If you grew up singing “Hakuna Matata” or wished Sir David Attenborough narrated your daily life, then chances are you’ve also fantasized about making a journey of your own to witness some of the incredible things you’ve seen on screen. A safari trip will awaken your wild side and begin your lifelong love affair with the breathtaking diversity we have on this planet. It could even help shape your future career choices — after all, it’s hard to hear an elephant’s vibrating rumble or see a tiger slink through dappled sunlight firsthand and not be inspired to join the conservation movement. Create your own “Planet Earth” adventure with a safari abroad!
While safari adventures abroad often seem synonymous with traveling in sub-Saharan Africa, that’s not the only region in the world where you can embark on nature tours. Whether you’re looking for a traditional jeep ride safari through the wilderness or a more interactive eco-adventure abroad seeing wildlife on foot, it’s hard to choose incorrectly when looking at safari adventures! Here is just a sampling of some of the locations you could call home:
Tanzania. There’s a reason visions of African safari trips rush quickly to our minds at any mention; these countries are home to fantastic beasts that seem like they were dreamed up in an otherworldly universe, and they have captivated travelers for generations. Witnessing the drama of a pride of lions taking down a zebra, or just watching hippos laze around in the sun will transport you to a whole new world. You may even feel cause to spontaneously belt out the opening vocals of “The Circle of Life” while watching the sun rise over the Serengeti. African safaris reviews should be consulted prior to travel to ensure animal safety.
Bulgaria. Yes, you read that right. This Eastern European nation may not jump to mind when thinking about wildlife safaris abroad, but if you are looking for a more research-based wildlife program, Bulgaria may actually be your best option. European brown bears thrive in the mountainous regions of Bulgaria, and you could join a research team capturing and collaring wild bears to study wildlife movements. The skills you learn here will be invaluable in a wildlife management career, and during your time spent traveling with the research team, you’ll have opportunities to get close encounters with other rarely seen animals (just don’t get your hopes up that you might see Victor Krum and the Durmstrang quidditch team flying past you on broomsticks!).
Nepal is a favorite destination for travelers everywhere, thanks in part to the country’s incredible scenery, wildlife, and access to adventure. You could build a safari trip in Nepal into a larger itinerary of trekking, climbing, or volunteer work in the country as well. Nepal also offers the unique opportunity to see wildlife, such as Indian one-horned rhinos, spotted deer, and critically endangered tigers from the back of an elephant instead of a safari jeep. However, if you choose this route, it’s very important to do your research — riding elephants abroad is controversial, and you want to support ethical tourism that doesn’t promote animal abuse (Yo! Here are 27 questions to ask before handling animals abroad). If you have concerns about the elephant safari companies, safaris on foot and in canoes are also available!
Along with narrowing down a location for your epic adventure, you’ll also need to decide your personal safari style. Are you looking to go glamorous, channeling Taylor Swift in her “Wildest Dreams” video? Perhaps you’re more inspired by Jane Goodall and the idea of roughing it for wildlife research with a group o’ gorillas? Either way, there are plenty of safari adventures options to choose from.
One thing most safaris have in common is their small size. When you’re trying to observe wild animals in their natural habitat, a giant tour bus with people elbowing each other aside to get the best photo of the giraffe hightailing it out of there is not ideal. Whether your safari takes place primarily in a car, on foot, on a boat, or on an animal’s back (in limited circumstances), your group size will most likely be small and intimate. Not only is this best for wildlife viewing, but a smaller group size will also help you and your fellow travelers quickly become a tight-knit family!
Since your main goal will be to locate and observe animals, you’ll typically have to follow an animal’s schedule while on your safari — this could mean some very early mornings. You may come to appreciate your new wildlife-inspired schedule: becoming active during the pleasant golden hours of the early morning and taking siestas during the blazing afternoon sun.
The best time of year to go on a safari will depend on which country and region of the world you choose and also what kinds of animals you are hoping to see. In areas like East Africa, the best time to go is typically during the dry season; if you want to catch a glimpse of an elusive snow leopard, however, then you’ll want to go during the bitter Himalayan winter. Research is your friend — make sure to do plenty of it to get the most out of your safari!
Tips & Advice for Safari Adventures
The number one safari tip should probably be “don’t get out of the jeep to get a closer look at the cute baby lions,” but there are definitely some other helpful things to keep in mind besides a healthy dose of common sense.
While it’s certainly not necessary, have background knowledge of some of the wildlife species you’ll encounter to be helpful. You’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for and how to spot it, and if you have local guides, you’ll earn their respect more by showing them that you want to learn all you can about their homeland.
Another tip that can’t be stated enough? Do your research! Safaris mean lots of time outdoors exposed to the elements, so you want to be sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. From knowing what animals you’re most likely to see to knowing how to dress to knowing about any cultural taboos in the country you’re visiting, being armed with knowledge before you go will ensure that you don’t run into any unexpected surprises that could detract from your trip.
Research will help you get a more accurate estimate of how much your safari will cost as well. While you can find a cheap African safari, be leery of deals that are “too good to be true.” Aside from the price of plane tickets and tour guides, you’ll likely need sturdy hats, sunglasses, rain jackets, or parkas to protect you from the sun, rain, or snow you’ll encounter!
Benefits & Challenges
It’s hard to think of a more compelling benefit than simply getting to see with your own eyes some of the living wonders of the world. Whether you were an animal-obsessed kid growing up or if you’re a newbie to the wild side, you’re bound to come away with an amazed appreciation of all of the different ways our furry (or feathered, or scale-y...) friends can survive and thrive.
Safari adventure tours can have more practical benefits as well. If you’re looking to get into the field of biology, ecology, environmental tourism, or more, then the résumé building benefits of a safari are a no-brainer. Gaining firsthand knowledge of wildlife species and conservation and management practices in other countries will help you become more competitive in the job market both in your home country and abroad!
However, a safari trip isn’t going to be all fun and games. Regardless of what kind of tour you choose, you will most likely be spending LOTS of time exposed to the great outdoors, in extreme temperatures on both ends of the thermometer. Biting insects, whipping winds, scorching sun — whatever animals have to endure in the wild, you’ll have to endure while observing them in their natural habitat!
Safari adventures will open up your eyes to the wide world behind your smartphone screen. It’s impossible to watch the complex interactions of animals in the wild without suddenly feeling small. Once you realize that both people and animals all around the world share the same goals of survival and camaraderie, you may feel much more connected to this great blue planet we all share.