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This Is How You Can Actually Take An Amazing African Safari

Safari goals.

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1. All-inclusive tours are the easiest option, and one of the most popular — but they're also the most expensive.

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You can either join a group with a pre-planned itinerary, or customize your own. Check out Kenya Association of Tour Operators — i.e. KATO — and the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators for more information (including a list of legit tour companies that get their stamp of approval).

2. But, with a bit of careful planning, it's totally possible to plan your own safari, too. Start by choosing the right time of year to go.

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Dry season [June to October] is the best time of year to see wildlife, according to Cristina Garcia, travel expert for the wildlife adventure travel company Travel For Wildlife. That's because trees don't have as many leaves to block your view, and the animals tend to gather around watering holes. Try to avoid going in rainy season, which is usually April through June, and then late November through December.

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3. And the park that has the wildlife you want to see most.

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"Southern Africa — South Africa, Botswana and Namibia — is great for seeing the widest range of species. Hit Kruger National Park to see the big five [lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, rhino] and birds galore," advises Garcia. "Try the Kgalagadi Transfontier Park in South Africa to see cat species," she continues, "and head to Rwanda or Uganda for gorillas and chimps."

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For large migrating herds and good predator watching, try Kenya or Tanzania. "In Kenya, Lake Nakuru National Park is beautiful, and in Tanzania, one of the best national parks I've visited is the Selous Game Reserve," says Mark Wein, travel expert and man behind the blog Migrationology.

4. If you have a few extra days, wait until you arrive to plan your detailed itinerary.

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"If you have time, consider arriving in your country of choice, spending some days there, and then booking a safari. Sometimes you can get good rates or figure out better details when you're in the country," suggests Wein.

In South Africa especially, the National Park Service is fantastic. "You can just turn up and join one of their reasonably priced safaris. This is also one of the only ways to do a night safari in some areas," explains travel writer and photographer Brendan van Son, who runs the travel blog Brendan's Adventures.

5. Embrace the hostel scene.

"They're often the best sources for budget safari trips. They likely have the best prices and are also a great way to meet like-minded travelers in your demographic," says van Son.

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6. And rent a 4x4.

Travel For Wildlife

"In most African parks, you can drive your own vehicle or a rental. It'll be cheaper, and you'll have much more control. Some safari vehicle rental companies, like Bushlore, will also rent all the camping equipment you need.

Just be sure to follow the rules.

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"Definitely read the animal warnings, as some wildlife—especially elephants—can certainly become aggressive and charge your car," cautions van Son.

7. Camp in the parks whenever you can ...

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Almost all the national parks have fantastic lodges, most of which also offer full-service campsites. "The camping facilities are fantastic and range from $10-15 per person a night, which is an absolute bargain," says van Son. "The best part of these campsites is you'll also have access to the amenities of the lodge such as Wi-Fi, restaurants, and a watering hole to view animals at night."

8. ... but consider splurging on accommodation for a night or two, too.

"Isibindi Africa Lodges offer dream accommodations in beautiful settings of Zululand at very reasonable prices," recommends Garcia. Another option: Stay with the locals, in lodges like !Xaus Lodge in the South African Kalahari. "When locals receive income from wildlife tourism, they are far more likely to preserve the animals in their own area and develop pride in their natural heritage."

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9. Invest in an SLR camera with a long lens — or rent one.

Although you can get some beautiful landscapes with your iPhone, and cool videos with a GoPro, these cameras aren't the best because the animals won't get right in your face. So consider bringing an SLR camera and a longer lens (300-500mm range), advises Garcia. "Long lenses are expensive, but you can always rent one from a place like BorrowLenses."

10. Cover yourself up.

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"Dress with light colored and comfortable clothing. Long sleeve shirts should be a staple in your safari wardrobe for those evenings. And don't forget a hat and sunglasses," says Garcia.

11. Get your shots before you go.

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You'll probably need to get a few vaccinations, and take malaria pills. Also, you can avoid malaria areas entirely by checking first on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. "Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa, for example is a great malaria-free reserve."

So go on, stand in a nice dress ...

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