Should you consider doing a safari as a single traveller? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” but there are some things to consider, discovers Tiana Templeman.
An African safari is one of those iconic holidays that travellers dream of ticking off their bucket list. Just because you’re travelling alone doesn’t mean you can’t do the same. In fact, safaris are ideal for solo travellers as their communal nature lends itself to socialising.
However, while safaris tend to be a fairly cosseted holiday experience, there are also some things to be aware of when you do one on your own. A successful solo safari involves making smart choices during the planning stages and while you’re at the lodge.
While it can seem like a clever way to extract extra value from your trip, solo travellers should avoid arriving at their safari lodge early. You will probably feel lonely sitting in a huge common area, waiting for your room to be ready, while other guests talk excitedly about what they have seen on their morning drive.
Instead, check-in just in time for lunch, settle into your room and then head out on your first game drive that afternoon. Once you know the other people in your safari vehicle, it is much easier to strike up a conversation.
That said, if you find yourself hoping your guide will find lions so you can feed an annoying ‘never-stops-talking’ fellow guest to them, it is possible to change groups. Simply ask tactfully at the office or have a quiet word to your guide. They only need to find a single spot in another jeep, yet another advantage of travelling solo, and will do so discretely.
If you stay at a lodge for a few days or more, you will likely have the guide to yourself for a ‘private’ game drive or two, as the other guests in your vehicle check out and a new group joins you. This is a rare and special privilege, with front seat access beside your guide and a morning or afternoon of conversation which usually ventures beyond the usual safari patter.
While you’re sure to see animals such as lions, elephants, giraffes and rhinos, what you’ll probably treasure most is the chance to learn about life as a local, and discover more about the beauty and diversity of South Africa, from someone who lives there. After a solo drive, it is not unusual for solo travellers to be invited to ride up front with their guide for the rest of their safari holiday, yet another trip highlight.
If you are travelling alone, it can be wise to enquire beforehand about arrangements for meals and discuss alternatives if necessary. On arrival at my safari lodge, I discovered that each group or couple travelling together was seated at their own table for lunch each day. This didn’t bother me but may not suit everyone.
Other lodges have ‘mandatory’ communal dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner which avoids the ‘table for one’ which solo travellers so often dread, particularly when they are surrounded by lively groups having fun. However, this can be another reason to be mindful of who is in your vehicle. Meals are often eaten with your safari group and your guide, an arrangement which can be less than ideal if you don’t enjoy the company of those on your game drive.
As a solo traveller, you engage more deeply with your environment on safari plus there is time for quiet reflection after each game drive. There is also much joy to be found in having the freedom to please yourself during such a unique travel experience. In many ways, a solo safari is the perfect holiday for those who are travelling alone.
Don't wait for others to be able to embark on your bucket-list safari. Talk to one of our advisers about finding or planning a solo safari itinerary suited to you.