For many people, going on an African safari has been a life long dream. When it actually comes time to make this once-in-a-lifetime experience a reality – you’ll want to make sure you do it right. Here’s a list to help you make the most of your safari experience.
1. Choose Your Guide Wisely
Having the right guide can make or break your experience. Make sure you do your safari with a company that is experienced and knowledgeable – this may be the time to splurge! Find out how many people will be on each drive. The fewer, the better. You don’t want to drive up on a magnificent herd of elephants, only to have your images ruined by other people’s arms and cell phones in your shot. Also remember that different people may want to see different things. If you’re in a jeep crammed with other people its less likely you’ll get to specify what you’d like to see.
2. Don’t Be Afraid!
Don’t let fear ruin your experience. For anyone who wants to go on safari, but has some hesitation about being in close proximity to animals like lions and hyenas, try to mentally prepare yourself by remembering that these animals see safari vehicles full of people every single day. They are actually quite used to your presence. If you need to, you can calm your nerves by having a drink first. Hey, you’re on vacation right! Try to relax and take it all in.
3. Ask Questions
Communicate with your guide. Ask questions. Let your guide know what type of safari experience you’re looking for. Want to see the big 5? Determined to see a baby elephant? Make sure to communicate that in advance.
4. Come Prepared
There are two things you might find helpful to have with you on your game drives. It can get very dusty on safari, so it’s a good idea to bring hand wipes. (Then you can clean your mitts before delving into those yummy safari snacks.) It can also rain at any time, and you could be an hour or more away from any kind of shelter. Consider bringing a waterproof bag for your camera gear and cell phone.
5. Pack Light
Most bush planes have a very strict baggage allowance. If you’re bringing camera gear this doesn’t leave much room for clothing items and toiletries. When packing, consider only bringing a few clothing items, and then color coordinating each piece so they can be mixed and matched for different looks. For example, if you bring all army green and khaki clothing, everything will be interchangeable. Layers are always a good idea. As far as shoes, you can wear one pair of rubber soled hiking boots the entire time. No need for anything else.
6. Wake up Early
Don’t hit the snooze button! Those 4:30 am wake up calls can be tough, but don’t skip the early morning drives. The animals are most active at this time and it is always worth it.
7. Stay Healthy
Take the proper health precautions. Check out which vaccinations the CDC recommends for the country you are visiting. You don’t want to end up with Malaria or Typhoid while in the bush with no doctor. Additionally, bring insect repellant and wear it.
8. Do Your Research
Do some wildlife research before you go. Knowing which animals will be in the region you are going to – and then knowing some facts about each species will make your safari so much more enjoyable. You might even impress your travel mates by spotting something before the tracker does.
9. Bush Rules Apply!
You’re not going to like this, but it has to be said. Be prepared to go “find a tree.” There are no bathrooms in the bush, and chances are, at some point you’ll have to go. Usually the guides will bring some toilet paper, a small paper bag, and some hand sanitizer, but you may want to ask ahead of time so that you can be prepared by bringing some if they don’t.
10. Don’t Rush
In order to get in enough time to see everything you want to see, I’d recommend a very minimum of 3 nights at each location. Any less than that will have you rushing through the experience and won’t give you enough time to partake in other activities.