"The Complete African Safari Planner" isn't -- complete, that is. Neither does it cover "all the best parks, lodges, and tour operators." This Fodor's cover promises so ambitious an undertaking as to virtually invite failure, and fail it does. One should be skeptical as to a 5"x8" book's chance of accomplishing this task in 609 pages even should it stick to the planning of an African safari, which it doesn't. Anyone seriously considering an African wildlife safari should eliminate The Seychelles, thus saving 42 pages that could have been devoted to parks omitted. Another 49 pages are taken up with "Beach Escapes" as if a true wildlife safari were not the ultimate escape. An additional 38 pages are carved out for Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia, leaving just 480 pages for the complete planning of wildlife safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia.
I agree with the placement of Kenya first as a destination for wildlife among the five principal countries. With careful planning a first-time visitor to Kenya should see more species of mammals at the lowest cost while traveling the shortest distance on safari. While I question the so-called "big five" African mammals deserving 11 pages of coverage, "The Complete African Safari Planner" could at least be more accurate in specifying the parks where each is most likely to be found. For rhinoceros, both black and white in Kenya, the premier sanctuary is Lake Nakuru National Park which is not even mentioned in the book. Relegated to the "If You Have Time" category, Nairobi National Park is also good for black rhino, but you will not see it in the "Must See" Amboseli National Park despite the "yes" assurance appearing in the extremely inaccurate "Finding The Big Five" chart on page 46. Another inaccuracy, in both the 1st and 2nd editions of the book, is the rejoinder that open-roof hatches are not permitted in Nairobi National Park. A serious shortcoming of the Kenya chapter is the conflation of the Laikipia Plateau with Samburu National Reserve. The entire "Where to Stay" coverage applies strictly to the plateau, as any of the included lodges and camps are much too far from Samburu and Buffalo Springs to merit booking them while visiting these outstanding reserves.
Tanzania hosts essentially two disjunct safari destinations as its northern and southern circuits are rather widely separated in space and time. A safari from either Arusha in the north or Dar es Salaam in the south requires outbound and return travel over basically the same routes. It also demands a level of planning not addressed in "The Complete African Safari Planner." A northern safari is particularly problematic in that entering the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) triggers a daily fee covering the entire extent of a sojourn through Ngorongoro Crater, Oldupai Gorge, and Serengeti National Park. If a party enters the NCA at 3 p.m. with the intent of returning in five days, it must be back out of that gate by 3 p.m. on the 5th day or it will be assessed an additional day's fee. Besides entailing considerable extra expense, this may also impose unpleasant time constraints on a final day from a distant point in Serengeti National Park. Combine this with the six-hour limit being imposed on a visit in Ngorongoro Crater and the dilemma of planning a safari in northern Tanzania becomes apparent. A lodge-based safari should be planned with an operator who will attempt a full day in the caldera with picnic lunch and use Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, which few would deem "rather shabby," for the convenient access road to and from the caldera floor. Lake Manyara National Park should be included in the safari itinerary for an opportunity to see klipspringers near the hot springs. Fine value for cost lodging is Lake Manyara Tented Camp (Migunga Forest Camp) located outside the park rather than as shown on the map on page 194. Also worth considering are Tarangire National Park, using Tarangire Safari Lodge, and Arusha National Park for its spectacular black-and-white colobus monkeys while based at the quaint Momela Lodge.
The real problem with South Africa is that open-roof hatches are not permitted in its national parks. The rest camps in Kruger National Park provide fine accommodation at reasonable cost, but without the option of using vehicles with roof hatches for photography, the allure of Kruger is greatly diminished. Accommodation in private reserves bordering the park's western boundary, while including game drives in open vehicles, can be prohibitively expensive. In omitting Swaziland from its coverage of South Africa, the book does not include Mkhaya Game Reserve and its excellent Stone Camp. Mkhaya is a must-visit when traveling from Kruger to Mkhuze Game Reserve whose hides afford superb game viewing. Also missing from the book are coverages of Mountain Zebra National Park, Karoo Nature Reserve, Karoo National Park, Bontebok National Park, and De Hoop Nature Reserve. I enthusiastically endorse Fodor's Choice of Boulders Beach in Table Mountain National Park for its penguin colony.
Botswana, in particular, perpetuates the popular conception of an African safari as a "once in a lifetime" experience. Unfortunately, for most, a Botswana safari is a never in a lifetime experience. The price of solitude in the majority of sublime camps in and around the Okavango Delta consists in their outright unaffordability to the majority of people who would love to visit them. As a planner of African safaris for those of moderate means, I resent having to dissuade potential clients of entertaining any interest in travel to Botswana. In this context I consider far too much of the coverage of "The Complete African Safari Planner" devoted to a readership more interested in luxury travel than a wildlife safari. Nevertheless, I share first-hand appreciation of Fodor's Choices of Lebala and Lagoon camps in Botswana's Kwando Reserve. If you can afford it, by all means go there.
Namibia is a fascinating safari destination for one who has already experienced the wildlife riches of Kenya. Namibia offers great landscapes, great distances, great sand dunes, great roads, and great wildlife viewing for those with the patience to wait and watch at great waterholes.
If "The Complete African Safari Planner" assists in the selection of a safari destination, I suggest consulting a safari guide specific to that country, such as "The Rough Guide to Kenya" or "The Bradt Travel Guide: Tanzania," for more detailed and comprehensive coverage.