Board index Other Travel Advice for travelling to Southern Africa on Safari


Advice for travelling to Southern Africa on Safari

Posts: 8

Advice for travelling to Southern Africa on Safari

Post Wed Nov 21, 2007 12:04 pm

Thought that I would generalize my personal experiences to be of assistance:

Location Location Location

The are many options when considering your dream trip to Southern Africa, each having their own merits. There is a huge range of options, from the self-drive to the high end lodges at around $1500 per person per night a la Mombo and Singita.

Private reserves Vs National Parks: you will see mentioned through this thread a difference between the two. Private reserves allow offroading and vehicles at sightings are limited(not that there are normally that many cars out f.e. 4 from one camp) , which can not be said for National parks. Overall, a better opportunity to get those great photographs.


The prime game viewing areas are in and around the Kruger National Park. There are options available in Natal and the Eastern Cape. Places like Phinda and Shamwari respectively. However, these fenced reserves, and they do not have the same densities as Kruger.

Kruger Natioanal PArk

This place is huge, with varying eco-systems. I have no experience of the park itself, though have still read enough to have a reasonable knowledge. To the north, is the Pafuri area, a rugged more mountainous terrain. In the south, there is Sabie, Letaba and your typical bush experience. Note, there are not the vast open plains found in the serengeti. It is a scrub/bushy terrain interpersed with wonderful riverine and open areas. Game viewing is good, though the park is generally busy with self-drives and you are limited to the road network. Some open vehicles can be used from lodges, though sightings will be shared. Photogrpahically, can be quite challenging to get that shot.............especially from you own car.

Sabi Sands and Private reserves

These private concessions boarder the national park and there are no fences. The largest operator in terms of concession size is Mala Mala. Here you can expect to pay a premium compared to KNP. For example, rates start from around $400 per night per person. This includes all your drives, meals etc. The bonus is that you are able to offroad and have close up viewing. The sabi sands has an excellent reputation for Leopards, justified by the guide/tracker system that they use....Many of the camps guarantee the 'big five' in three days.


Excellent all round game, sometimes rushed at sightings as there is a rotation policy. Though well managed.


This is what I call wild country, from the Okavango Delta, Kalahari to the Makgadikgadi salt pans.

Chobe National Park

Chobe can be split into three distinct areas. The riverfront, Savuti and the Linyanti. Again, another park that can be self-driven. However, unlike Kruger, no paved roads and a 4 x4 is a must, no matter what Clarkson achieved!!!!!!!

The riverfront - in the north on the Chobe river. Lots of hotel style lodges and huge numbers to match. In the dry season, huge numbers of animals concentrate as the pans in the back country dry up. This is elephant country, with it possible to see 1000 elephants in the afternoon. Options include boat trips and drives. The sunset boat crusies are excellent for watching elephants come down to drink

Cons - sightings are crowded, including the river. No offroading to get closer to all those animals

Pros - amazing elephant on the chober floodplains


Famed for a river that stopped running, Eternal Enemies and planet earth. Where the Lions kill the elephants. This is true desert and very harsh. Only water is from three pans in the local area. Far fewer visitors than the riverfront because it is out of reach from the day trippers from Victoria Falls


Excellent predator and Bull elephant sightings

Cons: usual national park restraints and other occassionally selfish vehicle users


Out of the way unless you are the most intrepid 4 x4 adventurer. Mopane woodland with riverine floodplains. Excellent for private elephant viewing. I would recommend one of the private concessions next door!

Moremi Game Reserve ( Okavango Delta) + Private Reserves

Moremi Game reserve encompassed par tof the okavango Delta. THis is big game territory, with excellent water activities also available f.e, Mekoro. So, that also makes it an excellent birding destination too.

The main park suffers from the same problem as Chobe, where the self drives etc have access. Though this is not true for the exclusive Mombo Concession though I count this as Private reserve.

Pros: Excellent Wildlife, the numbers of visitors on a drive in an area is about 5% of what you find in Chober

Cons: Usual National parks rules

Private Reserves


Excellent, unfenced areas adjoining the Moremi in the heart of the Okavango. It inlcuded the beautiful floodplains of the northern delta in Vumbura and Kwara. There is Duba Plains where Lions regualrly hunt buffalo in daylight. Mombo, it is not called the place of plenty for nothing. The game densities match the price tag. Water activities are also available, and you have the opportunity of seeing animals skipping through water etc


privacy at sightings due to low density of vehicles, excellent areas, big game, varied activities, pretty consitent game viewing year round.

Cons: The cost, these safaris are not a cheap option


Private reserves on the Linyanti swamps just north of the delta. Slightly different in terrain. Though excellent for elephant and predators. The area is renowned for its excellent wild dog sightings

Pros: Excellent dry season game viewing

Cons: Quite poor during all the rains as Animals move into the Mopane woodlands and backpans especially the Selinda

Makgadikgadi and Central Kalahari:

Kalahari is an excellent wet season destination - lions, cheetahs etc in abundance.
The salt pans are just amazing, something diferent. Although you can view Meerkats and brown Hyenas, excellent in their own right, not a big game destination.

Dry season is also good for alternative experiences, game viewing at Nxai pan national park is good for predator interaction



The economic problems in Zim have meant that not all the waterholes are being pumped. This has however increased the densities at certain waterholes. There is no natural water sources in the park so all water is pumped. In the Green season, animals disperse though viewing is still ok. There are better densities of animals in the private areas further south in the national park

Pros: excellent for big game and notable antelope species such as Sable and Roan. Not a bad Rhino population too.

Mana Pools:

A National hertitage sight and rightly so. Across from Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia, it offers excellent game viewing. Especially the canoe safaris, where you can come up close with the elephants. Only open from April- October, with game viewing being better later in the season.

Pros: good game, beautiful views of the Zambezi escaprment


South Luangwa:

Valley of the leopard, though game viewing is seasonal. The cotton soils make it very difficult to drive round in the wet season, so many camps are closed. The game also disperses. THe Mfuwe area has good all year game viewing, Wild dogs arouns May time...................

There are more remote options available, but they come at a higher Tafika
The Mfuwe can get very busy in the dry season, especially august

Self-drive is possible......................

Lower Zambezi:

Same as Mana Pools, but view is not as good and less general game.....................

Kafue: No experience but hear good reports

Considerations for the photographer:

1. Best game viewing: Private reserves offer the best opportunity to get close to all the animals you will want to photograph. You will be able to drive offroad and follow tracks until you locate the lions for example. Also, you may only share a sighting with two other vehicles, all from the same company. So there is a great respect and professionalism. None of the guides pulling in front of you to get a better view! Plus you use an open vehicle

2. Private Vehicles: This is not referring to doing a self-drive. Having your own private guide and vehicle is a must if you want to maximize your photographic opportunities. It means you can stay at a sighting for as long as you like, leave earlier for your drives etc

There is nothing more frustrating as waiting for other guests whilst that early morning lights seeps away. It also means you dont have to stop for a zebra that is not in a good photographic position for 30 minutes. This does come at a cost.........sometimes up to $400 per day on top of your stay. Kwando safaris in Botswana has the most reasonable value that I have found, around $200 per day

3. Season

Choosing the right camp depends on the time of year. Rainfall in Southern Africa is as follows, rains from November-April and then the dry season. With peak viewing being in the hot October Months.

If you are a birder, the green season is your choice, with lots of summer migrants. The green season, although giving a smaller density of game, is more photogenic, with better light, as all the dust has settled. Howver, from December to march there is the chance of heavily overcast days giving poor lighting.

DRy season, sees huge concentrations but the light can be somewhat hazy. Also, the backgrounds are not that beautiful blend of greens

This link gives you a good idea of when and where to go, but it all depends on what you are looking for. For example, there are lots of young antelopes in January in the middle of the rains, so make your choice. For a first timer, I would suggest dry season and september/october for optimal viewing.

Generally, the dry season will give you better game viewing. Though my personal perference is for April. As I have worked and been on long stays in africa, i put more emphasis on quality rather than quantity and am prepared to work hard for my game.

4 Longest lens Possible Rent it, Steal it or buy it, whatever you can get hold. I would say 400mm is at the short end.........................

5 Where to stay

Do not get fooled by TA's, some of them have no clue in what they aer trying to sell.


under the africa section they have some excellent trip reports etc on all safari countries

6.Camera Support

This is vital to getting those sharp images, especially if you want to keep your ISO low. There are a number of options available

1)I would always recommend a tripod for landscapes etc and you never know when you may get out a vehicle to take a shot. (not taken by most)

2) Beanbag, offeres excellent support in conditions on a vehicle

3) Manfrotto Superclamp with Tripod Head. Attach it to the bars on the vehicle for an excellent support system
Last edited by backtoafrica on Fri Dec 21, 2007 11:35 am, edited 4 times in total.

Posts: 8

Post Wed Nov 21, 2007 12:08 pm

I will just include a couple of photos from the various areas i have mentioned and from both the dry and wet season. More can be seen at

Hwange Green and Dry season






Botswana Wet and Dry season





South Luangwa Dry season





Posts: 10

Re: Advice for travelling to Southern Africa on Safari

Post Mon Apr 28, 2008 9:06 pm

wow . thank you very much . I am planning a trip and did not know which way to go but you helped me a lot thanks Tom L

Posts: 7

Re: Advice for travelling to Southern Africa on Safari

Post Mon May 04, 2009 2:48 am

Wow - Great advice and even better images. I agree that the posts from Fodors are great for planning your safari!

Board index Other Travel Advice for travelling to Southern Africa on Safari

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