african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]

African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]

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Listen to This Podcast Episode About an African Safari

I would take a strong bet that an African safari has a place – rightfully so – on the majority of adventure traveler’s bucket list.

Get ready to unleash your inner explorer as we dive deep into the heart of Tanzania, where I had the incredible opportunity to embark on an unforgettable safari through the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater.

With my backpack strapped tight and my camera ready, I ventured into the wild, encountering majestic lions, towering giraffes, and the iconic Big Five.

In this episode, we’re talking about an African safari: from the best times to visit and best places to go, to insider tips on getting the most out of your game drives.

Plus, I’ll be spilling some hilarious stories from my own safari adventure – trust me, you won’t want to miss the tale of me peeing in front of a hyena!

So, buckle up, adventure seekers! Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or just dreaming of your next big trip, this episode is packed with everything you need to know about embarking on an African safari.

Hit play, and let’s embark on this wild journey together!

In This Episode…

  • My personal African safari experience…plus some good stories!
  • The animals I saw plus the big five
  • The easiest way to plan when to go on an African safari + peak times of year
  • Where to go in Africa for a safari
  • What types of accommodations there are for a safari
  • The difference between a national park and a private reserve
  • Cultural immersion opportunities
  • Who is an African safari for?

african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]
Zebras hanging out during my African safari in the Serengeti National Park.

Show Resources


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Book Your Trip

If you want to book the exact trip that I took, I went with G Adventures. You can book it below.

It was, seriously, one of the best trips I’ve taken. I cannot recommend it enough if you want a more adventurous African safari experience.

Read the Full Related Article on an African Safari

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More Travel Resources

Adventure Bucket List Resources

I am here to help your travel adventures go as smoothly as possible! That way you can check off that bucket list with minimal complications and spending!

AIRFARE – It is no surprise that like many travelers, I have found that Hopper is one of the best resources to use when finding cheap flights. 

ACCOMMODATION – My two favorites are Booking.Com for hotels and VRBO for rentals. 

GUIDED TOURS –  If you are looking for quick and easy tours, check out GetYourGuide and Viator

MULTI-DAY TOURS –  For more in-depth tours that span several days, TourHub has many great options with reputable travel companies. Use my code (ALEXANDRA1GURU) for up to 5% off your next bucket list adventure. 

TRANSPORTATION –  You can either rent a car yourself with Discover Cars or do a guided bus tours like Big Bus Tours

CREDIT CARD –  I always use my Chase Freedom Unlimited card for all of my purchases. There is no annual fee and you get 1.5% cash back and 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel. 

SIM CARDS –  Avoid expensive roaming charges with an eSim card with Airalo.

TRAVELER’S INSURANCE –  Check out VisitorsCoverage for affordable insurance plans.

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african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]

Full Podcast Transcript (Episode 4: African Safari)

Hey, there! And welcome to “Tick it Before You Kick it” – a podcast helping you conquer your adventure bucket list.

I’m Alexandra! Your favorite traveling mermaid and adventure blogger. This episode is “Backwards Zoo” talking about an African Safari. No, it’s not the web browser. It’s the one that’s way cooler.

Stay tuned for things I’ve learned, when I went, where I went, and how it was probably one of the coolest things I’ve done in my entire life.

You can read more and sign up for the newsletter at for more bucket list inspiration and travel resources. Now without further adieu…let’s talk about the African Safari.

Why an African Safari on your Bucket list?

A traditional African Safari has been very high on my list for a very long time. I mean, who doesn’t wanna go run around and look at cool animals and witness all of that incredible culture. I mean, it is no wonder that just the words “African Safari” spark so much inspiration for adventure travelers everywhere.

And let me tell you…the hype is real. I cannot hype it up enough. And my bar was pretty high.

So, after a lot of research I decided to go to Tanzania. This was the first stop on my epic seven month backpacking trip solo after college. And, man, let me tell you it hit it off with a high note.

I am naturally a pretty positive and enthusiastic person so I do hype things up a lot, but I will hype this up to the moon and back because it’s literally that cool.

Heading out on my Own African Safari Experience

So, into the stories, I ended up going on African Safari, as I said, after I finished university.

This was around June. The visa was a little tough however I did it. I also had to get some special immunizations and vaccinations. I believe it was yellow fever in order to get my visa for Africa, which was a little interesting to go through the NHS in the UK but I did it. It was fine.

I first started out in a little tidy hut by the airport and this was just Africa. I don’t know why. It just hit me so hard that I was in Africa whenI hit this hotel.

It was beautiful. There was plants everywhere. It was that traditional style of hut. I had to sleep with the mosquito net and it was just huge side of relief…until I figured out I had no hot water.

But other than that it was a huge sigh of relief. I was in Africa and I was finally here after waiting for so long to make this happen.

After that, we split up into tinier groups and then we all went into the jeep and we did a little mini safari and then we ended up going to a campsite.

Now I was/am a broke college student so I couldn’t afford to stay in these luxury lodges and camps.

Because how often do you get to tell people that you’ve camped in the Serengeti next to a lion?

That is probably one of the coolest things I can say about myself. So although I did do the cheapest accommodation option…10 out of 10, really! Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]
The Bucket List Mermaid on her first African safari.

The First Night in the Serengeti

That first Safari night was unlike anything I ever thought it would be. We watched a sunset go over Serengeti National Park and no joke we watched the sunset over this rock and the rock had baby lion cubs and a mama lion.

They were playing on this rock over the sunset over the Serengeti. I’m not gonna lie. I cried. Don’t judge me. I cried.

It was so beautiful and it was kind of an adrenaline rush. I just could not believe that I was actually there doing this and I was so blessed to be able to get to do this.

Anyway, so then we went back to the camp. We had a bonfire [and] I got to meet some other people for my group.

I was technically traveling solo, but I met so many friends there. One of the people in the group actually upgraded so that she could get her own room. I was the lucky (“lucky”) person who got to also have the single room.

However, we were camping! So this means that I camped by myself. I really thought when I booked this tour that I would be camping you know like outside of the Serengeti. Nope!

african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]
The magical moment of baby lion cubs playing on a rock during sunset in the Serengeti.

Going to the Bathroom with the Hyena

I was in there…and super funny story…in the middle of the night there was the huge thunderstorm! I could [even] hear lions roaring. I waited for the thunderstorm to pass, and then I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, I have to pee,”

They had set up this little portable toilet for us to pee in, and I went outside of my tent. I got all my courage to go outside of my tent and, no joke, there was a hyena that was about 20 feet away.

I was so scared to go to the bathroom by myself cause I was so scared that this hyena was gonna, like, chase and eat me. I don’t even know if they do that?

But [I was so scared] that this hyena was gonna get me that I just peed right outside of my tent and I made direct eye contact with this hyena the entire time. Then I dove back in my tent! It was so gross!

I just zipped it up super fast and I was like, “Did that just happen?! Oh my gosh!”

These are the stories that you only get with adventure travel. I swear.

Chasing the Big Five

So, the next day we went on a full game drive and we saw [three] out of the big five. For those of you who don’t know the big five are: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo.

That day, I saw:

  • a lion, both male and female,
  • a leopard, very tiny, very tiny in a tree
  • an elephant, and it had a baby elephant with it, which was just a whole experience in itself!

Then after that, we moved from our camp in the Serengeti and we ended up going to a camp that overlooked the Ngoronoro Crater and this crater was massive!

I’ve seen vast landscapes before, but this one takes the cake. It was huge! And this campsite was so nice. We had a whole view of the entire thing.

african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]
Looking over the Ngorongoro Crater.

We actually had a facilities this time and, staying on brand with my other travel story, when I went to the bathroom (this time with a buddy), we saw a warthog and a zebra. According to the guide, the warthogs are really mean!

So just really terrifying times going to the bathroom on this trip, really…

We did a Safari within the Ngorongoro crater and then that was the time when I saw the other two of the big five, which is:

  • a rhino, it was very very tiny, but I did see it!
  • an African buffalo.

I do have to say…although it is really fun to see the big five, and I was fortunate enough to see the big five, there were so many other animals.

Honestly, my favorite thing in the world was to see the flocks of flamingos, and also the baby zebras.

african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]
Seeing my first wild elephant in Tanzania.

Determine what You want to see…then Plan From there

Pro tip: I would kind of research what you do want to see and then base your Safari location on what you want to see and what time of year.

For example, you might be really interested in seeing the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara from July to October.

Or you might be interested in seeing some gorillas and then you would go to Rwanda, Uganda, or the Congo.

There’s different places in Africa that you can go in different times of year where you’re not guaranteed to see anything but you might be able to increase your chances of seeing certain wildlife depending on this.

Heading to Zanzibar

So after we were done with that final safari, we ended up making our way to the coast and we ended up going to Zanzibar.

I laid on a pristine, African, white sand, crystal clear, blue water beach for two days. And I got the worst sunburn of my life.

I ended up talking to my newly made friend since I was traveling solo. I begged her to rub aloe vera all over my body because I was so sunburnt and in so much pain. I apologized profusely, but luckily she was a doctor so she didn’t care. [laughs] This was a journey!

If it is within your budget and you have the call to go on an African safari…do not even hesitate. Book it right now and go tomorrow. Dead serious.

african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]
Looking over our beachfront resort in Zanzibar (before the sunburn from hell).

Where to Go in Africa for a Safari

Now lucky for you, there are several places that you can go within Africa to do a safari experience.

I went to Tanzania through G Adventures, which was incredible!


I’ve also heard amazing things about Kenya. That’s where our group was before and they were absolutely raving about it.

The Masai Mara is known for their big cats so if you want to see those lions and those leopards, I would recommend Kenya.

South Africa

Another one is South Africa. They have a bunch of reserves in there. Probably one of the most famous national parks would be the Kruger National Park. There is a bigger chance to see the big five in Kruger.

This was actually my second choice when I thought I was gonna be cruising along South Africa. I ended up going to a Tanzania instead.

Uganda and Rwanda

Another one is Uganda and Rwanda. The gorilla treks – that’s on my bucket list! If you’ve done that, let me talk to you because I’ve heard this is life-changing!

african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]
Gorilla chilling in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in UgandaPhoto by Max Christian on Unsplash.

Different kinds of Accommodation for an African Safari

Now, I would also consider what kind of accommodations.

Basic Safari Accommodations

As I said before, I did adventure camping so I was pitching tents.

I was basically doing the lowest that you can go because African safaris are expensive.

There are some lodges that range from 2 to 4 stars but they are quite basic. And honestly, if you adventure traveling anyway, I would just go for the cheaper option. Just camp just go for the full adventure!

Luxurious Safari Accommodations

Next, they do have the big fancy safari lodges, but these are gonna be some dollar bills…if you know what I mean.

And the tented camps which, again, are gonna flatten your wallet a wee bit. However, this is probably the most stereotypical [safari]. Like those really luxury camps that don’t move and some of them have air conditioning.

Like, wow! You know you made it in luxury when you have air-conditioning on safari…I was dripping …that’s disgusting…moving on!

african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]
A view of our campsites that looked over the Ngorongoro Crater.

National Parks vs Reserves

You’ll need to decide if you’re gonna go to a park or a reserve. The national parks are owned, protected, and regulated by the local government.

For example, the Serengeti National Park and Kruger National Park is regulated by the government. Although I did like it, there was a lot of regulations on where we could go and we could bring our cars, but I understand because that protects the animals and I’m all for that.

But there’s also private reserves which are privately owned. There are strict amount of vehicles there are fewer people, and there are very strict wildlife procedures. Again, I’m down for it and to protect that wildlife at all costs.

However, if you were on a private reserve, this gives you access to a more enriched and exclusive safari experience. Such as off-roading, guided nature walks, and even after-hour game drives.

They also provide you with chances to see animals that you might not always see. For example, the Ngala Private Game reserve is known for its lions and even a rare white lion! Or, the Phinda is known for his cheetah and it’s black rhino.

Obviously, the massive downfall of the private reserve is the dollar dollar bills…go away quite quickly! But, you know, it’s once in a lifetime! So if you can swing it…go for it!

However, when I checked this off of my bucket list, I went to a national park and it was still one of the most amazing experiences that I’ve ever checked off on my bucket list.

african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]
Spotting a giraffe…on the side of the road. This would NOT happen where I live!

When to go on an African Safari

One question I get a lot is when to plan your trip!

Now, the peak season, especially where I was in Tanzania, is from June to October.

I went in June, but this is in the middle of dry season. This means that the shrubs in the trees are pretty much leafless and there’s less food and water so you might see more animals congregated around the watering holes.

They also don’t have those lush trees to hide in so you’re gonna be able to spot them easier.

Now, as you might have previously gathered from the time that I turned into actual human lobster in Zanzibar…it’s gonna be hot during this time so that is the trade-off.

It’s gonna be dry and hot. It’s worth it to see the animals but please do not forget to hydrate, bring a hat, bring sunglasses, and bring enough sunscreen to bathe in! Or maybe that’s just me who needed to bathe in sunscreen…because I’m really pale.

My Idea that a Safari is Actually a backwards zoo

Next, let’s talk about how I thought that an African safari was such an interesting experience. And this is why: it really is a backward zoo!

If you think about it, if you go to a zoo they take the animals from their environment and they put them into cages in your environment and you view them there.

But in here…they take you from your environment and put you in a cage, a.k.a. a jeep, and then they put you in their environment. So it really is [just] like a backward zoo!

Zoos will never be the same…

And be warned that if you do go on an African safari and you check this off of your bucket list….you might be ruined forever. Because I go to zoo now and I’m like, “Meh🫤” Not only is it kinda sad for the animals but it’s just like, “Meh…”

Like I can go to zoo and I can see a lion. Okay…that’s cool but after seeing a baby cub wrestle with a sunset in the background? It just kind of ruins you a little bit.

So keep that in mind. However, I just think it’s beautiful because it just forces you to have constant gratitude and respect for the location, culture, and wildlife.

african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]
A shot captured of a hippo peeking its head out of the water on an African safari. Don’t get too close!

Animals are going wild!

That being said, the animals are free range.

This is why recommend always getting a tour (which I will link in the show notes and the blog post).

Because they can help you find the more elusive species that you might come across. They can help keep you safe and they’re also a plethora of knowledge.

I would definitely listen to them because you’ve seen those crazy videos where cheetahs are laying on the jeeps? I don’t know if I wanna be by myself and that situation…and it might not even be allowed.

This is more emotional than you think

One reason that I would recommend going on an African safari is it’s really an emotional experience. I don’t know if you could tell by the fact that I cried during the sunset (and I’m not a super emotional person), but it was hard not to be emotional.

Because it’s more beautiful than you think! It’s more beautiful than you think to see these animals in their location and they are thriving and they are not caged and they’re just beautiful!

It’s really, like, the circle of life! Like, I should just start singing “The Lion King”. I think people underestimate how much of an emotional experience this really is.

That’s one reason that I would recommend this because it’s very beautiful to witness this kind of nature and witness this kind of wildlife and this kind of circle of life.

There’s one thing for sure…you will definitely not come back the same person. It changes you to see wildlife in this manner. It changes you to see these hyenas stalking a zebra, you know?

This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list activity that can’t be missed if you want to do it!

african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]
A lion climbing the rock at sunset – the moment that made me cry!

Don’t miss Out on the Culture

Also, on that note, there was so much culture that I got to see on this trip! I got to go to a local village, they [cooked] for me (the food was absolutely incredible), I got to meet some of the people, I got to go inside of their church, [and] I got to play with the kids there.

I met some of the most amazing people there who taught me their philosophies on life and positivity, and how to be a better person. It was just incredible in every sense.

Who Would I recommend an African Safari to?

I have to say who I would recommend this for.

I think I would recommend this for people who are really really into wildlife and culture and also photography. Oh, that’s another tangent – please bring a camera. I’ll talk about that next…

Is a Safari good for families?

I would be very hesitant to bring families here unless they have a very special appreciation for what they are going to see. For example, I don’t know if it would’ve been as powerful if I would have gone earlier in my life.

At the time that I went in my life, I was in a very good space to receive all the information and to really develop a gratitude towards having this experience checked off my bucket list.

But if I was a kid, I don’t know. I think I might’ve found it a little boring, especially if you aren’t seeing all the animals all the time. But some kids are super into that! So, I would just be a little hesitant if you’re going on a family trip.

There is a lot of driving involved [and] it’s pretty much being in a car all day long just looking for animals which can be very fun! But if you have a little little kids, there’s a possibility they might get bored. If you’re gonna spend all this money, cause let’s be honest…this is not cheap…maybe just wait a few years until they can fully comprehend and appreciate the entire situation.

african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]
Incredible photography that was a group effort from my car.

Don’t look. The Photographer’s drooling…

Or, if you’re a photographer and if you’re not a photographer! That leads me to my biggest regret on this entire trip, which was not bringing a camera! How could I possibly believe that my measly iPhone was going to capture the majesticness of a male lion? I will never know! So dumb!

It got to the point where I was trying to take photos with my phone through binoculars. I did actually get some good shots.

Luckily, there was a couple on their honeymoon. There [were] a couple people who had got cameras. We all kind of shared and we all put them in a pile and these photos are incredible!

So, even if you’re not a super big photographer…I don’t know what it is about this experience but you wanna take photos of every single tiny little thing! Like an ostrich will move 2 feet and you’ll be like. “I need to get another picture!”

Rent or bring a camera

Do yourself a favor. Don’t be like me. Rent a camera or bring your own camera so that you’re not spending the entire time trying to get a photo through binoculars with your iPhone.

And special thanks if you are listening to this and you were that honeymoon couple or the people who let me borrow their camera: huge shout out to you. You are the heroes of my African safari.

Yes, if you do want to see all of these photos that we threw into a pile (again, it wasn’t really one person versus another. It was just it was a very group effort to get these photos.) They are straight out of Nat Geo and my jaw dropped. All of our jaws dropped when we saw how these photos turned out.

So. if you do want to see those…definitely head over to my website the so that you can see all of these incredible photos and maybe you’ll get your own photos someday!

african safari podcast, African Safari: The Backwards Zoo [Podcast Ep. 4]
One of my favorite parts of my safari – seeing a male lion. Spoiler alert: they slept almost the entire time.

Would you Add an African Safari to your bucket list?

So, what do you think? Are you a nature enthusiast who this is on the top of their bucket list? If not, it should be!

And do you have plans to go on a safari or is this on your bucket list? Don’t forget to let me know on social media @thebucketlistmermaid or on my website

Thank you guys so much for listening to this episode of “Tick it Before You Kick it”.

If you did enjoy the show please don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or leave a review.

This is one of my favorite adventures so it’s gonna be really hard to this one, but we’re gonna try!

So, we will see you in the next episode and don’t forget to keep adventuring!

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