Safari Styles – Types of Safaris

Just as with other types of vacations, safaris come in all shapes and sizes, so to speak. The most popular, or at least most readily depicted, is the driving safari. This usually involves heading out in a 4×4 vehicle with an expert guide, and is possibly the most general type of safari ? it?s a great way to see a wide variety of (land) animals and can be done in a national park or game reserve. It?s often a small group (afterall, you have to fit in the vehicle) and can be done as a private safari as well.

In addition to the driving safari, though, there are numerous ways to see the animals, some of which are necessary for viewing specific types of wildlife.

? Walking safaris ? these can be done with a group or a private guide, and allow guests to travel on foot to see the animals. Without the vehicle between you and the wildlife, it can feel a bit more interesting, albeit perhaps a bit more scary and thrilling the closer the animals get. The guides are experts in the regions and the wildlife, though, and know how to read the animals movements to ensure that safari-goers are not in any danger. These can range from a few hours to multiple nights, with the overnight safaris having both basic and luxury sleeping options.

? River/boat Safaris ? this is an excellent way to see water-dwelling wildlife, such as hippopotamus, alligators, and many species of bird, as well as animals who come to the water to drink or bath, such as elephants (who you?ll often see actually in the water or cooling off in the mud by the banks) and multiple types of antelope such as impala, bushbuck, waterbuck and kudu.

? Fly-in safaris ? these allow you to see a greater number of area in a shorter period of time. In addition, they also offer an areal view of the landscape and wildlife ? a completely unique experience from anything offered on the ground.

? Hot air balloon safaris ? These are almost always day trip options, as opposed to multiple-day safaris. It?s tough to beat the spectacular view of sunrise over the African plains as the hot air balloon takes off.

? Canoe safaris ? Like boat safaris, a canoe safari focuses on the animals in and around the rives. Unlike the boat safaris, though, canoes are smaller and quieter (no motor) allowing you to get even closer to the animals. These are led by a guide, just as with other safaris, and can range in length from a day trip to multiple days.

? Mobile safaris ? These safaris move from place to place, setting up camp each night. They can require longer drives, sometimes up to six hours between locations. Just because they are tented, they don?t necessarily require ?roughing it?. Some offer very luxurious, even en suite tents.

? Elephant-back safari ? For elephant-lovers, this might be the ultimate safari experience. While they?re often just a half-day or full-day excursion, these safaris let you see the landscape from atop an elephant. Elephants are typically very gentle creatures, though, and the particular elephants used have gone through training to participate in the safaris. Still, it?s important to know how to ride the elephant and be respectful of the animal and it?s environment. They can still get spooked or excited, and you have to be prepared to hold on if their speed changes or they move suddenly.

? Primate Safaris ? Because of their nature, primate safaris are limited to just a few countries in the world. The most sought after include: lemurs in Madagascar, the chimpanzees in Uganda; lowland gorillas in the Congo, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic and Gabon; and perhaps the most incredible, the endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo. With under 700 mountain gorillas left in the world, permits for viewing the mountain gorillas are quite limited and are rather costly, though all of the proceeds from these goes directly back to conservation efforts for the gorillas.

Often, people choose to combine several types of safaris and in multiple destinations. Often, game lodges will provide a package with a variety of safari options ? for instance 4×4 safaris, boat safaris and perhaps a walking safari. Before choosing your destination, consider which types of safaris you are interested in, which animals you?d most like to see, and which landscapes you?d most like to experience.

Packing with a Purpose

Packing for a vacation is always one of the trickier parts. Do you really need to bring your umbrella or rain coat? How often can you wear the same jeans before you officially feel gross? How many pairs of shoes can you shove in your suitcase? Ok, that last one might just be me, but packing truly can be one of the most challenging parts of preparing for a trip, especially when traveling to multiple destinations that may have varying weather. With city travel, you can pretty much manage to get by your traditional everyday outfits unless you completely misjudge the weather. On a safari, however, what you pack actually can affect your activities and therefore takes a little extra planning.

While some of what you pack will certainly depend on the type of safari you?re taking, the time of year, and the destination, here are some general tips that can apply to most safaris.

1. If you?re planning a walking safari (or think you may partake in one) pack some neutral items of clothing to blend in as much as you can. Bright colors will draw attention to you, which could be unsafe – think of the red flag that the matadors wave to entice bulls.

2. Pack lotions, shower gels and other bath/body products that have light or no scent. Again, anything too strong could draw the attention of the animals. While it?s not particularly likely unless you?re wearing something especially pungent, it?s better to be safe (literally) than sorry.

3. Bring clothes that layer well. If you?re staying at a game park, game drives are often scheduled for early in the morning and around sunset. Temperatures in Africa can change dramatically throughout the day, and morning drives in particular get can start out chillier and end up quite warm.

4. The rainy seasons in Africa vary from country to country, and sometimes even in different regions within a country. If you?re planning a multi-destination safari, it?s possible that you may hit the rainy season, or at least the cusp of it, at least once. Rain jackets are relatively easy to pack and don?t take up too much space. Some countries, such as Botswana, can get quite severe thunder storms and with much of your time spent in wide open spaces (even at the lodges), this is a case in which a rain jacket is most certainly preferable to an umbrella.

5. Some countries require vaccination records, particularly for yellow fever. If the countries you?re visiting require this, make sure to pack this in a secure but handy spot for when you enter the country. You can learn more about required and recommended vaccinations on the CDC website.

Check out the Chimera Travel Blog for more packing ideas!