How to Plan An Unforgettable African Safari in 7 Easy Steps
Gearing up for an African safari requires more planning than most trips. Strategies around everything from clothing and photography, to safety and basic comforts are key – not to mention savvy luggage-packing to suit small airplanes and bumpy jeeps.
For some, simple travel considerations can be doubly daunting when it’s a first-time visit to Africa. But with the right basic planning, a safari will not only feel comfortable, it can be the ultimate adventure. Check out these seven essentials for planning your dream safari in Africa.
1. Plan far in advance.
Since an African safari is likely a bucket-list sort of trip for many travelers, planning well in advance is essential. There are many great safari countries to visit, including South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and others. To determine which is right for you, consider things like: which airports and airlines you prefer; what vaccines and visas are necessary for that nation; what animals dwell there; what currency and languages are most common; and what types of accommodations are offered.
Once you narrow down the right destination, consider when to go. Prime animal viewing occurs during the dry winter months (usually June-August), when animals are forced to congregate around water sources. During the wet season, the bush is greener and wildlife is usually more dispersed around each reserve, but you'll likely find better rates and fewer tourists
Just be sure that no matter when you go, stay flexible. Being on “Africa time” means going with the flow, and enjoying an easy pace – just like the animals you came to visit.
2. Pack the right wardrobe.
Versatility and utility are the name of the clothing game. Above all, pack and wear layers, because you may be chilly for sunrise or sunset game drives, and baking in the midday sun. If your trip brings you to the city as well as to safari bush, you’ll want outfits that serve both scenes. (Fortunately, the safari look is always on trend in Africa.)
For the safari itself, wear earth-toned colors like tan or natural green to serve as camouflage when spotting wildlife and to keep cool when the African sun heats up. Most pros believe that white and brighter pastel colors are the worst for safari, so leave the hot pinks at home.
Cotton is comfortable, but you may find greater value in fabrics that are insect-resistant, offer SPF sun protection, and wick away moisture to feel cooler in the sun or warmer at night. Outdoorsy retailers like REI, Cabela’s, and LL Bean carry good safari-smart clothing lines.
3. Don't forget the essentials.
You'll want sunglasses, a full-brimmed hat with a chin strap, and boots or thick rubber-soled shoes that are comfortable enough for short or long hikes. Wise travelers also know the value of a good buff (a stretchy tube of thin fabric), which can be worn as a scarf, headband, or face cover on dusty roads.
Pay close attention to your travel toiletries. Many basic products may be hard to find in African stores, so pack favorite items that will cover your entire trip duration (including shampoo, lotion, soap, tampons, and toothpaste). And whatever you do, don’t skimp on sunscreen; but do try to use a fragrance-free one since mosquitoes are drawn to fresh scents.
Across Africa, you’ll likely rely on bottled water. But you can easily avoid single-use plastic bottles if you bring your own reusable bottle, and refill with store-bought (or hotel-refilled) jugs of spring or purified water. (FYI Klean Kanteen makes sturdy, insulated stainless-steel bottles with good handles.)
4. Remember safety basics.
When it comes to pre-trip vaccines, every country is different. So check with the US CDC’s travel site for which vaccines and medicines are recommended in your destinations, and consult your physician. (Note that where yellow-fever vaccines are required, you may need to pack your official “yellow card” vaccination record.) The US State Department also has an up-to-date international-travel site worth reading; plus it has a page dedicated to emergency preparedness while abroad.
Here are a few core safety tips: drink only bottled water, avoid eating raw foods without peels, mind your sun protection, use hand sanitizer, and apply insect repellent and/or take antimalarial medicine (where needed). Also, pack a basic first-aid kit with medicines to help with headaches, heartburn, diarrhea, sunburn, bug bites, sore throat, and dry eyes.
5. Bring the right gear and tech.
No matter where you go in Africa, never forget an electrical outlet adapter. A quick search on Amazon will turn up dozens of affordable choices, and it’s easy to score one that works in any country, with multiple USB plugs. While you’re at it, consider bringing a lightweight USB battery pack too, so you’ll always be able to recharge on the go. (Extra points if your USB battery doubles as a flashlight!)
Safari is undoubtedly a top photography adventure, so the right camera and lenses are clutch. Having a great zoom lens is vital for capturing long-distance wildlife photos, so invest in a point-and-shoot with a killer zoom; or if you’re using an SLR body, then buy, borrow, or rent a telephoto lens. When you see your close-ups of elephants, zebra, rhinos, lions, and other African wildlife, you’ll be glad you made the effort.
And while you’re thinking about cameras, consider bringing along a shower cap or plastic grocery bag, both of which make handy dust covers in an open-air jeep.
6. Enjoy all wildlife.
So you’ve heard about the “big five” – lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo – allegedly the most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. Today, most safari-goers are only hunting to shoot pictures, but the big five remain the hot subject matter.
In reality, an African game drive offers many more animals that will dazzle and delight you. So instead of obsessing with just five animals, be open to beholding the countless other magnificent creatures in their natural habitat: hippos, warthogs, giraffes, kudu, pythons, eagles, baboons, crocodiles, and so many more.
7. Explore both land and water.
On land, jeeps can access remote corners of game reserves, change course if animals are tracked elsewhere, and alter speeds for better photography. But then, so can boats (though they’re admittedly less agile). Even better, river cruises let guests unpack only once while touring several areas, and connect to land safaris in various areas – so visitors can check out waterways and parks too, the best of both worlds.
African river and lake cruising is growing more popular each year, especially with companies like CroisiEurope Cruises newly expanding their tours to Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. But if you prefer a land-only experience, be sure to research a few different game reserves and lodges to gauge which is right for you. For example, in South Africa, Jaci’s Lodges in the more compact Madikwe Game Reserve may suit you better than narrowing down the many tour operators inside sprawling Kruger National Park.
The 10 Coolest Helicopter Tours in the World
We set out to find the most breathtaking helicopter excursions, from beautiful coral reefs and active volcanoes to stunning waterfalls and iconic city skylines. Here are our top ten helicopter tours. 1. The Grand Canyon, AZ Measuring 277 miles from east to west, the Grand Canyon is an immense chasm carved by the Colorado River. Featuring a unique ecosystem, the canyon is decorated with red rocks that reveal its ancient geological history – in fact, some studies suggest the canyon could be as old as 70 million years. Consider choosing a tour that flies over the Grand Canyon’s stunning South Rim, letting you soar over the widest and deepest part of the canyon. 2. Juneau, Alaska A helicopter tour is one of the best ways to take in Juneau Icefield, an endless horizon of ice-capped mountain ranges and flowing rivers of ice. Located just north of Alaska’s capital, the icefield is home to nearly 40 large glaciers. It stretches more than 1500 square miles, and is dotted with deep crevasses and azure blue ice. 3. Great Barrier Reef, Australia Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, one of the most sought-after tourist destinations around the globe, is one of the seven wonders of the natural world. Its sprawling reef system, which is spread over 1400 miles, boasts bright sand cays and more than 400 types of coral resting in crystal clear waters – all visible from up above in a scenic helicopter flight. 4. Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii See the fiery lava vents of one of the most active volcanoes in the world – from a safe distance aboard a helicopter. The volcano erupted in 2018, causing vigorous lava fountains to flow out that permanently changed the area’s landscape. For a fully immersive experience, take a doors-off helicopter tour of the volcano. 5. Niagara Falls, Ontario You’ll still able to hear the thundering roar of Niagara Falls when you’re looking down at the most powerful waterfall in North America. The falls straddle the international border between Canada and the US, but the Canadian side offers a favorable exchange rate that allows you to take a less-expensive helicopter tour of the three waterfalls that collectively form Niagara Falls. 6. Victoria Falls, Africa Care to travel a little farther to see the largest waterfall in the world? A helicopter tour of Victoria Falls in southern Africa on the Zambezi River offers beautiful views of one of Mother Nature’s most spectacular sights. Victoria Falls is the greatest curtain of falling water on the globe. It sprays more than five hundred million cubic meters of water per minute over an edge that plummets into a gorge more than hundred meters below, causing the sound of the falls to be heard from a distance of up 40 kilometers. 7. New York City, NY Flying in a helicopter over the island of Manhattan provides sweeping view of the Big Apple. You’ll get an up-close view of New York’s most iconic landmarks, from the Empire State Building and Times Square to Central Park and the Statue of Liberty, without having to deal with the throngs of tourists that roam the city on any given day. You’ll also enjoy a panoramic view of NYC’s iconic skyline. By the time you’re back on the ground, the city’s skyscrapers may not seem so tall anymore. 8. Nepal Explore the Himalayas by helicopter on a tour across Nepal’s high-altitude ranges. Soar over Everest Base Camp, the Khumbu Glacier, and Sagarmatha National Park Nepal, a UNESCO World Heritage site that contains areas of the Dudh Kosi river, Bhotekoshi river basin, and the Gokyo Lakes. Flying beats making the typical 12-day round trip trek by foot to Everest Base Camp. 9. Guatemala Only slightly larger than the state of Tennessee, Guatemala is home to volcanic trenches, rainforests, astounding Mayan ruins – including pyramids, temples, palaces, and fortresses – and the beautiful Lake Amatitlán, a popular tourist destination. This diverse landscape makes for a stunning helicopter ride. 10. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil From high above you’ll take in Rio de Janeiro’s white sand beaches, like Ipanema and Copacabana, the spectacular granite peak of Sugar Loaf Mountain, and, of course, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, the largest Art Deco-style sculpture in the world and a cultural icon of Brazil.
8 Beautiful Off-the-grid Getaways in the US
In an ever-connected world, it can be hard to plan a fully unplugged getaway. Yet there are properties that are design to provide or at least feel remote enough to get their guests off of the grid. From not having steady wi-fi, to being far from major roads, here are cabins, lodges and campgrounds across the United States that provide some self-recharging. Glamping Getaway Goblin Valley Yurts Within Southern Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park, two heated and cooled yurts blend in with the park’s outer-space looking rock formations. For reserve year-round, the tan-colored yurts contain just a porch, living area, a single bed bunked on a double bed and a futon. Guests should pack a flashlight and candles, as the yurts lack electricity. Yet this certified dark sky park will keep visitors busy with wandering among its Valley of Goblins or canyoneering down into Goblin’s Lair. Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge Reaching this coastal Alaskan lodge on Fox Island requires a 12-mile boat ride from Seward to arrive. The eight guest cabin property and its main lodge are nestled in the woods between a pristine pebble beach and a quiet lagoon. Relying on renewable energy as a power source, but backed up by propane generators, the cabins go without electrical outlets, TVs, radios or phones (emergency communication access is available, in case of a serious issue). Guests can also hike or kayak or learn more about the area’s marine life from on-staff naturalists. Osprey Cabin in Lake Metigoshe State Park This backcountry cabin within this state park in northern North Dakota is accessible by one of two ways – a 2-mile hike or a 1.5-mile canoe ride and short portage. It’s also retro in a rural way. It sleeps up to six with two full beds and two twin beds and includes a wood burning stove, with supplied wood to fuel it, and a lantern with propane cylinders. Now here comes the hard part: along with no electricity or cell service, a vault toilet is available onsite, but water has to be packed in. Head down more than eight miles of trails open to hikers and mountain bikers and go swimming or boating within small lakes. Taos Goji Eco-Lodge At this eco-lodge that’s 15 miles outside of Taos, New Mexico, and nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, get inspired not only from forest views but also from previous guests. Their turn of the century built cabins hosted writers D.H. Lawrence and Aldous Huxley; the latter wordsmith built an outhouse that’s still intact at the property. They’re heated by wood fire stoves; wi-fi can be spotty and cellular service can be little to none. Nonetheless, the eco lodge also introduces a bit of farm living in that it cultivates organic goji berries, fruits and vegetables and raises free-range chickens, goats and alpaca. Timberlock This camp-style retreat within New York State’s Adirondacks region provides a nostalgic experience for those who fondly remember spending their summers away from home and time in the woods with their loved ones. The family-owned retreat has rustic cabins ranging in size from small to extra large, but having views of Indian Lake’s shoreline. Note that none of them have electricity. Propane both provides light and warms up the hot water heaters, and a wood stove helps out with chilly nights, but complaining about not having wi-fi or TV is little to none. Visitors are kept busy through kayaking, canoeing and other waterside activities along with ops for biking or playing tennis covered. Pioneer Cabins in Kumbrabow State Forest Situated on top of Rich Mountain, along the edge of the Allegheny Highlands, this West Virginian state park provides the opportunity to stay in one of six West Virginian pioneer cabins. These rustic gems will transport guests far back from our digital age – as in no electricity and running water -- yet they have modern-day comforts. The cabins contain gas lights and gas refrigerators, a kitchen, linens, a wood fireplace and a grill. Take this to heart – showering is at a central bathhouse and the need for a restroom is fulfilled by outside toilets. Roosevelt Lodge & Cabins at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming Built in 1920, near Yellowstone’s Tower Falls area, these rustic cabins are at a campsite once used by President Theodore Roosevelt; they give off an “Old West” sense too. The Frontier Cabins typically consiss of two double beds and a bathroom, while their counterpart Roughrider Cabins have one or two double beds and wood burning stoves plus give off a sense of roughing it where guests have to make treks to communal showers and bathrooms. For a full-on Western experience, it’s possible to also partake in horseback trail riding, go on a stagecoach ride and join fellow Westerns in a communal Old West Dinner Cookout. Appalachian Mountain Club Maine Wilderness Lodges th century, the pondside Gorman Chairback Lodge & Cabins d has four deluxe cabins with private bathrooms and eight shoreline cabins with woodstoves and gas lamps plus a bunkhouse.>span class="s2"> The Little Lyford Lodge & Cabins contains nine private cabins, with a combo of doubles and bunk beds plus a porch, a woodstove, and gas lamps; for an additional fee, dogs can camp out here. Medawisla Lodge & Cabins (meaning loon in Abenaki) has five private hilltop cabins and four waterfront cabins with electric LED lighting and a woodstove. Len Foote Hike Inn You reach this Georgian backcountry inn via a hike to Amicalola Falls State Park. Before you go, know cellphones, radios and just about any electronic device aren’t allowed; but the park’s visitor center can become an emergency contact. Its four main buildings hold 20 bedrooms with fans or heaters, bunkbeds, furnished linens and ample lighting. Within the dining hall, guests get served a family-style breakfast and dinner. After hiking, go for a soak in bathhouse or hang out and chat with others in the Sunrise Room. The inn is also a gateway to the Appalachian Trail or the moderate 9.8-loop Len Foote Hike Inn Trail.
Why Tucson, Arizona, Is Your Next Great Outdoor Adventure
From cactus-spotting in Saguaro National Park and biking down Mount Lemmon to mountains on all four sides and southwestern sunsets that seemingly last forever, Tucson is brimming with outdoor adventures—even skiing! Here’s what you can expect before booking your first (or next) visit. The cactus capital of the world Tucson is known for its “friendly green giants,” a.k.a. Saguaro (pronounced “suh-wah-roe”) cacti that dominate the landscape. Whether you travel to the nearby national park or not, you will encounter them everywhere you turn, and you’ll be sure to admire both their height (up to 50 feet tall) and wondrous presence. You can drive, hike, or bike among them and when seen at sunset or sunrise, they take on a timeless presence. In fact, they can live for over 200 years in ideal conditions. Two national parks (sort of) At the turn of the century, National Geographic endeavored to rank every national park in America. Much to the chagrin of nearby Grand Canyon, Saguaro National Park took the number one ranking. Why? Navigating through towering green cacti that appear alive and guardian-like is a surreal experience. You’ll never see one move, but their humanoid stature suggests they’re just moments away from stepping across the horizon. The park is split into two sides, each with its own unique activities and topography. For more dense cacti, head to West Park. For paved scenic drives closer to the mountains, head to East Park. Die-hard desert museum Due to the extreme temperatures and lack of water, it takes one tough cookie to survive the Sonora and greater Arizona deserts. That fight for survival is on full display at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a 98-acre outdoor zoo, indoor aquarium, botanical garden, and natural history museum not far from the west entrance of Saguaro National Park. With two miles of designated trails, shade cover, and ice cream on site, it’s an enlightening way to soak in both state and Tucson history. Old West sunsets You know those postcard photos of silhouetted cacti and palms in the foreground of a radiant pink-orange sky? That’s everyday life in Tucson with the mountains off to the west. For ideal views, head to Sabino Canyon just northeast of downtown. Simply put, the clementine and purple sunsets here are amazing—some of the best we’ve ever seen. On a recent spring visit, the setting sun stopped us in our tracks every single evening during our five-day visit. Massive mountain biking Whether riding single-tracks in the valleys of Tucson proper or downhilling in the surrounding mountains, the Sonoran Desert is a radical place to offroad bike. With over 700 miles of designated trails, the terrain is as plentiful as the cacti are engrossing. While beautiful and intriguing, avoid those prickly plants at all cost. They straight up hurt if you miss a turn. Some of the best-rated biking trails include Catalina Canyon Loop Trail (2.3 miles), Agua Caliente Trail (8.5 miles), David Yetman Trail (12 miles), Brown Mountain Trail (4 miles), and Bug Springs Trail (8.3 miles) in Mount Lemmon. Magnificent hiking For one of the best hikes in either side of the national park, take the short Valley Overlook Trail in west park. At just one mile long (round trip), it can easily be walked by nearly anyone, both young and old and offers stunning views of the valley below the Tucson Mountains, as well as countless cacti. Other top-rated hikes include Bear Canyon to Seven Falls (8.5 miles), Romero Canyon Falls (5.5 miles), and Tanque Verde Falls (2 miles). Picturesque resorts There’s something sublime about floating in an aqua-colored pool with cacti, palm trees, and desert mountains surrounding you. Thankfully Tucson stars all of the above. At Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Sabino Canyon, for example, you’ll be impressed by the on-site amenities, golf, and views of greater Tucson. At the 150-year old Tanque Verde, you can experience one of the nations best-rated “dude ranches” with all of its rugged, Southwestern charm. Beating the heat When the temperatures start to rise, head to Mount Lemmon, which is about an hour’s drive north of downtown. From there you can enjoy 9,000 feet hiking elevations and temperatures up to 30 degrees cooler than the valley. In winter, you can also enjoy budget-friendly skiing at the well-rated but small Mount Lemmon Ski Valley. With nearly 200 inches of annual snowfall and regular snowstorms, you can always find fresh powder stashes and light traffic.This content is sponsored by Visit Tucson
The Best Roller Coasters in America
Roller coasters give you the opportunity to spend a sunny summer day staring death in the face. They come in all sizes, speeds, types, layouts, and track materials. With some, the ride experience is profoundly terrifying, leaving you shell shocked. Others induce an exhilarating sense of panic that’s addictive. What all coasters have in common, however, is that they assault the senses, sending your adrenaline levels off the charts. And once you walk away, you can say you survived a brush with death. No wonder coasters provoke such infatuation. Millennium Force – Cedar Point, Ohio Riders shoot through tunnels, crest hills, and veer past lagoons on this steel coaster that’s for those who crave speed, lots of airtime and heights. The first ascent offers panoramic views of the park as well as Lake Erie, which might be enjoyable if it weren’t for that slight feeling of doom. This initial climb leaves riders shaking as they ascend at an impressive 45-degree angle. Once at the top, all that’s left to do is gape straight down from a more than 300-foot perch. Then riders are catapulted down at close to a 90-degree angle at an astounding 93 mph. Coaster devotees are particularly keen on the sustained G force on a turn that’s banked at a max of 100-some degrees. Kingda Ka – Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey This steel coaster was made for those who want to be scared silly, starting before they even board. After all, the coaster’s enormous U-shaped track can be seen from just about anywhere in the park, towering some 45 stories above the ground, and making it one of only two coasters in the world that plunge at least 400 feet. In a dumbfounding 3.5 seconds, the train accelerates from 0 to 128 mph, rocketing up at a 90-degree angle. And then, it swoops down in a brain-scrambling 270-degree spiral. The terrifying ride is intense but short, over in a mere 28 seconds. Image courtesy of Knoebels Amusement Resort Phoenix – Knoebels Amusement Resort, Pennsylvania It’s not the tallest, fastest, scariest or newest, but this is a much loved, thrilling, old-school coaster with a storied history. When an amusement park closed in San Antonio, Texas, the 1940s wood coaster was dismantled, moved cross country via almost three dozen tractor trailers and, piece by piece, resurrected as the aptly named Phoenix. With a top speed of 45 mph, the Phoenix sweeps riders through a long, dark tunnel, also inducing plenty of giddiness on 12 airtime-filled hills, where the lap bar lets riders readily bounce out of their seats. Montu – Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Florida Named for the hawk-headed ancient Egyptian god of war, this steel, inverted coaster boasting a top speed of 65 mph gives aficionados what they yearn for: a feeling that they’re careening out of control. The close to 4,000-foot-long track is rife with surprises, including high-speed dives, underground trenches, and tight curves, as well as seven inversions. Among these multiple inversions is the Immelmann, a horseshoe-shaped diving loop that’s ominously named for a World War I German fighter pilot; a pair of 45-degree vertical loops, one that’s 60-feet high; and a Zero-G Roll. With all this dizzying action, it’s no wonder that coaster fans keep coming back for more. Image courtesy of Carowinds Copperhead Strike – Carowinds, North Carolina On this double launch coaster — the first in the Carolinas — the shocks start as soon as the train leaves the station with a jojo roll that treats riders to an upside-down twist. Then, in a 2.5-second flash, the train is launched from 0 to 42 mph, propelling it into a 360-degree inversion. Perhaps the most heart-pounding experience is after the second launch with an 82-foot hang-time loop, the coaster’s highest point. This winding ride boasts five complete gut-flipping inversions, more than any other double launch coaster in North America. Coaster enthusiasts are also wild about the airtime hills aplenty, and the tight, close-to-the-ground twists and turns. Lightning Rod – Dollywood, Tennessee This coaster will cure anyone of the idea that wood coasters are tame. As the world’s fastest wood coaster, Lightning Rod rockets at a top speed of 73 mph. It throttles from 0 to 45 mph, speeding up the 20-story lift hill. This launch is the equivalent of a whopping 1,500 horsepower, making the coaster’s name and 1950s hot rod theme apt. Riders get impressive views of the surrounding verdant hills and valleys from the lift hill’s twin summits. But there’s little time to relish in the scenery, given the subsequent daring, almost vertical, 16-story dive. With the ride’s astounding 20 seconds of airtime, as well as a four-part element with twists, banks and plunges, serious screaming is warranted. Image courtesy of Six Flags Magic Mountain Twisted Colossus – Six Flags Magic Mountain, California The original wooden Colossus coaster was given a makeover with steel tracks, converting it into this hybrid, one of the world’s longest, with nearly a mile of track. The four-minute ride gives riders a wild time with rapid rolls and spirals, 18 airtime hills, and steep banked turns. The brief time spent hanging upside down when the train slows in the Top Gun Stall element seems like an eternity. And the Western Hemisphere’s first High Five element gives riders in two trains the illusion that they are high fiving each other when they extend their arms.