Top African Safari Myths, Debunked!
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Is going on an African safari high on your bucket list?
If so, what’s stopping you from taking the leap and go on a dreamy African safari? Is it because you are convinced that safaris are too pricey? Or perhaps you think you are not fit enough to handle the adventure?
Whichever reason that may hinder you from taking the leap of faith, chances are, they aren’t necessarily true.
That’s why, in this article, we plan to put your mind at ease and dispel the most common safari myths. Perhaps, by gaining a better understanding of these topics, you’ll be convinced that it’s time for you to book that unforgettable African trip!
Myth #1: Safaris are expensive
Photo credit: Adventour
We get why you would think that all safaris come with a hefty price tag. That said, this appears to be the most prevalent African safari myth! The reason? When you search for an African safari online you are bound to come across plenty of glitzy options. Which look and sound “expensive”.
But that’s not always the truth. Yes, there are plenty of luxury safaris that don’t come cheap. However, it is very much possible to experience an affordable safari that doesn’t require to sacrifice on excellent game viewing.
You can enjoy a 3-day camping safari in Tanzania for prices starting at EUR512 per person. The price includes 2 nights’ accommodation, meals, game drives in three national parks, all your camping gear, as well as the park fees!
» learn more about Budget Safaris: What Makes up the Cost of a Safari?
Myth #2. Catching a glimpse of the Big Five and / or the Great Migration are the only reasons to go on a safari
Most travelers going on a safari opt to visit one of the parks that are home to the Big Five - the African lion, the African elephant, the Cape buffalo, the African leopard and, the black rhinoceros – and/or witness the Great Migration.
But some people get the timing wrong and miss all the action. Some may be unlucky and not end up spotting all of the Big Five.
While this may be a bummer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all a waste of time. A safari is so much more than ticking off certain animals off a bucket list. After all, why be upset that you’ve waited to spot a leopard if you can watch giraffes and zebras frolicking in their natural habitat?
Plus, there are also the little five animals, amazing birds, and an abundance of nocturnal animals that are worth to keep on the lookout for while you’re on a safari.
Myth #3. You are not on a safari unless you “rough it”
Photo credit: Wildlife Oasis Tours
In direct contrast to the glitzy and expensive safari myth, there’s one that is just as common and just as incorrect: that you have to rough it on a safari! You will be required to stay in a tent with basic facilities, surrounded by wildlife.
Sure, if that’s what you want, you are more than welcome to book a camping safari! If you want to rough it, there are plenty of options that put you right in the middle of wildlife.
That said, you can also choose a luxury camping safari and expect all the amenities you have in a lodge.
Or, if you need four solid walls to feel more comfortable, go ahead and book that lodge. You’d still have a lot of fun during the game drives. Plus, many lodges are set near watering holes so you can sip a cocktail while observing the wildlife.
Myth #4. Safaris are strenuous
Photo credit: Viva Safaris
Yes, safaris are an adventure! That’s because you get to see wild animals and stay in a tent surrounded by nature and wildlife in all its glory. Plus, if you’re bringing kids along, they will be able to learn how to track wildlife.
However, most safaris are an opportunity to relax. You hop on a safari vehicle to go on game drives, sometimes have lunch or dinner in nature, come back to the accommodation and relax around a campfire.
For those who do want an active safari, there are plenty of options, too! Walking safaris are available for everyone or you can even climb one of the Tanzanian mountains. Another great option is to go on a gorilla trekking safari.
Myth #5. You can’t take children under 10 on a safari
This one is partially true. On certain types of safaris, the child’s age does matter. For example, children under 15 years old cannot go on a gorilla trekking safari. And a mokoro safari is reserved for children 16 years or older.
On top of this, malaria medication is not recommended for young children. And it is at the discretion of the lodge’s manager whether they accept children aged 6-12 on game drives or not.
However, there are ways around everything. You may opt for a malaria-free park – and there are quite a lot to choose from. You can choose one of the many family-friendly lodges that offer plenty of activities to keep your little ones occupied. Or you can ask your safari organizer for help to hire a part-time nanny to look after your children while you go on a safari activity they cannot join.
Thankfully, there are plenty of family safaris oriented towards those with children, that work extra hard to make sure that your kids are entertained and safe.
» read more about African Safari with Kids: Why & How You Should Travel with Children
Myth #6. Game drives are boring for children
Watching wild animals in their natural habitat is rarely boring for children, but there can be portions of time where you don’t see anything and that’s when your child can grow impatient.
Thus, you need to come up with a back-up plan. Have some activities ready for them to keep them occupied. Maybe teach them basic survival skills or have them draw the animals they’ve already seen. Or come up with a story based on what we’ve done so far on the trip.
However, try to limit the number of game drives you take your kids on. One or two game drives is plenty. More will be boring, for certain. Instead of yet another game drive, you can enroll them in an activity, such as learning how to track wild animals or get basic survival skills.
Myth #7. You need a great camera to snap photos
Photo credit: Natureways Safaris
Nowadays, even a mid-range smartphone can take great snaps during a safari.
Sure, an old point-and-shoot camera won’t really cut it. But you don’t need the expensive lenses that professional photographers use.
If you are passionate about photography, you may want to bring the tele lens. But there are many situations when the animals are in close quarters, too.
And in case you need a reminder, it’s not the camera or lens that makes the difference, it’s the photographer! You may have the latest camera on the market and that counts for nothing if the composition is not good. Or you just missed the action.
Myth #8. Good safaris last a long time
This is probably one of the most popular safari myths and it’s just that: a myth. You can see quite a lot of things in a few days.
Especially if you go on a family safari, we recommend choosing shorter trips (3-5 days). Short safaris are also great choices for those who’ve never been on a safari before.
Sure, it sounds amazing to pack in 3 parks in 12 days. In theory, you’d be able to spot a lot of animals and different habitats. In reality? After a long-haul flight, you’d be groggy for the first two days and then burn out pretty quickly from always being on the move.
If you do want to spend a longer time on your African trip, combine visiting a park or two with some downtime at the beach. This can be easily achieved during a Tanzania itinerary!
Myth #9. It will be hot and humid
Yes, Africa’s climate is hot, but not all the time. In the morning and at night, it can get quite chilly and you will need to bundle up to stay warm. It’s a nice balance between the heat of the day and the cool of the night.
Most safaris happen in the savannah. And the best time to go is during the dry season, which also coincides with the cooler winter months.
However, if you want to go gorilla trekking, you should know that the rainforest is always humid, regardless of the time of the year. Only that the paths can be tackled easier during the dry season. Pack accordingly!
Myth #10. Africa is not safe and safaris can be dangerous
Africa is a huge continent and while it’s true that some places are less friendly travel destinations, the most popular safari countries - Kenya, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Tanzania - are safe and peaceful.
However, do keep an eye on the travel advisories issued by your country of residence and use your best judgment when planning your trip.
As for staying safe during a safari, you should know that national parks are some of the safest areas in the countries you visit. Plus, you’ll have an experienced guide with you that will make sure nothing goes wrong.
When things went wrong it was almost always because people were disobeying the park rules by getting out of their vehicles.
Myth #11. You always need a guide
If you are going on your first safari, then, yes, we highly recommend that you go on a guided safari. They will make sure you’ll spot the animals and that you are always safe.
Once you’ve been on a safari, you can opt for a self-drive safari. But make sure that you’re comfortable and aware of what to expect while driving in Africa and obey the park rules. They exist to keep you and the animals safe.
Myth #12. You can only wear khakis
Photo credit: Natureways Safaris
What you should wear on a safari are clothes that allow your skin to breath and dry quickly. They need to blend you in with the environment. Green and beige are great choices. And yes, khaki works, too!
Just avoid black or dark blue as these colors attract the Tse Tse fly.
Make sure to pack sunscreen and mosquito repellent. And don’t forget that your shoes need to be comfortable and provide ankle support – especially if you plan to do a walking or a hiking safari.
Myth #13. There will be bugs everywhere!
Yes, there will be bugs, but they won’t be everywhere you look. How many you get to “meet” depends on the type of accommodation you choose and the location of the safari.
Lodges would typically make sure there’s a mosquito net available and they spray for bugs. But if you stay in a tent, you’d have to do the spraying yourself.
If, however, you’re going in the rainforest to see the gorillas, expect bugs. And lots of them!
Pack a potent bug repellent and wear light clothes to protect your skin. Bring an anti-histaminic in case you are allergic to any of the critters.
Myth #14. A safari is a once-in-a-lifetime affair
So, you think that if you’ve gone on one safari, you’ve ticked off your bucket list and you are done?! Wrong! One safari will only make you crave for more.
We recommend starting small, with a short driving safari and then work your way up with a walking safari. Or, if you have a soft spot for primates, a gorilla trekking experience.
You could go on a safari 20 times and there will still be something awesome to see that you haven’t encountered and experienced.
Myth #15. It’s very complicated to plan a safari
Well, that’s exactly why we are here!
Experienced travelers may be able to wing it and not worry about many hours on bumpy roads. Or lack of good public transportation.
But, if you are thinking to go on your first safari, let us do the heavy lifting! Browse the vast selection of safaris we have on offer and choose the perfect one for your travel style and budget.
Should you have questions, be sure to pursue through the articles on our blog. And if you need further help, our customer service team is ready to help you plan your dream trip!
What are you waiting for? Book a budget safari in Africa and be prepared to experience a trip of a lifetime!