Have you and your BFF been hooked on to Sir David Attenborough's narrative since the time you saw Planet Earth? The wild, wild Africa that you have concocted in your head is something so thrilling and exhilarating that it feels futile to see it alone, and you must have your BFF by your side - the friend that has shared with you your first big-cats-chasing-wild-hog experience on screen. The friend who has seen it all with you, and should, albeit, embark on a wild African safari adventure with you. But there is a catch here: no matter how many documentaries you have devoured, nothing prepares you for the real thing out there. So, if you have your backpacks at the ready and boots all tied up, let's see how you can go on your big African adventure and what it entails.
How To Go
Visa: Kenya offers an easy and uncomplicated eVisa for foreign nationals. This eVisa can be used for tourism, recreation, short duration medical treatment or casual business visits. All you need to do is just fill out an online form and wait for your approval via email, then download and print the eVisa from your eCitizen account that you need to create before applying. After you land, present the printed eVisa to the immigration officer at the port of entry along with your valid passport. The same process is applicable for Tanzania visas as well. Cost of a single-entry visa to Kenya and Tanzania from India is 5,422 INR and 7,135 INR respectively.
Flights To Take
A round-trip flight from Delhi to Nairobi, Kenya will cost around 24,000 INR approx. and it will come to around 30,000 INR if you book a round trip flight to Zanzibar, Tanzania. Most of the major airlines have connecting flights to Nairobi and Zanzibar, including Air India, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Airlines and Vistara.
Where To Stay
You can choose to stay at hotels and resorts. But an African safari is best enjoyed if you stay at lodges and tents. These are not really unsafe. All you need to do is zip the tents up properly and listen to your guide at all costs. In fact, there are some superb luxury safari lodges one can opt for, which will be supremely cool for you and your friends. You can book your safari directly from these hotels and lodges and there are also airport counters that help you with safari bookings. They are generally a tad bit expensive. Kenya's andBeyond Bateleur Camp, Masai Mara National Reserve, and the Porini Amboseli Camp are worth mentioning. On the other hand, Tanzania's The Highlands, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, Serengeti National Park are wonderful options.
How To Book A Safari
Overview: Tanzania and Kenya are Africa's top safari destinations. The wildlife viewing is extraordinary and big cats, giraffes, zebras are abundantly available for you to gaze at. All members of the Big Five can be found in various Kenyan and Tanzanian parks and reserves, and all five are present in the Maasai Mara and Serengeti National Park.
Almost 40% of both the countries is protected and set aside for conservation, which means that it's easy to go on a safari for two full weeks and drive from park to park while rarely leaving the bush. It is important to choose a particular destination among these and to have a set budget in mind. Always consider the cost of getting to the best reserves, the exchange rate, the cost of park fees and game drives. Gone are the days of guns slinging at the back and jeeps chasing poor, wide-eyed wild creatures, and for good. Ecotourism is the buzzword and a safari now denotes a more gentler, more respectful journey to see some wild species that are only common in encyclopaedias and documentaries.
Types Of Safari
Local tour guides, safari companies and accommodations in your chosen destinations mostly offer better rates than international companies. This is a good way to keep costs reasonable in Serengeti or the Maasai Mara. So, it is always advisable to first reach either Nairobi or Zanzibar, and then go for a local safari tour option. To further keep within your budget constraints, it is best to opt for group safari tours that come in all shapes and sizes, from minibus tours tailored for matured travellers to social backpacker excursions. Guided and group tours come with one expert travel guide who keeps the trip on track and is familiar with the area.
Best Season To Visit
November to May is the low season or the monsoon, which is a good time for booking a safari due to drastic price falls. The rain also brings lush landscapes and fewer people for you and your friend to make the most of your holiday. The weather will be hot and wet but it will be rewarding to see the animals and the lush vegetation. But the wildebeest migration can be seen during July and October, which is perhaps the greatest wildlife show on earth. But make sure to book your flight tickets and your safari some 2-4 months ahead in this case.
There's a wide range of safari adventures to choose from. You can concentrate on the Big Five, or the Great Migration, or even opt for something as interesting as Gorilla trekking. There are specially designed honeymoon and luxury packages that cater to some specific travellers on demand. It's best to make your decision based on what you most want to see. If your priority is catching the annual Great Migration and the Big Five, you can concentrate on either the Serengeti or the Masaai Mara. Whereas Kenya has all its pink flamingos, rhinos and a gorgeous Indian Ocean coast, Tanzania offers glorious views of the Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain (19,000 ft).
How To Dress And What To Carry
While in the jungle, it is always advisable to dress like a chameleon and blend into the surroundings. Bright colours aren't allowed. Always check for practicality and comfort ahead of style. Lightweight cottons, long trousers and shirts with long sleeves to protect against thorns and insect bites are best. It is good to wear sunglasses and carry a jacket at all times. Wear sensible footwear like desert boots, trainers and lightweight walking boots.
Besides your camera, do keep a par of binoculars handy. If you don't have one, you can always rent one before the safari begins. A lot of creepy-crawlies can haunt your tents and rooms, so be prepared with mosquito repellents and citronella essence.
About the author: Always on the go, Sayantani Chakrabarti is the kind of traveller who never longs for the destination, but craves for a memorable journey. When she's not travelling, Sayantani likes to lounge with a pacy book and some Sinatra in the background. Her blog called I Chronicle is testament to her unyielding passion.
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