Key take aways
- First time safari goers: 3 - 5 days is the sweet spot
- Tanzania & Kenya: most safaris will be 3 - 7 days
- Botswana: most safaris will be 8+ days
- The longer your safari, the more safari parks you can visit and the higher chance you spot the BIG Five
- Picking the best safari destination is often more important than the length of your safari
The ideal number of days to go on safari comes down to how much you love animals, and budget. As strange as it sounds, there is such a thing as safari fatigue. Going on a safari is not like going to the zoo, sometimes you have to search for the animals. This take patience, a great guide and time. The best way to avoid safari fatigue is to buy a safari that allows you enough time to see all of African's exotic animals, without staying so long that you get bored. Another great way to avoid safari fatigue is to customise and diversify your safari experience so that it feels interesting and different every day. This might mean adding different types of safari to your itinerary; a boat safari, a hot air balloon safari, a walking safari, a horse riding safari, etc., or visiting multiple safari parks.
Generally, safari lengths can be split into five categories:
Perfect if you’re short on time or unsure if safari is really your cup of tea. You can see a lot in a single day safari, especially if you have a good guide and visit a game reserve or national park that is known for diverse wildlife and the Big Five (read our blog, what are Africa’s BIG 5 safari animals, to find out more). A few great single day safari destinations include Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater or Tarangire National Park, Kenya's Nairobi National Park and Botswana's Chobe National Park.
If you are only doing a single day safari, it is important to set your expectations. It is possible that you'll spot the BIG Five in a single day, but it is unlikely. Leopards and rhino are particularly shy and cheetah can also be hard to find. Even if you don't spot the BIG Five, you will still have an incredible day though, and if you can only make it out on safari for one day, definitely do it!
3 - 5 Day Safari (The "Sweet Spot")
If you want to feel immersed in nature, and you have young children or this is your first safari experience, a 3 - 5 day safari is the sweet spot for great safari. 3 - 5 day safaris are cheaper and allow plenty of time for other cultural or travel experiences and relaxation. They allow enough time to visit multiple safari parks, enjoy a little down time at your luxury safari camp, and spot most of Africa's exotic animals, without the kids or you getting bored or tired. A 3 - 5 day safari should give you a great chance to spot the BIG Five, particularly if you visit the Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania), Serengeti (Tanzania), Masai Mara (Kenya) or Chobe (Botswana).
5 - 7 Day Safari
Most recommended for photographers or nature enthusiasts who want to visit multiple safari parks and have plenty of game viewing opportunities. A 5 - 7 day safari is a more immersive safari experience, allowing you to see plenty of wildlife and cover a lot of ground without sacrificing the other things you’d like to do, like a walking safari, hot air balloon safari, cultural immersions, etc. If a 5 - 7 day safari is your first safari and you aren't an avid animal lover, make sure you add other activities in to your itinerary. You may also like to fly in and out of safari to reduce the amount of driving you will do.
8 - 14 Day Safari
Recommended for the experienced safari-goer who knows they’ll have a good time on a longer trip. If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime trip with maximum game spotting potential and lots of variety, this is the length of time for you. Photographers, bird watchers and those looking for especially rare species will often opt for a safari of this length. An 8 - 14 day safari will usually cover multiple safari parks and may have a few days doing another activity in between to break the safari up. If you have your heart set on safari in Botswana, you will likely need to do an 8 - 14 days safari.
14+ Day Safari
A safari that extends beyond the 14 day mark can be costly, but if you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience or are a devoted and seasoned safari-goer, it’s the perfect option. Long safaris often combine a number of amazing wildlife experiences, such as pairing several days of the Great Migration in the Serengeti or Masai Mara with a safari in the Okavanga Delta in Botswana, allowing for a well-rounded and unforgettable trip.
Things to consider when picking the length of your safari
Some of the things you might consider when determining the length of your safari are:
- Are you travelling with children?
If so, think about their ages, their ability to sit in a car or walk for long periods of time, and their level of interest in spotting wildlife. A short safari might be best in order to keep everyone’s spirits high. Alternatively, are you best to stay for longer and go on shorter morning game drives each day, allowing time for the kids to play in the pool in the afternoon? Or should you stay at a place that offers a private nanny so you can leave the kids with the nanny once they are sick of safari?
- Sitting in a car for long periods
If you’re likely to get restless after days of sitting in a car, you might opt for a shorter safari. Alternatively, split a longer safari to incorporate driving, walking and boat components is a great way to mix things up.
If you have health conditions that might make a lengthy trip through a game reserve or national park uncomfortable or challenging, consider a short safari. If you have a chronic illness that requires medication, make sure you bring more than you need. Unpredictable weather can cause roads into town to quickly become inaccessible, and you don’t want to be caught out!
- Do you want to relax?
If you’re eager for a relaxing holiday, then there’s nothing worse than feeling short on time. Opt for a an extra few days on safari so that you can head out to spot game in the morning and then relax by the pool in the afternoon. Alternatively, add a few days at the beach or somewhere else relaxing.
- What do you want to get out of your safari?
If your dream is to see all of the Big Five, or snap the perfect pictures, make sure you book a longer safari! Animals won’t operate on your schedule, so it’s best to allow plenty of time so that you can see everything you want to. Plus, getting the photo of a lifetime might require a bit of waiting around. You should also plan to visit multiple safari destinations so you have some variety. Picking the best safari destination is often more important than the length of your safari. For more read our blogs:
- The Great Migration
Although there is a known pattern to the Great Migration, things like river crossings or predator hunts don’t happen every day. Make sure you give yourself at least 3 - 5 days if you’re heading out on a Great Migration safari.
- Other optional experiences
Remember, a longer safari will allow you to add some optional extras onto your safari for a little bit of variety and adventure! Some extras that will be the icing on the cake of your tour include:
- Africa balloon safari: Switch up your perspective with a safari from the sky. Many large game reserves and national parks offer African hot air balloon safaris. It’s a magical way to spot the Big Five, as well as seeing the breathtaking landscape of these areas from above. These tours usually take off in the early morning hours, and will cap off the trip with an outdoor champagne breakfast when you’re back on the ground.
- Cultural visits: A number of game reserves and national parks are home to semi-nomadic tribes and traditional villages, who have always lived on the land. Some of them welcome travellers to visit and experience their traditional lifestyles. The most well-known of these is the Maasai tribe, who live in the Masai Mara, which is also famous for its world-class safaris, especially during the Great Migration. You can add a cultural visit to the Maasai tribe onto your Masai Mara safari and see their intricate beadwork, watch and participate in the traditional Adumu or jumping dance, and contribute to the development of the Maasai community.
- Massages: Many established safari lodges house a spa, allowing you to inject some relaxation into your safari experience. Massages or body treatments are a great way to unwind after a day out in the Jeep or walking the trail, but be aware that they are also quite pricey, with the cost of most treatments starting from about USD$100.
Ready to start planning your african safari?
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