A lioness feeding on a recent kill, giraffes facing off in a dry river bed, a herd of zebra crossing the open plains, and happy hippos dunking their heads at a watering hole – Africa’s raw wilderness and exotic wildlife has captivated travellers for many rears.
Early explorers came in search of wild game trophies and valuable ivory tusks, while travellers today come hunting for something more along the lines of a rare photo opportunity or simply a sighting of the wilder side of the world.
Most safari destinations are located in developing sub-Saharan countries, and come in a variety of formats including everything from luxury safaris with air-conditioned suites, to boat game drives that set out from luxury river cruise ships. Regardless of where your African safari adventure will take place, there are a few recommendations that travellers should be aware of before they suit-up and head out.
Try to lose control
Theme parks pay performers to appear on-cue and delight the audience with displays of their best talents, but wild animals are under no such contract. They do as they please, when they please, and unlike zoo animals they will not be around every time someone cares to have a look at them. Given the expense and investment that it takes just to have an opportunity to go on safari, it can be incredibly difficult to accept that nature’s star performers just may not feel like showing up on your big day. Many tourists expect to be able to see and do whatever they want on safari, but they quickly learn that wild animals – and safari regulations – will not bend to their will, no matter how big a tip is offered. Nature is unpredictable and full of surprises – some good, some not so good. The sooner you can accept everything as a part of the experience, the more fulfilling you will find your safari to be.
Have your equipment at the ready
Most safari travellers are in hunt of stunning snapshots and one-in-a-lifetime photographs, which puts a great deal of pressure on having the right equipment in hand at the right time. During a game drive there simply isn’t time to change between lenses, so most travellers opt to bring a small point-and-shoot camera as well to supplement for the close-up shots. Also consider bringing an extra set of batteries, spare memory card, and a shower cap or small plastic bag to protect your camera form dust and dirt.
Trust your guide
Safari guides perform many important tasks simultaneously, they collaborate with the driver to choose the safari’s route, inform travellers about the area’s history and inhabitants, as well as work to maintain a safe environment for both the tourists and the animals. Guides are passionate about sharing Africa’s wilderness with travellers and will do whatever is in their power to ensure a fulfilling trip for all involved. Trust their advice. Follow their instructions. And if you would like to take a photograph, be sure to let your guide know and he will move the vehicle to give you the best vantage point. During evening safaris, guides will also provide instruction for when flash should and should not be used.
Widen your view
Most travellers hope to see “the big five” during their safari experience: lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros.This list fuels a kind of maddening treasure hunt that almost inevitably results in frustration – not to mention missed opportunities. African safaris supply a veritable smorgasbord of stunning animals and landscapes, most of which tourists entirely miss because their eyes are peeled in search of some elusive rhino sighting. Be on the lookout for vibrantly coloured birds, flower blooms, animal tracks, and lizards sunning themselves in the dirt. Safari is a game of I-Spy, and if you spend too much time looking for one thing, you’re bound to miss out on the bigger picture.
Pack a rucksack
Though most tour operations will pack a day pack to address the group’s daily needs, it is also wise to bring a small backpack outfitted with your personal essentials: high factor sun block, lip balm, wet wipes, sun glasses, a wide-brimmed hat, mosquito repellent, camera and extra batteries, notebook and pen, and a light jacket. Keep in mind that safari jeeps are not made for comfort, they are made for quick and safe travel within a nature reserve. Try to bring only the essentials and keep items zipped inside your bag at all times – just in case your driver has to execute a high-speed escape from a charging elephant.
Dress to blend in
While white clothing does an excellent job of keeping travellers cool in the hot sun rays, it reflects light and stands out to most animals in the wild. White clothing is the worst choice for those hoping to remain inconspicuous around wildlife, so it’s best to opt for more neutral tones that are likely to blend in with the surrounding desert environment. Cotton fabrics work well, but moisture-wicking material will keep you nice and cool on your African safari.
Have you been on an African Safari before? If so, what tips do you have to offer? Tell us in the comments section below!