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Regardless whether you subscribe to the no-stress, all-inclusive vacation vibe or the challenge of backpacking around Europe, every traveler has dreamt of seeing the beauty of African wildlife via safari. If you’ve started to look into it, you might be overwhelmed by the options and, ahem, the cost. It’s an expensive endeavor to book a safari and it can be difficult to know what to look for in a company.

Travel agents can be an excellent resource, but the advice you’ll definitely want to take as you check off this bucket list travel item is that of Lori Robinson, a safari consultant and founder of, who also worked for famed British primatologist Jane Goodall, as her African adventure specialist. The two connected via their families: Jane’s parents and Lori’s grandfather were friends and neighbors in London. In fact, Lori’s grandfather was the one who drove newborn Jane home from the hospital in 1934.

Lori grew up idolizing Jane and hoping to live like her one day, in the African bush. Once she was older, she worked as her specialist, leading donors on safaris to visit the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream Park in Tanzania, and has continued to lead and write about conservation issues for more than 30 years.

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“I went to Africa for the first time on a modeling assignment in 1984 and fell in love with its wildness. It’s one of the only places left on earth where you can see such a wide variety of animals up close, living wild and free,” she says. “Being on safari changed me. The silence, the open space, the lack of technology, man-made buildings and electric wires allows me to connect to a place inside that is often lost in our culture.”

Here, Robinson shares how travelers can get the most of out of their trek to Africa.


Figure out which safari is right for you

Robinson says while most Americans imagine Africa as a far away land known for famine, poaching and war, the true resilience and allure of Africa is far more positive. Not only can you find lions, rhinos, elephants and more, but Africa is the origin of all human life, stemming hundreds of thousands of years ago. It’s also the second-largest continent in the world, encompassing a vast variety of governments, ecosystems, economies and historical traditions. Because of all of the choices, she says it’s essential to be mindful of what type of safari you actually want to go on (i.e. basic vs. luxury, Big Five vs. gorillas and primates, etc.) as ten of Africa’s 54 countries offer safaris and many differ greatly.

Don’t cut costs
While going budget-friendly for certain types of trips—like a bachelorette party or a weekend getaway—can be a smart was to save money, Robinson says if you’re going to take a safari, prepare to spend a chunk of change. Setting that expectation early, she says, will make your safari adventure that much more incredible. “If you try and save money, it will dramatically lessen your experience,” says Robinson. “There is a huge difference in quality at different price levels. You don’t need the most expensive itinerary but you absolutely don’t want the least expensive either,” she says.

Choose your safari style
There is no one-trip-fits-all safari. That’s why thinking ahead about what type of experience you want to have is essential to making sure you feel like you received your money’s worth according to Robinson. There are two ways to go on a safari according to Robinson: Choose a pre-arranged itinerary where you’ll adventure with strangers (unless you have a minimum of four people to travel with you), or work with a specialized agent who will create a custom trip made to fit your needs, your timing and, of course, your dreams. Robinson recommends the latter, which might (again!) be pricier, but also worth the extra zeros to create a once-in-a-lifetime trip with someone you love.

Determine which wildlife you want to see

Though it’s unlikely you’ll book a last-minute, 20-hour trip to Africa to go on a safari, say, next week, Robinson says making a list of what wildlife you want to catch a glimpse of can help you determine when you should take your trip. This will also help you narrow down which country to go to, with the right parks open for viewing elephants, lions and more. “If you are limited to when you can go, you need to find out which is the best country to go for that particular time of year,” says Robinson. “Seeing the wildlife is the whole point of going on safari!”

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Don’t DIY your safari
Even if you consider yourself self-sufficient enough to book a ticket to the Alhambra in Granada, or a visit to the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Robinson says a DIY-trip to Africa will be more stressful than it’s worth. “Unlike planning a trip to Europe or Australia, for instance, planning your first safari will require a safari operator,” she says. “Choosing the company you will pay to handle all the logistics of your safari from the minute you touch down in Africa until the minute you leave may be the most difficult decision of your trip.”

Robinson says to be wary of groups claiming they won travel awards, as some of those may be rigged. Instead, she recommends looking for operators who have been planning safaris for at least 10 years, who have at least three people on staff and can easily answer your questions. “Look at their websites and call them directly to get a feel for the differences in their style. Referrals from friends who have gone on safari can also be one way to weed the good from the bad operators,” she adds.

Don’t forget your camera and binoculars

Nope, according to Robinson, your iPhone doesn’t count. Her clients who only show up with their smartphone have been disappointed by the quality, so consider investing in (or renting or borrowing) a professional camera to capture the experience. As for those binoculars? Robinson says even when a tour guide promises they’ll be available, they may not be of a high quality.

After you’ve taken a couple hundred photos and picked your jaw up off the ground? Robinson encourages travelers to step away from technology and take it all in. “Put down your cameras and binoculars once in awhile, just to have a more intimate experience with the wildlife surrounding you,” she says. “Of all the clients I have designed trips for or led on safari the most common remark is that they could not have imagined they would see so many, and such a variety of, wildlife. On my recent 10-day trip to Botswana my group saw over 500 elephants. Clients also tell me the trip, more than any other they have taken around the world, changed them.”

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Tagged: Africa

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Lindsay Tigar

Lindsay Tigar

Lindsay is a lifestyle and travel writer, and content strategist. She is a passport stamp collector with an affinity for great wine, coffee and conversation. You can find a full collection of her work at
Lindsay Tigar


Freelance Travel and Lifestyle Journalist for @travelleisure, @voguemagazine, @usatoday, @bravotv @brides, @weddingwire and many more.
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