An African safari is probably the most organized vacation you may ever take. While it may sound simple to catch a flight to a destination like Botswana or Tanzania and let your travel company do the rest, in reality, a lot of planning is required before you venture out for your wildlife experience.
To get the best out of your trip, here are some do’s and don’ts you need to keep in mind whether in the bush or out of it.
- 1 Do know when to go
- 2 Do book from reputed brands
- 3 Do pack essentials
- 4 Do take travel insurance and a first-aid kit
- 5 Do dress right
- 6 Do be flexible and open-minded
- 7 Do follow the rules
- 8 Do ask questions
- 9 Don’t litter
- 10 Don’t get too close for comfort
- 11 Don’t feed the animals
- 12 Don’t be late for safaris
Do know when to go
Time is the key if you want your safari holiday to exceed all expectations. The dry season is the best time to see animals as they congregate on the water bodies to drink. Once you have booked the accommodation of your choice, plan to spend at least two weeks on safari.
Africa is not a cheap destination and you won’t come again and again. Spend three nights in three different camps in selected areas, which offer morning and late afternoon game drive, to ensure to see as much wildlife as possible.
Do book from reputed brands
Always read reviews and ensure you book your African safaris through renowned tour operators such as Naturetrek. This will ensure you have a hassle-free experience exploring the African savannahs.
Do pack essentials
Your African safari, at some stage or the other, will involve traveling in a small aircraft or with a conducted tour. Leave your hard-shelled suitcases at home and instead opt for soft-sided duffel bags which are easy to carry. You may use your smartphone to take pictures, but the quality is nothing compared to a camera with a telephoto lens.
So carry the best you have, with at least 50% extra memory cards and extra batteries. Your safari will be more fun if you have a pair of binoculars. If you are with kids, make sure they have their own.
Do take travel insurance and a first-aid kit
Though most parts of Africa do not pose a health risk, it is better to check beforehand to ascertain if your destination does not have a malaria threat. If it does, consult your physician about prophylactics or anti-malaria medication well in advance.
Some insurance companies do not cover prophylactics, so take insurance with the one that does to avoid putting a big dent in your pocket.
Do dress right
Wearing a flashy dress may be the norm at home, but when in the bush dress for the occasion. Here are some tips and basics to follow while packing for a safari to ensure not only your safety but of your fellow travelers as well.
- Wear comfortable, breathable shirts, convertible cargo pants, preferably waterproof, and always carry a fleece jacket. Bush weather is extremely unpredictable, and you may never know when you will need it.
- Don neutral colours like green, brown, khaki or olives to blend with the surroundings. At all costs avoid loud colours and bold prints.
- Dress in layers to safeguard against the weather and plant allergies.
- Keep your arms and legs always covered to protect yourself from insect bites.
- Wear rugged, but comfortable, walking shoes with long socks.
- Wear a hat for sun protection and wear a bandana or mask on your face to protect from the dust.
Do be flexible and open-minded
If you are addicted to technology, a jungle safari is not a good idea for you. Leave your gadgets at home or locked up as disconnecting is the best way to blend yourself with nature, and forget your work and worries.
Check the list of animals and birds in the park, and where you are most likely to find them in the park. Stay longer at the animal hotspots like river beds, water bodies and river banks.
While the Big 5 are on the top of everyone’s list, whether on foot or by game drive, there are many other worthy targets for your camera and binoculars. The zebras, antelopes and the countless number of birds are equally exotic and a joy to capture.
Finally, do your bit for wildlife by respecting nature.
Do follow the rules
Familiarise yourself with the rules of the park and the lodge you are staying in beforehand and make sure you follow them throughout your stay. Do what the guide says, your life depends on it. On a self-drive safari, drive carefully as animals may come suddenly in front of the vehicle. Follow the park timings religiously.
Leave on time and return on time. Animals have the right of way, so allow them to cross the road first. Lastly, never use the camera flash, and make sure you have used the toilet before the safari. There are no comfort stops in the bush.
Do ask questions
Your guide has a job to do as they know the area like the palm of their hand, while you are a complete outsider. So don’t be afraid to ask questions about the safety protocol and trip recommendations.
The guide’s job is to answer your questions, point out the flora and fauna, and above all keep you safe. So make things easy for them, as stupidity could endanger the life of everyone on the vehicle.
Do not litter or smoke while on a safari. Avoid wearing any body fragrance and never head out in the bush on your own. Most camps recommend the necessity of an armed park ranger during the jungle excursions, so opt for an agency that includes this service.
The best way to enjoy the splendors of an African safari is with consideration and silence.
Don’t get too close for comfort
Do not ever try to get too close to animals or pose for a photograph with them. This is the number one injury and fatality reason during an African safari. Heed the warnings of your guide and the posted signs for a favourable experience.
The animals are not tame, and even the docile-looking impala or ostrich can be just as menacing as any of the big cats. If you are on a self-driven safari, drive slowly and with caution in order to not disturb the animals. Make sure you don’t go off-road or travel in prohibited or restricted zones.
Don’t feed the animals
Never attempt to feed the wild animals, particularly those like baboons and monkeys which are found loitering around near the resort premises.
Once they get used to humans, they will begin to enter your rooms, tents, or vehicles in search of food. They may look friendly, but they are far from that.
Don’t be late for safaris
Arriving late for game drives will not only piss off the driver and guide but the entire party as well. A temperamental group may even leave you behind if you are late.