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Before I ever went on safari, I hadn’t really thought about what happens on safari. I’d seen pictures of your typical safari vehicles online – but I didn’t really know there was anything beyond that.
As it turns out, there are many types of safari. Who knew? And as much as I love a traditional game drive safari, it’s far from the only way to get up close with wildlife.
There are plenty of ways to do safari, and each offers a unique way to experience wildlife. After 60+ safaris, here are some of my favourite types of safari that I recommend trying!
Game drive safari
If you’ve been on safari before, you’ve probably been on a game drive. This is the type of safari you probably think of when you hear the word “safari” and the most common style of safari in Africa.
When you go on a game drive, a ranger takes you out in a safari vehicle with open sides and an open or covered roof. Game drives typically last 2-3 hours, and you’ll usually stick to designated roads or tracks.
Having a ranger drive you on safari can be a great way to spot animals because they’ll often communicate with other rangers. It’s also a great way to learn animal behaviour for any other types of safari you might do in the future.
Self drive safari
A bit like a game drive, a self drive safari involves driving around looking for wildlife. The big difference here is that you’re the one in the driving seat!
A self drive safari gives you complete freedom. You can spend as long as you like driving around – my record in 8 hours! – and spend as long as you like with each animal. It’s also one of the most affordable types of safari around.
RELATED READ: 20 Things you need to know before going on a self drive safari.
A night safari is exactly what it sounds like – a safari that takes place at night!
You might be wondering what’s so different about that. Well, night safaris are pretty special because you’ll need to go out on an organised night tour. There’s no self driving allowed here.
When you go on a night safari, the guide will have all the equipment you need to look for wildlife in the dark, including a special light that won’t harm the animals’ eyes. If you use a regular flashlight, you can temporarily blind the antelope (and make them easy prey for predators!).
TRAVEL TIP: If you’re going on safari, make sure you have adequate insurance. The travel insurance I use and highly recommend is World Nomads. They cover you for all sorts of activities that other insurers won’t, and I found the claims process super easy!
Night safaris can be hit and miss – you might see loads of you might see nothing at all. But when you do spot wildlife, you can have some of the best safari experiences. Wildlife is generally more active at night, and you’ll also have a much better chance of spotting nocturnal animals like…
On my first ever night safari in Namibia, we saw three of the big 5 at a waterhole all at once. We must have spent over an hour watching the lions, rhinos and elephants, and the dynamics between them. A pair of lions even came right up to our vehicle!
A walking safari isn’t for the faint-hearted, but it’s a really special way to get close to nature. When you do a walking safari, you’re there in the wild with the animals. You’re part of the landscape.
There’s nothing like coming face to face with a rhino, lion or elephant without the armour of a safari vehicle around. It makes you feel vulnerable, it fills you with awe and it leaves you feeling very much alive afterwards.
Walking safaris are usually organised by the camps and lodges inside the national parks and game reserves. They can book up quickly, so make sure you ask as far in advance as possible.
River safaris allow you to get closer to wildlife that lives near the water. Hippos, crocodiles and elephants are usually easy to spot on a river safari, and you can get the kind of eye level photos that are simply impossible on land. Not to mention the scenery is usually much more photogenic too!
River safari options are (obviously) limited by geography. Some of the best places to enjoy this kind of safari is in the Okavango Delta, the Zambezi river in Zambia and Chobe National Park in Botswana.
Bike safaris aren’t quite as common as the other types of safari on this list, but it’s totally possible to find them in Eswatini, South Africa’s Kruger National Park and some parts of Namibia.
Going on a bike safari is like going for a bike ride – only you’ll probably spot some pretty cool wildlife. It’s like exercise and safari all in one!
Another less common safari type – perhaps even less common than a cycling safari – is the horseback safari.
Even though it’s a pretty rare type of safari, my first safari was on horseback! And it was a great introduction to the world of safari. Unlike other types of safari, being on horseback allows you to get as close to the animals as possible.
Understandably, zebras, antelope and other four-legged friends are much more comfortable around horses than they are around humans. That means you can get really close to them – and almost feel like one of them!
Wild camping safari
If you want a truly unique experience that puts you right in the centre of nature, try a wild camping safari.
Wild camping is exactly what it sounds like – camping out in the wild where the animals are free to roam around you. No fences. No buildings. Just you and nature.
Wild camping isn’t possible in many national parks, but it’s worth making the effort to find one if you can. Botswana is one of the best places to try a wild camping safari – and it’s also one of the cheapest ways to visit the incredible Okavango Delta.
READ NEXT: A wild night in the Okavango Delta!
These aren’t the only types of safari you can do – there are loads others! – but these are the ones I’ve experienced and loved. Each offers a completely unique way to experience wildlife, so I’d urge you to branch out beyond a basic game drive on your next safari trip.
They’re not mutually exclusive, either. It’s totally possible to go on a safari that combines two or more of the above! For example, I’ve been on a night river safari when I stayed at Sukau Rainforest Lodge in Borneo. I’ve also been on a game drive that turned into a walking safari in Eswatini!
There are so many different ways to experience safari and, best of all, no two safaris are ever the same. I hope this post has inspired you to try a different type of safari next time you have the opportunity!