In some regards, I feel that you have not fully experienced Africa without having spent at least a couple of nights under canvas.

*don’t let this alarm you! Camps are carefully situated in safe locations and vigilant staff patrol the grounds throughout the night to ensure your safety at all times.

Lodges are invariably less in price and are ideally suited to larger groups or the elderly, infirm or disabled. With modern amenities, established walkways, buildings and public areas, safari lodges can be far more appropriate for families of multiple generations to offer increased comfort and security to the more senior members of your group. 

Often incorporating lounges, balconies, inside and outdoor dining and en suite amenities, if you are not quite ready or able to venture completely off-grid, safari lodges are an ideal compromise, placing you in the heart of Africa while accommodating a wider range of guests.

Sable Alley Safari Lodge
Sable Alley Safari Lodge, Khwai Private Reserve, Botswana | ©Natural Selection

Though there are many positives to a safari lodge, their increased capacity often means that you will be sharing the property with others, including facilities such as swimming pools, open dining areas and collaborative excursions, rather than enjoying a private game drive all of your own.

Tented bush camps are frequently more of an investment, but I believe this more than pays for itself in the immersive depth of unforgettable experiences.

2. Tented Camp Facilities

It is possible to enjoy a tented camp experience on a minimal budget, but doing so will feel very much like ‘camping’. If this is the experience for you, we can certainly help you find the ideal venue. However, many of the camps have little in common with the common conception of camping. There is no lowering to your knees to enter your tent, no sticks and stones jabbing into your back throughout the night and no having to dress yourself from a seated position under a low tent canopy!

With exquisite décor, first-class service and amenities that, while adapted to the bush environment, leave little to be desired for all that you gain in a captivating African safari immersion.

Guests sometimes feel a little intimidated by the prospect of a tented camp, imagining that they may be foregoing the comfort and luxury of a more established property.

While this may be of valid concern for a small percentage of the bush camps we use, most are every bit as luxurious as their bricks-and-mortar counterparts, yet with the inimitable benefit of being utterly enveloped by the African wilderness.

Staff, chefs, guides and drivers ensure that your every wish is catered to to exceptional standard, including drawing an indulgent bath at the end of a full-day game drive, serving your preferred pre-dinner aperitif or catering to any and all dietary requirements you may have.

Cottar's 1920s Camp
Cottar’s 1920s Camp, Maasai Mara, Kenya ©Cottar’s Safaris

As with so much in life, you very much pay for what you get on an African safari, so indulging in a little extra will pay dividends in the comfort and enjoyment of your tented camp sojourn.

3. A Guide vs. a Driver

At Rothschild Safaris we are adamant about working with only the best, top-quality guides in the industry. But what exactly is a guide, as opposed to a driver? On a fundamental level, a driver will collect you from the airport or your point of entry and deliver you to your accommodation. Camp and lodge drivers go beyond this, transporting you on excursions that may include seeing a wealth of wildlife in its natural habitat.

However, this will likely adhere to a fixed route and itinerary and is far less likely to be a fruitful game drive, especially for more reclusive creatures, such as rhino and leopard.

A guide, however, is the make or break of your African safari experience. Often highly trained in tracking, in regular contact with fellow guides and with an intimate knowledge of the daily habits of regional fauna, a guide will be able to lead you directly to the animals you wish to see and place you in the best position at the ideal time for that perfect photo opportunity.

Safari Guides
Guides or Drivers? Which is best for your African safari?

A driver is able to take you into the wilds of Africa; a guide will craft a bespoke African safari experience perfectly suited to your desires, the environment and the habits and whereabouts of the region’s inhabitants.

By selecting only the most talented guides available, we ensure that your must-see list is all but guaranteed to be completed.

4. A Room is Just a Room

The vast majority of your African safari will take place during the day, but that is not to suggest that your nocturnal vacation is inconsequential, even if you are fast asleep.

An indulgent bed, good linen, quiet neighbors and, above all, a revitalizing night’s sleep can absolutely transform your vacation. A restless night can drastically deplete your enjoyment of the following day, so by selecting appropriate accommodations that will allow you to wake refreshed each day will increase your enjoyment of each and every day.

This sentiment reaches beyond the four walls of your bedroom as well, as your fellow travelers and venue staff are also pivotal to your experience. At Rothschild Safaris we endeavor to find properties, facilities and yes, even fellow guests that will enhance your vacation, not hinder your enjoyment of it. 

Private Granite Suites, Londolozi
Londolozi’s exquisite Private Granite Suites, where these are the only neighbours you’ll have.

An African safari is simply spectacular, and likely to incorporate so many memories that will stay with you forever. By ensuring that or venue stays are as comfortable and enjoyable as possible, we will prevent those memories from being hindered, impaired or created through tired, sleep-deprived eyes.

The time you spend at your accommodation, whether dining, relaxing, sleeping or mingling with other guests is every bit as integral to your vacation as the pride of lion stalking a herd of gazelle, the elephant mother protecting her adorable newborn or the lonely white rhino grazing stoically upon the plains.

5. The Value of a Travel Designer

We are all different. What I may view as the most iconic, captivating African safari experience, you may consider secondary to another aspect of the continent’s diverse attractions. 

When you invest in a vacation, you are invariably buying a package that someone else has created to be the stereotypical idea of an African safari and one that will appeal to the widest demographic possible. It may tick all the boxes, so to speak, but it is invariably little more than a diluted version of what is actually possible. Added to this, it is created, not for you, but for the anonymous majority, so will only ever be a universally-palatable interpretation of what you truly desire of your sojourn.

Tanda Tula Field Camp, Timbavati, Greater Kruger National Park
Tanda Tula Field Camp, Timbavati, Greater Kruger National Park

By discussing these wishes with a Travel Designer, we won’t simply handcraft your dream African safari, we will exceed your expectations with our unparalleled knowledge of locations, venues, experiences and even the staff. 

We know the best times of year to visit, the finest restaurants for your exact dietary wishes and not only the best hotel for you to visit, but the best room within that hotel to book just for you.

You will receive our undivided guidance and attention, our resident local representative only ever a phone call away. When people ask us the value of a bespoke Travel Designer, we suggest that it is the difference between doing all the work yourself to achieve an average experience and barely lifting a finger to enjoy a fully-catered African safari that far exceeds expectation.

6. Crafting the Perfect Fit

Not only are all of our guests different, from varied backgrounds and with equally differing wishes of their African safari experience, they are also all traveling for their own personal reasons.

For some, it may be as simple as enjoying their annual vacation. Yet many of our guests choose to invest in such an exceptional escapade for personal reasons. Perhaps it is a family reunion across multiple generations or siblings; maybe it is a birthday; others join us for the pure romance of Africa, for honeymoons, anniversaries or renewals of vows. There are even those for whom an African safari is a lifelong dream, personal reward or rejuvenating catharsis.

With such diversity, it is essential to provide an appropriate solution for every guest. Honeymooners are likely not wishing to share a venue with a horde of screaming children. Likewise, a newly-widowed photographer in his twilight years probably wouldn’t enjoy cohabiting with some loved-up newlyweds.

Cottar's 1920s Camp
It’s the little touches that make a vacation truly unforgettable. ©Cottar’s 1920s Camp

Not only can your fellow guests either enhance or detract from your accommodation experience, they can also hinder your daily adventures. Children can be forgiven for their shorter attention spans and minimal resilience, but when you are hoping to spend from dawn until dusk tracking and photographing game, their presence will be significantly detrimental. 

At Rothschild Safaris, we understand the requirements of our client dichotomy, uniting similar guests at accommodations that will best suit their circumstances and desires. The people you share your African safari with can ruin the entire experience, but with our acute attention to detail we find that many of our clients not only connect, they also become ongoing, even life-long friends beyond their African safari. 

I hope these six points may provide a little insight and clarity into your next African safari, but we are always available to discuss your every wish in greater detail. Contact our Travel Designers today to begin crafting your once-in-a-lifetime.

Images via Rothschild Safaris