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.
Since 1966, the Pinto family of Kenya and New York has been welcoming guests to Africa with an extraordinary level of service and in-country expertise. Guide Alan Petersen has led David Beckham and Robert De Niro. T+L Trip pick Discover Africa’s Heritage. Visit unesco-protected areas such as Kenya’s Lake Nakuru and Zanzibar’s Stone Town.
The plugged-in, South Africa–based luxury outfitter (formerly known as CC Africa) owns 46 lodges and camps across Africa and in India. T+L Trip Pick: Bush Skills Academy at Phinda Private Game Reserve. Learn how to be a big-game ranger.
Cox & Kings
Founded in 1758, Cox & Kings is the oldest travel company in the world, and it prides itself on using its 250 years of experience to provide clients with unforgettable travel experiences. Cox & Kings specializes in tours to some of the world’s most exciting destinations, including the Seychelles, Tibet, Madrid, and Argentina. The company offers a variety of travel experiences, and clients can choose from custom-designed journeys, private journeys, group journeys, and relax and explore journeys, which take full advantage of Cox & Kings’ knowledge of the best and most luxurious hotels, villas, and retreats around the globe. t+l trip pick Portrait of Kenya. Spot Somali ostriches and reticulated giraffes in Samburu National Reserve, balloon over the Masai Mara savanna, and adopt an elephant at the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage.
A vast range of personalized itineraries, including working on archaeological digs in Israel and trekking to see gorillas in Rwanda, while staying in castles, ashrams, tropical tree houses, and tented safari camps. They also offer private custom tours with in-country offices, guides, vehicles, and 24/7 emergency support. The tour company also arranges intimate access to the Nasrid palaces of the Alhambra by night, when only 400 visitors are allowed in, and can also book a private balcony for watching Pamplona's Running of the Bulls. t+l trip pick Bali Orangutans and Dragons.Explore Bali, fly to Indonesian Borneo to observe orangutans, and sail to Rinca and Komodo islands to get up close to Komodo dragons.