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Cape Town
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Given the scope, length and cost of a journey to Africa, it’s best to prepare as far in advance as possible so you get the experience you want. Read these tips to find out what to expect, how to plan, when to go and what to bring.

TravelSmith thanks Global Sojourns for their invaluable help in preparing these Travel Tips. Visit Global Sojourns when you’re ready to plan the travel adventure of a lifetime.

What to Expect on Safari

Most safaris include overland transportation, domestic air transfers, lodging and food as part of the package. Lodging ranges from rustic campsites to luxury tented camps to first-class game lodges. Guided drives to spot wildlife are typically part of the experience. Add-ons such as night safaris and guided walks may also be included—if not, they’re usually available for an extra fee. Daily timelines are organized around the activities of the bush to maximize viewing success and safety. This isn’t a sleeping-in, relaxing vacation, but rather a great adventure that allows you to experience the remarkable wildlife of Africa in its natural habitat.

Planning a Safari

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the choices available for safaris. To help plan the trip that’s right for you, consider the following factors:

  • Expectations & interests: Rather than thinking of what country you want to see, think of what animals, landscape, culture and history you want to experience.
  • Budget: Safaris are more expensive than other types of vacations, but they’re worth it. Decide beforehand whether you want your experience to be on the moderate side or on the high end. In general, it costs more money to get away from the crowds and off the beaten path. For more information, read our tip on what defines safari luxury (see below).
  • Time of Year: When you go on safari helps determine where you go on safari. Weather, animal migration and water levels will affect what you see. For more information, read our tip on what season to travel (see below).
  • Trip Length: Knowing how much time you have gives you a framework for what to include.
  • Accommodation Style: Decide whether you want to stay in a lodge, hotel, guest house or tented camp.
  • Quality of Guides: Top-notch guides can make a good safari great. For example, Zimbabwe safari guides are considered the best in Africa, and are required to complete rigorous training before becoming licensed. The best way to find a great guide is to do your research, get recommendations and find a good agent/operator who knows the camps well.
  • Southern Africa or Eastern Africa: Distances are enormous, so don’t take on too much or you’ll spend more time traveling than seeing the wildlife.

The smartest thing you can do is find a safari specialist who will customize your trip so you have the best chance to see and do everything you’ve envisioned. For help planning your ideal safari, contact a specialist such as Global Sojourns, recognized by National Geographic Traveler magazine for its expertise in creating tours of a lifetime.

The Definition of Safari Luxury

While the term “luxury” in North American and European travel destinations is defined by extra amenities and plush surroundings, on safari, it means something a little different. Although better amenities usually accompany a luxury experience, the key components are:

  • Quality vehicles
  • Top-notch guides & well-trained staff
  • A window seat for everyone when viewing wildlife
  • A more private experience, off the beaten track, away from the crowds

Tented Bush Camps vs. Mobile Safaris

To feel closer to the wild, you can skip the lodge and try a different safari experience:

  • Permanent tented camps: Canvas structures set on fixed foundations with private bathrooms (toilet, sink and shower). Ranging from basic to luxury, amenities include beds, sheets, furnishings, verandas and meals. You’ll meet and mingle with other guests on outings and at mealtimes in a central lounge or dining area.
  • Mobile safaris: Structures designed to be picked up and moved to a new location for 2–3 days at a time. Your camping unit is transported in a custom truck while you walk, ride or canoe to the next site. These safaris range from basic, where you pitch your own tent, to luxury, where everything is done for you. For more information, read our tip on what defines safari luxury (see above).

How to Have a Successful Trip

Geography, weather and the way of the wild reign supreme in Africa. Here are few things you can do to get the most out of your trip:

  • Be flexible
  • Don’t get locked into a checklist
  • Take part in all safari add-ons (such as night safaris); they may cost extra, but when’s the next time you’ll have a chance to do them?

What Season to Travel

In the Victoria Falls region, there are two main seasons: dry (May to October) and wet/green (November to April). Below, we’ve listed the weather by month so you can plan your trip accordingly:

  • March & April: The falls are usually at their fullest this time of year, but you may have a hard time seeing them through the wall of mist from the towering plumes. Aerial access is your best bet for great views, since the burgeoning river may prevent safe rafting. Average temperatures: 57°F to 86°F (14°C to 30°C).
  • May to August: Cooler winter months have the least rainfall—and mosquitoes—with temperatures that hover between 43°F and 82°F (6°C and 28°C).
  • August to December: The Zambezi River is at an ideal level during this period of hot and sunny weather. Enjoy rafting and canoe trips, plus excellent wildlife sighting (inland areas are dry, so animals come to the river for water). Daytime temperatures range from 86°F (30°C) to upwards of 104°F (40°C).
    • September: Migrant birds begin to arrive.
    • October/November/early December: The falls are only a trickle at the end of the area’s driest season, but October offers brilliant sunsets.
  • December to March: The wettest time of the year, this period is marked by warm weather, sudden storms and torrential downpours followed by sunshine. Zambezi National Park may be closed during this time.

Passport / Visa Requirements

Your passport should be valid for six months beyond your return date and contain consecutive blank pages to accommodate multiple entry and exit stamps. Zimbabwe and Zambia both require visas, which you can purchase at the border entry (except multiple-entry visas to Zimbabwe). Carry small bills since credit/debit cards and checks are not accepted, and change may not be available. Visa requirements change constantly, so check in advance for updates.

  • Zimbabwe: $30 U.S. (single entry); $45 U.S. (double or multiple entry—to cross over to Zambia or Botswana). State your intentions clearly upon arrival so you receive the correct form to fill out.
  • Zambia: $20 U.S. (24-hour day tripper); $50 U.S. (single entry or 7-day transit); $80 U.S. (double or multiple entry)


On safari, very little money is exchanged since most meals, drinks and activities are included in the cost of your trip and are traditionally paid in advance. However, you will need cash for:

  • Entry requirements at border crossings
  • Market purchases & souvenirs
  • Restaurants, bars & cafés
  • Tips for guides, camp staff & trackers

The U.S. dollar is the official currency for Zimbabwe. In Zambia, the kwacha (ZMK) must be used, although visa fees at the border and tips can be paid in U.S. dollars. You can exchange money at most Zambian airports and banks. Check exchange rates frequently and take small-denomination bills ($1 U.S.) since change may not be readily available in either country.


In addition to routine vaccinations such as tetanus, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid and rabies inoculations, along with malaria prevention for visitors to both Zimbabwe and Zambia. A yellow fever vaccine is also required for visitors to Zambia who are traveling to South Africa or have been in transit for more than 12 hours in a country with a risk of Yellow Fever transmission. Make sure you start the process for immunization a few months before you travel. Most vaccines take time to become effective, and some must be given over several days or weeks. Check the CDC website for further information and discuss specifics with your doctor.

See Both Sides of Victoria Falls

The falls can be viewed from the Zambian (Livingstone) and Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls) sides. Activities are mostly the same in both countries, but the views are different. No matter which side you stay on, plan time for a half-day or full-day trip to the other side.

  • Zambian side: Boasts a stellar footbridge over the gorge. You can walk down to the Boiling Pot to see the falls from below. It also offers microlighting—riding in miniature aircraft that fly over the falls. Livingstone is larger than the town of Victoria Falls, more spread out and is not within walking distance of the falls.
  • Zimbabwe side: Features footpaths that overlook two-thirds of the falls, so the views are fantastic. The town of Victoria Falls is in easy walking distance of the falls.

Go Local

To get a feel for local culture, venture out of your lodge. At the central Dambwa Market in Livingstone, you’ll find handmade crafts along with produce and exotic fruits like mahuluhulu (delicious grapefruit-sized fruit with sweet, succulent pulp) and mubuyu (a tangy cross between a grapefruit, vanilla and pear) from the baobab tree. For a wide range of local crafts, including basketry, stoneware, tribal masks, walking sticks, jewelry and animal carvings, visit the Mukuni Village Curios Craft Market, in a traditional village near Livingstone. If you want to get away from the crowds, check out the Mukuni Park Curio Market instead. A visit to the Wayi Wayi Art Studio & Gallery [link to:] is also in order for beautiful jewelry and art crafted by noted artists Lawrence and Agnes Yombwe. At Wayi Wayi, you can sign up for an art class in advance to learn from locals.


Traveling on safari means packing light for better mobility. Due to limited space, baggage weight and size restrictions are strictly enforced on regional commercial carriers and transfers between safari camps. Parameters change frequently and vary by flight, camp and country, but the following guidelines generally apply:

  • Soft bags only (wheels may or may not be accepted)
  • Maximum size: 32"L x 12"W (81 x 30 cm)
  • Maximum weight: 44 lbs. (20kg)
  • For light aircraft (4 to 12 passengers), carry-on bag weight may be combined with checked luggage and restricted to a total of 33 lbs. (15 kg)—no wheels allowed. Bag size limits may also change; check with your carrier for details.

Work with your safari operator or travel agent to make sure you know the rules in advance. Find the right luggage for your trip at TravelSmith.

Photography & Electronics

When packing for safari, be sure to bring your camera. Here’s a list of other equipment you will need:

  • Adapters for all electronic devices
  • Converters for all electronic devices
  • External memory for digital images (or camera film)
  • A wide-angle and/or telephoto lens for landscape and wildlife

When using cameras and other electronic devices in Africa, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • You may have to share electrical outlets with others
  • Electrical outlets may only be available in central locations, so prepare to wait
  • Electricity may not always work, so bring extra batteries
  • Photographing border guards is not advised and can be dangerous

What to Bring

Packing these essential items for your safari can make your trip much more enjoyable. Explore some of the options at TravelSmith:

En Route:

On Safari:

In Victoria Falls:

Clothing Advice

While summers (mid-August to April) are very hot in Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe, winters (May to mid-August) are generally mild. Here’s a list of here of the clothing you’ll need to stay comfortable:

Types of Safari

From luxury to rustic, there’s a safari that’s perfect for you. Below is a list of options to consider.

  • Balloon Ride
  • Birding
  • Boating/Canoe
  • Elephant-Back
  • Fishing
  • Fly-In
  • Game Drives
  • Horseback
  • Mobile & Overland
  • Motorcycle
  • Photographic
  • Primate-Oriented
  • Big 5-Focused
  • Self-Drive
  • Walking

No matter what kind of safari you choose, be sure to work with a reputable travel agent or safari expert like Global Sojourns [link to:] to make sure you have the trip of a lifetime.

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