Alan Murphy
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

Category: Safari Planning Guide

How Long Should a Safari Be?

Alan examines ideal lengths of time for a safari. And ways to mix it up with some stunning natural and man-made wonders of the region, ideal for keeping the experience fresh. So, how long should a safari be?

Aha. That’s the question! How long should your ideal safari be? It’s a tough question because everyone is different and some people have a bigger tank than others. That is, they can concentrate and enjoy the experience for longer without having a break.

Me? I gotta pretty short attention span. Cruising around for a couple of hours and scanning the African landscape for life is incredibly enjoyable, but that’s long enough. I need a good break and then can resume operations. I find it amazingly tiring.

Get some culture

One thing to think about are safaris that mix in cultural experiences as well as taking in some of the sights of Southern Africa. Remember this is a region that has some of the best things to see, apart from the staggering array of wildlife, on the continent.  It also introduces a natural break into your wildlife-watching schedule. And it will provide a fuller experience and appreciation of Africa.

The array of cultures and ethnic groups makes for a rich tapestry of human interaction across southern Africa. And then there’s Vic Falls, Fish River Canyon, Blyde River Canyon, Cape Town, Lake Malawi, the Tsodilo Hills, the coastline of Mozambique…to name but a few of the area’s unique, jaw dropping sights.

How long should I spend wildlife-watching?

Probably a few days of wildlife-watching is enough. There’s only so many times you want to see an impala… But if you have a few days spotting and then a day off, that’s ideal. You could probably do a couple of weeks like this pretty comfortably. Of course, some people go for much longer. As I said, it’s a preference.

But why not take time out to see the incredible diary of human existence left by our ancient ancestors? San rock art. Or straddle the gaping chasm between Zimbabwe and Zambia and gaze in awe at the ‘smoke that thunders’ – one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

And then there’s changing location. Stay on the move. A lot of big tour operators offer time at more than one of their lodgings. This is great, keeps wildlife-watching fresh, giving a different environment and habitat to explore.  Of course if you’re flying-in and -out, it’ll be expensive, but then how often will you be in Africa on safari?

So, how long should a safari be?

It's entirely up to you. Our team of safari experts will be happy to assist you – as and when you decide to book a tour. Just contact us.

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