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When to Plan a Safari

September 29, 2022  By: Gretchen

We’re often asked how far in advance it’s necessary to plan a safari. The short answer is “the sooner the better!” If you are set on specific destinations, specific camps or lodges, or specific dates, especially if traveling during peak seasons, it’s best to plan anywhere from 12 – 24 months in advance. That said, if you’re flexible on destination or accommodation type, we can very often help with a shorter window of time. We’ll look at some of the nuances of planning ahead here, as the time to craft a customized trip varies somewhat by location and safari type.

family in santa hats on safari


Considering a safari over the holiday seasons like Christmas, New Year’s or Easter? You’ll need to start planning at least 12 months in advance and 24 months is better if you want to get into preferred smaller camps and boutique hotels. For example, Cape Town is a fantastic place to spend time in December and January as the weather and water are the warmest of the year, but you’re not only competing for preferred accommodations with other international travelers, you’re competing with many South Africans looking to escape to the beautiful Western Cape!

Migration river crossing


Seeing East Africa’s Great Migration is on many travelers’ wish lists, and rightfully so! Additionally, many travelers have their hearts set on trying to witness a river crossing, which normally take place just a few months of the year – typically July, August, October and November. We recommend booking a Kenya or Tanzania Great Migration safari at least 1 year in advance during the high season/crossing months. While we think it’s wonderful any time of year (ask us about the Green Season!), if you’re particular about staying in a certain camp or being best positioned to see a river crossing, those who plan early reap the rewards! If you’d like to discuss the best time for your East Africa safari, contact one of our Journey Specialists.

adult gorilla

Gorilla Trekking

Widely considered one of the most memorable and incredible wildlife experiences anywhere in the world, trekking to see mountain gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda takes expert planning – and that planning should be done in advance! There are a limited number of permits available for travelers to visit the habituated gorillas each day, and once they’re sold, they’re gone. We recommend planning your gorilla safari 12-18 months in advance to ensure permit availability on the dates that you wish to visit. June through August is the busiest season.


Beach Safari

If you’re planning to visit one of Africa’s spectacular beach destinations, either on its own or to relax after a safari, we suggest booking 12 months in advance to secure space in the most desirable accommodations. Whether you’re imagining a little R & R in Zanzibar, an unforgettable retreat in Seychelles or even an adventure on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, booking early is the best way to ensure you get exactly what you want. A special note that the same timeframe holds true for planning a honeymoon safari!

Sara and Kellen in mokoro

Botswana Safari

Botswana bears special mention, as many travelers want to visit specific camps. Smaller, exclusive camps such as Mombo Camp and Zarafa Camp invariably fill first, especially during the high season months of June through September. We recommend booking a Botswana safari 12-24 months in advance.

Ready to start planning your safari?

Photos courtesy AAC Livingstone Club members John H. & Shannon W., David & Jean S., and Robert M.; AAC Safari Concierge Nell Pollak; AAC President Kent Redding; and AAC Journey Specialist Sara Stark