Borana has always been a special place; a truly family-oriented conservancy, adjacent to the world-renowned Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, that offers outstanding wildlife experiences as well as opportunities to explore a breathtaking landscape through a variety of activities. Borana also offers a range of exclusive-use safari homes and villas, and the newest is Lengishu House.
One common question we hear is “How far in advance should I start booking my safari?”, so we put together our recommendations for when different types of travelers should book different destinations and experiences.
The first thing to keep in mind is that there are great safaris to be had all year round, but there are certainly areas and activities that are more seasonal than others. Most camps and lodges work on a tiered basis with Peak or High season rates, Green or Low season rates and Shoulder season rates in between.
Peak/High season generally indicates the “best” time of year to visit a certain area due to migratory patterns, the height of grass and density of bush, and the availability of water, but it also coincides with the highest rates, the biggest crowds and the most competition for space at camps and lodges in the best locations.
Green, Low and Shoulder season refers to times of year when less people are traveling, maybe there’s the possibility of short afternoon showers, or the wildlife is more dispersed, but the rates tend to be 20-30% lower, there’s less crowds, better availability and the wildlife and scenery are still spectacular.
Some of our favorite off-peak season destinations are:
Kenya in February and March
The Serengeti,Tanzania in November
Hwange, Zimbabwe from November-April
Botswana and Namibia in May
The other thing to keep in mind is the size of your group. With couples, we usually have a bit more flexibility, but, with small groups, more lead time is always helpful especially if family units are important.
For Peak or High Season at Premier in-demand camps, availability is extremely limited, and we recommend booking 12-18 months in advance to have the most flexibility, the widest selection and the best luck lining up space. Destinations in Botswana, Tanzania and Namibia are either very popular or have a very low density of camps, so space fills up fast.
For Small Groups of Friends and Families, 9-12 months gives us a good window to line up a diverse range of activities, accommodations and landscapes. Safaris in Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe tend to offer great value for families and groups, but the camps are small, and family units are few and far between.
If you have a narrow travel window or if you’re interested in specific areas or hands-on conservation activities, 9-12+ months gives us time lock in priority space and secure any necessary permits.
Booking 6-9 months in advance is usually enough lead time to find good combinations without having to make too many compromises. Often times, connectivity is key: direct flights are limited, the routing dictates the order of camps, and with 6-9 months out there’s room to navigate the availability and find top notch options.
For travel within 3-6 months, there’s lots of possibilities as long as you keep an open mind. We’re probably not going to find space at the most popular camps in the most popular areas during the most popular season with a short lead time, but we can always find high-quality experiences. We also find that planning a last minute safari around limited availability can result in unique itineraries with a bit of surprise.
With less than 3 months in advance of travel, we’d call that a spontaneous safari, and we’d take advantage of last minute specials or focus on off-season destinations. This might not be the best fit for a first-time or once-in-a-lifetime safari, but, if a window opens up and Africa is calling, there’s always somewhere spectacular to visit and people on the ground who’ll be glad to see you!
Whether you’re ready to start planning now or if there’s a safari out there on the horizon, get in touch to start exploring the options and charting a path to the perfect safari for you.
These areas don’t make it on many bucket lists, but they offer a superb safari with an uncrowded, exclusive feel at a great value.
Amalinda Lodge – Matobo Hills – Zimbabwe
Each of these lodges promises personal service, a wide variety of activities and a solid 4-night stay so you can really settle in and appreciate their distinctive settings. They pair nicely with more well-known safari destinations, and all four would make a great extension or centerpiece for a longer itinerary.
Magashi is the newest camp in the Wilderness Safaris family located in the northeastern corner of Akagera National Park in Rwanda. This camp is opening on the 1st of December, and it is the result of many years of public/private partnership and local collaboration.
We see it as an excellent example of what’s on the horizon for new destinations where governments, communities, conservation and tourism work together to rehabilitate a wilderness area. Pair this with gorilla trekking experiences from the stunning Bisate Lodge.
Amalinda is a stunning lodge built into the granite wilderness outside of Zimbabwe’s Matobo Hills National Park. It is a wild and historic place full of rocks and rhinos. Through decades of hardship and instability, this family owned and operated lodge has sustained a commitment to this unique place.
There is a huge variety of activities, from hiking and biking to tracking rhinos on foot and exploring pre-historic rock art, and the area is known for its sense of tranquility, rejuvenation and spirituality. This pairs with other destinations in Zimbabwe and South Africa, and there’s a great combo with Mashatu!
Mashatu is also a family owned and operated lodge located in a truly singular landscape where Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa meet, and it is unlike any of them with grand baobabs, spectacular vistas and a host of rare and unusual wildlife.
It’s perfect for multi-generational families with a variety of accommodation options from lightweight fly-camping to tented camps and a luxury lodge, and there’s a huge variety of activities including horseback riding, walking, biking and elephant toe-nail photography from a waterhole hide! Mashatu works well with other destinations in Botswana and South Africa, and there’s a great combo with Amalinda.
Shipwreck is one of the most remote and far-flung luxury destinations in the world, and it’s an example of a bold statement in architectural design and conservation impact. This dramatic lodge was designed to match the stark, intense beauty of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, with its extreme environment and fascinating history.
The experience at Shipwreck is all about sand dunes, whale bones and wildflowers, discovering shocks of improbable life, and visiting a place very few people have ever been. Shipwreck is on the edge of the world, and it pairs well with other destinations on a dedicated Namibia itinerary.
There’s plenty more places we love that few people have heard of. Get in touch to learn more about these lodges and how to build your perfect safari itinerary.
In the 1990s, Zimbabwe was booming. It was a sought-after destination, and Next Adventure was one of the few photographic safari experts to specialize in travel to Zimbabwe.
Over the past couple of decades, Zimbabwe tourism has struggled, but there is optimism in the air. Three of the most influential safari operators are opening new camps in the Zambezi valley. Vic Falls town is humming again with lots of new lodges and development, and more travelers are opting for a full Zimbabwe Safari Circuit.
Zimbabwe is a country of remarkable diversity with a variety of excellent wildlife viewing regions. There’s boating and walking safaris, archeological touring, ground-breaking conservation work, one of the seven woders of the world and some of the best naturalist guides on the continent.
We’re excited to be working on a wonderful itinerary for a family of four that includes Zimbabwe’s iconic destinations as well as stops in the lesser known areas in the south.
We love how this itinerary unfolds. We start off with the stunning beauty and adventure of the Zambezi Valley and the predator rich pans of Hwange National Park, then there’s a mid-point stop to explore Vic Falls before continuing to the granite wilderness of Matopos and a fascinating World Heritage site, the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.
The circuit ends in the Gonarezhou area which ties together all the themes that make for a great safari: community-based conservation, cultural experiences, and a wide range of activities in a truly breathtaking wilderness setting.
A family vacation is all about sharing special moments, and we can’t think of many moments more special than being out in the wilderness with an expert guide up close to Africa’s great wildlife. Of course, you’ll see elephants and lions, but you’ll also get to feel the heat coming from a termite chimney or learn the difference between the sandy tracks of a cheetah or a leopard. Not only is it a tremendously educational experience, it can be a transformative one as well. We’ve seen a number of young people who were inspired by a family safari to pursue a career in conservation or development in Africa.
For us, the key to a family safari is flexibility and variety. We want to choose areas that can offer a lot of different ways to get out of the vehicle and experience the African bush first hand. We also want to find camps that can offer activities during the midday break which is a perfect opportunity to have a siesta while the kids embark on their own guided mini safaris.
Most of all, a family safari allows everyone to focus on sharing these amazing experiences instead of trying to make them happen. Once you’re on safari, there’s nothing to figure out except whether that paw print belongs to a cheetah or a leopard!
Here’s four of our favorite family safari experiences!
Imvelo Elephant Express in Hwange
This is a truly unique and fun experience for a family to hop on vintage rail car that chugs along the border of Hwange National Park. Exclusively on offer from Imvelo Safaris, there’s no cooler way to make your way across the African bush. There’s snacks and drinks and a real sense that you’re on a great journey, even though it’s only a 2 hour ride, and you can see all kinds of wildlife from the train!
EcoTraining in Kruger
For decades EcoTraining was exclusively a professional guide training organization, and now they are making their courses available to travelers who are looking to go a little deeper than just taking photos. With a range of camps in Botswana, South Africa and Kenya, they can create a custom module based on your particular interest. Whether it’s birding, tracking or astronomy, this is a great value option with lots of different activities and true on-the-ground field training.
Camel Safaris at Lewa
One of the most interesting and successful conservation projects anywhere in Africa, Lewa Wilderness is known for their groundbreaking rhino conservation program and their strong collaboration with local communities. It is also home to extraordinary camel-supported walking safaris so you can get out of the vehicle and experience Kenya’s vast Northern Rangelands with an expert Masai guide.
Exclusive Camps & Lodges in Tanzania
For complete flexibility, one of our favorite options is an exclusive use safari house or villa. There’s no worrying about other guests in camp, you have the whole place to yourself, and it’s a great choice for a multi-generational family safari. We’re seeing more and more of these types of accommodations, and we’re most excited to see a brand new Forest Camp coming soon to Chem Chem on Tanzania’s Lake Manyara. It’s a wonderful area with spectacular walking, outstanding food and wonderful cultural experiences.
We couldn’t be more excited to see this new Wilderness Safaris camp opening in one of the Delta’s most productive areas. New photos by Dana Allen have just been released, and we’re happy to share them below. Not only is it a stunning new camp, it offers both water and land-based safaris as well as the rare opportunity to track black rhino on foot.
More from Wilderness Safaris:
The exclusive Qorokwe Concession encompasses over 26 180 hectares (64 692 acres) in a high-density game area of the south-eastern Okavango, bordering the renowned Moremi Game Reserve, which has been unutilised for more than four years. Exploring Qorokwe reveals a world of diverse Delta habitats supporting a wealth of wildlife, earning the area’s well-deserved reputation as a top Botswana safari destination.
Qorokwe Camp has eight elegant tented suites plus one very spacious family unit with its own splash pool. En-suite facilities feature an indoor/outdoor shower. The magnificent main area is the focal point of the camp and overlooks a lagoon. The dining area, lounge, library and bar are built on raised wooden platforms, all connected by walkways.
The Qorokwe Concession has permanent water all year round, allowing for outstanding game viewing during every season
Seasonal palm-dotted and wooded islands, tranquil waterways and dry woodland ensure a year-round variety of game and birds
Concentrations of all the larger predators are seen in the area
As you might have guessed, the Next Adventure team fully supports taking the whole family on safari! As family safaris have grown in popularity, the options for quality family experiences have also grown. Some of the best camps and lodges now provide dedicated family spaces and phenomenal creative resources ensuring a safari with children or grandchildren is a pleasure for all.
The beauty of these family-friendly camps is that guests can spend quality time with the kids as well as finding time to pursue their own interests or just relax while in camp. Here are a few of Next Adventure’s favorite places to spend time in the bush with kids of all ages!
Jeremy’s Pick for Family Safaris: Imvelo’s Elephant Express
The combination of iconic Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls typically makes for a family trip of a lifetime! With Imvelo Safari Lodges, you get a tremendous value, comfortable accommodations and outstanding wildlife experiences in Hwange. Children ages 7 and up are welcome at all properties, and they will marvel at the wildlife and cultural programs which are integral to the Imvelo safari experience. Best of all, every family member will love the Elephant Express train transfer, a vintage open-air railcar that rides along the edge of Hwange National Park for truly unique wildlife viewing with a nostalgic twist!
Imvelo – Kids on Safari
Kili’s Pick for Family Safaris: Lamai Serengeti Lodge
One of my favorite options for families is the Lamai Serengeti Lodge, which sits tucked amongst the rocks of a kopje in the Northern Serengeti with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. It’s just a few miles from where the wildebeest cross the Mara River, and, for roughly a quarter of the year, between late July and October, this is where you’ll find the iconic seasonal migration. One of the advantages of this lodge is a range of options for families of different sizes, including the Main Lodge (8 tents, children 8 & up), the Private Camp (4 tents, children 5 & up) and the exclusive use Mkombe’s House (up to 4 adults, 6 children of any age). Private vehicles are available at main & Private camp at an additional cost while a private vehicle is included in Mkombe’s House. Walking is possible for children 12 and older. This is an ideal location to include on your family’s Tanzania safari!
Lamai Serengeti Lodge
Louise’s Pick for Family Safaris: Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge & EleFun Centre
Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge was one of my granddaughter’s first safari experiences when she was just 18 months old. To say that this luxury lodge is a perfect choice for kids of all ages is an understatement. The wildlife viewing in the renowned Sabi Sands is unparalleled, and the lodge excels at making families and kids feel right at home. Two newly opened luxury villas add to the ambiance and are exquisite, spacious, and perfect for a family stay. The rest of the 25 suites are equally charming and can accommodate families as well. The EleFun Centre is staffed by a professional childcare team and organizes age appropriate activities in the Junior Tracker (ages 4-8) and Junior Ranger (ages 9-12) programs. There is a play area and organized games for kids of all ages available all day long in addition to the formal programs.
Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge
Nicole’s Pick for Family Safaris: Lewa Wilderness
In the heart of Central Kenya’s Laikipia region, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is one of the most successful private conservation efforts. This rugged home to the Big 5 and many endangered and rare species has been part of the Craig Family legacy since 1972. Lewa Wilderness features 10 suites, four of which are specifically designed for family safaris, and children of all ages are welcome, little ones under age 5 stay for free. Lewa Wilderness is the hub of all activities on the conservancy, offering East Africa’s only open cockpit biplane and a stable yard of horses suited to all levels of experience. Guests can also camel ride among the wildlife, enjoy flexible game drives, take guided bush walks, visit the local community enhancement projects, and much more.
Whether you’re looking for adventure, education, relaxation or (D.) All of the above, there are so many wonderful family safari options! Get in touch today to start planning your perfect family safari.