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My first trip to Africa was on business, non photo related in 1997. Have returned several times for photography. As far as planning the trip, I'd suggest you first decide what type of trip you would most enjoy. The cost will be expensive for sure, so you want to get as specific as possible as to the type of photography you want to shoot.
Most people take the safaris based on the large mammals. I know several who have traveled to Africa just for bird photography. In the past few years I have been more fascinated with the people of Africa and their stories.
Your planning should be specific to your desired subjects.
2nd, the air fair will be a substantial cost, get your dates determined as far in advance as you can. Last year I traveled to Uganda, booked and bought my tickets 6 months in advance and a friend who was going along had to cancel 60 days out. I have a friend who could join me at the last minute and since the air ticket was not transferrable his ticket cost 75% more than mine.
Reputable guides. Much of this depends on your age, skill set, physical condition, sense of adventure and bank account. My first trip was business, we finished early and spent 9 days in the bush and traveling the roads of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. Fun but traveled too fast, no guides but got an idea of what another trip might offer.
There are many well known U.S. guides, I've used only one and the safari company (from Africa) was really good, the U.S. guide/photographer just so-so, I would not use again. I would search the web for local guides/companies in the country I was going to, there are many and many very good. Make sure it is a photography oriented trip. Means early mornings and late evenings. I see so many pics from mid day trips, flat light, the critters hunted all night, laying around sleeping mid day.
Its very hard to travel to Africa and not allow at least ten days for one trip, longer is better. I've done a 9 day trip after a specific shot. You end up losing two to three days traveling. Selecting your primary interest helps here.
How much $$$? I always leave a day or two early than any beginning workshop/safari. I also leave a day after or so, get my gear cleaned up, files adjusted/checked, and a little down time. That costs extra. I also scout for the next trip potential. The $$ will be directly related to the number of days you stay in the country. Will you be camping or staying in hotels? I do both but tend to stay in good hotels when I come in from trekking.
I have kind of become obsessed with three mammals in the past five years, Polar Bear, Brown Bear, and Chimpanzee's have climbed on my list above the gorilla. Least expensive is the brown bear, lots of camping but it took me years to find this guide and the type of trip I like. Polar bear trips are just great again not cheap but incredible trips. The chimpanzee trip I took last year was focused on the gorilla and ended up it was the chimpanzee that garnered my attention and I will return either late this year or next for the chimpanzee and the people of Uganda. This September I'll be spending two and a half weeks with the brown bear and then maybe I'll sneak over to Uganda in November if all works out.
As I stated earlier there are many great guides/safari companies, two that come to mind, I have not used but have met with people who used them. Most of the time the schedules did not work for me. If my schedule permits I may use either in the future.
Andy Biggs - http://www.andybiggs.com
Joe & Mary McDonald - http://hoothollow.com/index.html
This will give you a start, half the fun is in the planning. Feel free to PM me if you have more specific questions.
Good luck with your planning.