How many days do you need for a Safari?
Are you looking to plan a trip to Africa, but you’re not sure how many days you need to enjoy a memorable African safari?
For a well-rounded and rewarding safari experience, the ideal number of days for a safari getaway is anywhere between 7 – 15 days. While this is a great benchmark for safari-goers, it varies from one traveler to the next depending on their travel requirements. Planning a shorter safari trip is possible, but spending any less than four days on safari will simply not be worthwhile.
Africa is a massive continent with numerous exceptional safari destinations that vary by country, region, and season. Depending on the type of safari you’re looking to experience, the country you choose to visit will have an impact on how long your safari trip should be.
We highly recommend doing your research beforehand, as proper preparation and planning will help you optimize your travel experience for a bucket-list safari holiday.
Here are some important factors to consider when planning your safari trip, all of which will have an influence on how long your safari getaway should be.
The country/area of Africa you choose to visit on your trip has a big impact on how many days you need for a safari. From the 54 countries that make up Africa, 9 of them are renowned for their world-class safari experiences and wildlife destinations. These countries include South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, and Rwanda.
If you have a limited amount of time but would like to fill your trip with as many authentic safari experiences as possible, we suggest you rule out Africa’s more remote destinations. These destinations not only demand additional travel time but are generally much larger and require several days to explore.
Choosing a smaller park like the Nakuru National park in Kenya versus larger parks like the Serengeti in Tanzania (where you could easily spend a full week or more) is recommended if you’re planning a shorter safari trip to Africa.
Your budget is one of the top factors to consider when planning your safari trip. Africa is home to a vast selection of safari destinations, national parks, nature reserves, and game lodges, each catering to different budgets and travel requirements. Not only will your budget have an influence on your overall trip and travel style, it will also impact the duration of your stay.
The overall cost of your safari will vary based on the following factors:
- The African country you are visiting on your safari trip
- The type of accommodation you choose to stay in
- The number of parks, game reserves, lodges, or conservations areas you will be visiting and exploring
- Your mode of transport: Will you have exclusive transport or be sharing with other travelers?
If you’re looking to make the most of your safari holiday on a tight budget, we suggest spending a minimum of 3 – 4 days exploring Africa and the national parks and reserves of your choice. This excludes the days spent travelling from one park or reserve to the next. Any less time may not feel worthwhile. To reduce these non-safari days spent traveling, make sure you choose parks and reserves that are close together.
Besides simply planning your dream safari holiday, you must take your travel time into consideration. Your total travel time will have a big impact on how many days you need for a safari. The following factors will have an impact on your travel time:
- The number of game reserves, national parks, lodges, and conservation areas you are planning to visit on your safari trip.
- The distance of each destination/how remote it is as well as the distance between the different parks and reserves.
- The time required to move from one destination to the next. For example, in some cases, the distance between parks and nature reserves can be as long as a whole day’s drive.
- The mode of transport you use throughout your trip. If you decide to fly by using light aircrafts that service certain parks, you can significantly reduce your travel time. If you choose to drive or make use of local transport methods, your travel time will be longer.
- The proximity of the national parks, game reserves, and safari destinations to airports. This is particularly important to consider if you are planning a shorter safari trip and would like to cut down on travel time as much as possible.
- If you are planning a multi-country African safari (which will require you to cross country borders), you will need to factor in additional travel time (due to the increased distance). You will also need to consider any potential delays that may arise at the border. The border crossing between Kenya and Tanzania is by far one of the most popular as many safari enthusiasts are eager to visit both the Serengeti and Maasai Mara on one trip. This means travelers will need to endure a whole day on the road to get from the Maasai Mara to the Serengeti, assuming that there are no issues when crossing the Isebania border. If you are planning a short safari trip it is best to avoid any border crossings and multi-country safari adventures all together.
If you’re a safari enthusiast and head-over-heels wildlife lover with a lengthy bucket-list of all the African wildlife species you wish to see on your trip, you may want to extend your stay – depending on which wildlife species you wish to see.
Depending on the country and safari destination you choose to visit, some wildlife species may be very common. This means you will see them relatively early on in your safari.
Other wildlife species are more elusive and will require you to spend more time in a particular park or reserve to spot them. The same applies to endangered species, such as the African wild dog and black rhino, as there are only a limited number of these species. Some of Africa’s endangered species may not be present at all in certain national parks and reserves. Proper planning and research are vital to ensuring you visit the right country and safari destination to see the wildlife species you desire.
First-time safari goers VS Safari connoisseurs
If it’s your first time travelling to Africa, chances are you’ll have a whole bucket-list of destinations and reserves you’d like to visit and safari adventures you’d love to experience. You’ll also be far more curious and eager to explore than those who have travelled to Africa before. If you’re a first-time safari-goer, we highly recommend planning a longer trip to make it well worth your while. As a general rule of thumb about two weeks (or 10 full days minimum) is a good amount of time to properly enjoy your first time in Africa.
Size & safari experiences
The amount of time you should spend in one national park will depend on the size of the park, the different safari activities and experiences, as well as the diversity of wildlife and birdlife. Many of East Africa’s most sought-after parks are very large, and boasts several stunning landscapes, safari experiences, and an incredible diversity of wildlife and birdlife. This warrants safari-goers to spend more time enjoying and exploring everything it has to offer – ultimately resulting in a longer safari trip.
Some parks are much smaller in size, only warranting a day of exploring. An example is the Nakuru National park in Kenya. While it boasts beautiful landscapes, stunning scenery and some remarkable and rare wildlife species like the black and white rhino and flamingos, the park is not very large. If you are only planning to visit some of Africa’s smaller parks and reserves, a shorter safari trip deems appropriate.
Although jetlag only applies to international travelers, it is a factor that is often overlooked. It is important for international travelers to factor in the time it will take to adjust to South or East African time upon your arrival. If you want to enjoy every second of your safari holiday without the nasty jetlag getting you down, we highly recommend that you allocate a day or two to rest and adjust to your new time zone and surroundings.