Our cheat sheet will give you a leg up, no matter what type of African Safari you’re looking for.
Game Viewing: In Hemingway’s day, safaris followed game across the terrain, setting up camps along the way. Today’s mobile safaris channel that same spirit: Micato Safaris (13-day trips from $19,365 per person) plans some of the best tours, including a Tanzania and Kenya trip that travels from the rhino-filled foothills of Mount Kenya to the grasslands of the Masai Mara, where giraffes parade through the savanna.
Related: 10 Amazing Affordable Safaris
Photography: To improve your chances of getting a jaw-dropping shot of cheetahs in South Africa’s Phinda Private Game Reserve, andBeyond (eight-day trips from $8,092 per person) pairs you with Roger and Pat de la Harpe, photographers who have worked for National Geographic. The duo will help set up shots to capture the Big Five; andBeyond provides camera gear so you don’t have to lug it along. Back home, relive the trip with an album filled with pictures created by you—or the de la Harpes.
Active Pursuits: Bring rain boots for the canoe trip along Botswana’s Selinda Spillway with Great Plains Conservation (eight-day trips from $8,200 per person), where you’ll look for elephants and buffalo before hopping onto the bank to set up camp. Four days of paddling is rewarded with a stay at the outfitter’s plush Zarafa Camp, in a 320,000-acre reserve. A bonus? The cost of the trip helps to support the outfitter’s acclaimed conservation efforts.
Cultural Immersion: There are no spurious visits to faux villages on the Bushmen Initiation Hunt in Botswana’s Kalahari Desert from Uncharted Africa Safari Co. (27-11/447-1605; 14-day trips from $20,020 per person), led by fifth-generation guide Ralph Bousfield. The trip begins with an introduction to the Zu/’hoasi tribe, followed by eight days in the bush hunting for eland on foot (using skills practiced for centuries) and sleeping in simple fly camps. Next, you’ll welcome two days of pampering at Jack’s Camp, with its Persian rugs and outdoor showers, before heading out to see the ancient rock art in the Tsodillo hills.
Maximum Luxury: Cox & Kings (15-day trips from $16,160 per person) harnesses the close connections it has with Africa’s top lodges to deliver covetable perks, from pours of exclusive Stellenbosch wines to securing upgrades. The ultimate itinerary? Opt for the Singita Southern Africa country-hopping trip via private jet, which stops at South Africa’s iconic Singita Sabi Sand and Zimbabwe’s colorful Singita Pamushana Lodge before an optional extension in the Seychelles, at the Maia Resort & Spa’s beachfront villa.
Family-Friendly: Kensington Tours (eight-day trips from $1,999 per person) expertly handles the logistics of traveling with children on a safari. On its Kenya tour, little ones can adopt an elephant, learn how to make a fire, and participate in voluntourism projects geared toward creating lifetime bonds with Africa.
The Trip Planner: Mark Nolting, President, Africa Adventure Company
In addition to creating safari itineraries for more than 25 years—from visits to Ethiopian villages to wildlife watching in Mozambique’s Niassa reserve—Nolting, a T+L A-List travel agent, has literally written the book on the continent’s best vantage points: his Africa’s Top Wildlife Countries is in its seventh edition.