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Planning your first safari can be an overwhelming and seemingly daunting task. There are countless options and regardless of what you decide on, there will always be that thought in the back of your head that you might have missed out on something.
One of your first decisions will be whether to book a pre-planned group itinerary or design your own itinerary. For those who enjoy the camaraderie of a group or don’t have the time to research and plan the logistics of a safari itinerary, a scheduled group departure can be a good option. There are still many decisions to be made as there are numerous companies which offer these each providing different itineraries, accommodations, and transportation options. For those who enjoy the planning aspect of a trip and prefer to travel in a non-group environment, a custom itinerary is the way to go. You can choose to work with an agent in your country (preferably one who specializes in safaris) or directly with a tour operator based in Kenya.
Another decision is whether to travel by road or air or a combination of both. For those with very limited time or are choosing destinations which are far apart from each other, an air safari may be the best option. Air safaris generally cost more than driving safaris but can save a lot of time on bumpy roads. On the other hand, you’ll miss much of the scenery that would be encountered on a driving safari which is very much a part of the safari experience. A combination of driving and flying is sometimes a good compromise. You can choose to drive the shorter distances and fly the longer ones or drive one direction and fly back. When planning your safari, you should keep in mind the distances between destinations which will take longer to cover than it seems on a map and your personal tolerance for long road travel.
The following differences, mostly pertaining to vehicle type and use, should also be taken into consideration when making a decision between flying and driving.
On a driving safari, you generally have the same driver/guide and travel in the same vehicle provided by your tour operator throughout your safari which is used for both your transportation between parks and your game drives. The standard safari vehicle utilized for driving safaris in Kenya is a minivan with a pop top roof. These come in both 2WD and 4WD versions and the 4WD is preferable particularly if you’re traveling in the rainy seasons. A Land Cruiser or Land Rover with a pop top or removable roof is sometimes an available option though there may be an extra charge. If you’ve booked a private safari traveling by road, you would have exclusive use of this vehicle. The benefits of having a private vehicle is the flexibility in scheduling your game drives (you can choose to do multiple shorter game drives or stay out all day), being able to stay at a sighting as long as you’d like or move on when you’re ready, or deciding to take a different route or detour to suit your interests. The cost is sometimes only marginally more versus traveling in a group.
On a flying safari, you generally use your lodge or camp’s vehicle and guides for your game drives on a shared basis with other guests unless you choose to pay an extra supplement for private vehicle use (assuming one is available). The cost and availability of this option varies depending on the lodge or camp, so you should inquire directly. Many different types of vehicles are utilized by lodges and camps. Some are closed vehicles similar to the ones used when traveling by road with a removable roof. Others are open sided vehicles with an open roof hatch. In a few cases, the vehicles can be completely open all around with a canvas cover or no cover at all. Some lodges and camps have a combination of different types of vehicles in their fleet. If the vehicle choice is an important criteria for you, you should inquire about the specific type(s) of vehicle used before making a final decision on your accommodations.
Accommodation selection is another very personal decision. There are a variety of choices in lodges and tented camps available. Decisions you’ll need to make will be based on cost, location, size, facilities, etc. On this page http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g29... you’ll find links to accommodation photos and websites of lodges and camps in Kenya as well as other planning websites which may help you with your accommodation selection.
For additional information on the decisions/steps to consider when planning an East Africa safari, read the following Tanzania Traveler Article, 'Tips for Planning a Successful Safari' - http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g29... The article chronicles the decision-making challenges and information an individual has to understand prior to going on their first wildlife safari.