Expert Advice Before Your First Time Going on a Safari

Welcome to the #365Firsts Podcast and the Expert Advice Before Your First Time Series. The show aims to encourage, prepare, and inspire you to do things you’ve never done before and complete your #365FirstsChallenge list. 

In each episode of this series, we give you tips and advice to set you up for success, for specific firsts and new experiences. The guests and topics are as varied as the options and possibilities of new experiences. 

Whether you’re trying to learn a new skill, improve your health and happiness, work on your self-development, add excitement and adventure to your life, or simply have first times, you’re going to love our podcast.

In This Episode

This episode, we were lucky enough to get the chance to learn about an experience that no one on our team has ever had before, going on a safari. It can be challenging to know how to plan for these types of adventures though, as safaris can seem intense or even frightening to those who have never been before. Luckily, we were joined this episode by a bonafide expert in this field.

We were joined by Mike Herscott, the senior Southern Africa Specialist in the U.S. for the award winning travel company Audley travel. At Audley, the specialists create tailor-made trips and holidays to 87 different countries.

Mike has lived, seen, and explored much of the African Continent – he has a number of years under his belt helping people plan the ideal safari and plenty of fantastic experience to share with us about what to expect and how to ensure you have the best first time on a safari possible!

The Guest Expert

Mike first traveled to Africa as an exchange student to the University of Cape Town, South Africa. While he was there, he took full advantage of immersing himself into the local culture and activities. He joined the surf team, went hiking, and explored as much of the country as possible.

At the end of his time in South Africa, he went on a coastal road trip, surfing, hiking, and camping from Elands Bay all the way up to Tofo, Mozambique with some friends. In his travels he met some of the warmest and sweetest Xhosa people, and saw stunning landscapes, and rugged coastline. While in Lwandile, they hiked the cattle paths on the cliffside, fished for their dinners, surfed waves few people had ever seen, cooked pap and samp with the locals, and camped on land belonging to the village chief overlooking the sea.

After eight months in Southern Africa, he was hooked, all he wanted to do was see more, learn more, and explore more of this magnificent continent. Since then, he has continued to travel all over Africa; including visits to Senegal, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, eSwatini, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, and Morocco.

What You Need To Know About Your First Safari

Mike started off the episode by describing his first ever safari, and how it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He noted he was in constant awe of the countryside, the culture, and the incredible wildlife. The hospitality in South Africa is generally of the highest caliber, and Mike described how he felt incredibly welcome and safe while being there. 

There are Many Types and Possibilities When it Comes to Going on a Safari.

Mike’s first piece of advice when it comes to planning your safari is to close your eyes and visualize your ideal trip, and to work backwards from there. What do you want to see and experience? What do you imagine it will be like? What level of comfort or adventure do you seek? Try to plan out exactly what it is that you want and then move on to figure out what country, safari style, and trip might suit you.

There are plenty of different types of safari holiday available for you to choose from. You can stay at standard 3-star lodges focused around seeing wildlife, 5-star lodges with Swarovski binoculars or even in a tent on the ground at a reserve. Whatever it is that you’re interested in, there’ll be something to suit you. 

If you’re looking to travel on safari with a large group of family or friends, Mike noted that this is entirely possible but it does require extra planning. Larger groups tend to be in the range of 8-10 people, but Mike described how he has planned group adventures for almost 15 people.

One of the Top Attractions is The Wildlife

Much of the appeal of a safari are the magnificent animals you’ll be able to see. Mike described the Big 5 and how this term originated from the colonial era in Africa and referred to the most dangerous animals. Nowadays, it is tied into the photojournalistic aspect of safari trips and refers to elephants, buffalo, rhinos, lions and leopards. But Mike was clear you shouldn’t limite yourself to only those animals. You may also want see other animals, like hyenas or wild dogs. 

However, he did point out, different areas will have different habitats and conditions, and as a result, you may not be able to see all of the animals. Identify what you want to see before you plan your first safari trip to ensure you do to the right location.

What Can you Expect to Spend?

The conversation then moved on to budgeting, and Mike recommended that the minimum amount of nights should be 6 nights to ensure you get your fill and leave satisfied. Introductory experiences should be 3 or 4 nights at a minimum. It really depends on what you’re looking to get out of your trip. Mike then noted trips can vary from anywhere between $6,000-$11,000 and that it depends on location, trip length, and accommodation style.

Additionally, it’s important to bear in mind in what time in the tourist season you are traveling in, the peak season is the most expensive, which is why speaking to an expert is so important, they can help find a great time to go that’s less expensive. Peak seasons can vary from country to country, but generally speaking, summertime in North America is one of the best times to go on safari in Africa.

Requirements to Travel to Africa

A passport is a must. Mike then mentioned there are different visa requirements depending on where you travel. East Africa often requires visas to be booked in advance, and some countries also require yellow fever vaccinations. Generally speaking, Mike advised people should do their research before traveling and so they’re as prepared as possible.

Mike noted speaking to a medical professional is always a good idea to make sure that vaccinations are not needed and to figure out if any medications, like malaria tablets, might be helpful as well. Again, this varies based on which country you are traveling too and personal preferences.

In terms of packing, Mike described how most safari camps will have items like bug sprays, mosquito netting, and other amenities you need to help keep you safe and comfortable.

Planning your safari with a professional like Mike can be a great move. Experts like him offer a unique perspective on travel, and they can help you to craft the trip of your dreams. Going on safari is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and as long as you plan accordingly and head in with an open mind, you’re going to have a epic time. 

Get In Touch With Mike

This was an educational episode to record and we hope you enjoyed it as well. If you’re interested in booking your safari or finding out more checkout the Audley Travel website

How To Reach Us

Want to give us feedback on the show? Looking for an episode about a particular subject? We’d be more than happy to take your ideas onboard and use them to shape the show into something even better for the community.

Feedback is always welcome on the show, whether you have some positive notes, negative notes or constructive pieces of criticism. Feel free to get in touch with a member of our team at contact@365firstschallenge.com today.

What’s Coming Up Next Time?

New episodes of Expert Advice Before Your First Time are released each week and we’ve got a great roster of guests lined up to give you more expert advice. 

In the next episode on the 3rd of March, we’ll be speaking with Dr. Kyrin Dunston about starting menopause. After that on the 10th of March, we’ll be speaking to Melinda Myers about gardening for the first time. 

You can listen and subscribe on Apple, Google, or Spotify. While you’re there – please leave a review if you can. It really does help us with our work, and each review is deeply appreciated.

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