Answering the Call of the Wild: The Top African Safaris

  |  Gorp.com

Let's face it: This is adventure travel at its most romantic. If your inner explorer yearns to answer the call of the wild, an array of options stand ready to choose from. Most modern safaris are well-planned and expertly guided. The biggest challenge lies in ferreting out the truly wild places—spots where great herds still roam, and the flocks you see are birds, not tourists. Herein are both classic safaris—where you game-watch from a vehicle and stay in traditional lodges—as well as edgier, more exotic adventures that take you to Africa's most remote and untamed territory. There are safaris for all budgets—from bargain camping expeditions to luxury safaris that cost as much as a small car. However you go, whatever your resources permit, you are guaranteed a thrilling, memorable journey.

Classic Tented Safari in Kenya

Think safari, and the images come to mind: broad savannahs; hordes of wildebeests and zebras; giraffes and elephants dotting the landscape; acacia trees in the foreground, a striking mountain emerging from the mists in the distance. This is Kenya, where the great safaris originated, where Hemingway and Teddy Roosevelt bagged their prizes, where most first-time safari-goers come. But they come to this east African country for good reason (several reasons, actually).

The Masai Mara, scene of amazing migrations, is Kenya's section of the Serengeti ecosystem, bordering it on the north. The Masai Mara National Preserve should be at the heart of your trip. The Amboseli, known for its spectacular backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro, just across the border, boasts a large elephant population. (Amboseli is the base for famed elephant researcher Cynthia Moss.) Tsavo National Park, a popular wildlife area near the coast, has Mzima Springs, where visitors can watch hippos swim by from an underwater viewing area. Mt. Kenya, second-highest mountain in Africa, offers great trekking and technical climbing. The cultures of the Masai and other local tribes are colorful, both literally and figuratively. And despite the Nairobi bombing of the summer of '98, Kenya has historically been a very stable and hospitable nation.

Settle into the landscape with a mobile-tented safari. Although perhaps a bit less comfortable than permanent camps and lodges, the trade-off of a permanent roof, tile bathroom, and swimming pool pays off in being remote and isolated from other tourists—and it gets you the best view of the vast array of wildlife.

Practically Speaking:
The mobile-tented choice is usually just as expensive as a lodge due to the logistical demands of moving camp every day. Deluxe mobile tented safaris, with private baths and hot showers right in the tent, and five-star food and service, run $400-$600 per person per day for a party of four. A notch down on the luxe scale, with slightly smaller tents, separate (although still private) showers and toilets, and not-quite-white-glove service, are $250-$375 per day. With shared shower/toilet, and a smaller tent, figure $200-$250 per day. (Service and food are typically very good even down to this level.) Rock-bottom mobile "fly-camping" safaris, where you stay in small two-man pup tents at public campgrounds, help out with camp chores, and ride well-used vehicles with minimal staff, typically cost $75-150 per day. The migrations generally occur from mid/late July to mid-September, though game viewing is still good all through the dry seasons—mid-December through March, and July to October.


David Noland is a full-time professional freelance writer specializing in adventure travel, sports, and science. His book, Travels Along the Edge, published in 1997 by Vintage Books, is now in its fourth printing.

Published: 11 Oct 1999 | Last Updated: 20 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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