Going on safari in Africa can be an exciting, yet somehow scary experience the first time. It is the ultimate venture into the wild and unchartered territory of a less populated and less developed continent. In order to make the most of your safari experience, we have come up with 20 ‘Top Tips’ for first time safari travellers.
1. Know the best time of year to go on safari
This safari tip is crucial, as the time of year largely determines how easy it is to view wildlife. Dry season in most of sub-Saharan Africa runs from roughly July until October, with some variations in weather patterns depending on the country. Shoulder seasons often provide a good balance between getting better rates, fewer crowds, and great wildlife sightings.
2. Pack only light neutral coloured clothing
Traditional safari outfits actually have a logic behind them. Some wildlife are attracted to bright reds, navy, and black. These include smaller annoying wildlife like Tsetse flies as well as larger, dangerous wildlife. In addition, it gets quite hot in mid-day during most safaris and lighter coloured clothes reflect the light effectively, keeping the body cooler.
3. Bring boots to cover ankles
In the bush, all kinds of creatures are crawling everywhere. There is dust and sand on most footpaths, and lots of things that bite. Ankle or even knee high boots avert the discomfort related to ankle bites and avoid turning your shoes into a sandbox. Highly recommended.
4. Drink twice as much water as you normally need
The peak season for wildlife viewing on safari is during the driest months of the year, when wildlife congregate around rare water sources. Staying well hydrated allows you the energy needed to last the full day venturing out in search of wild animals. It’s also better to avoid excessive alcohol and coffee as these drinks further diminish hydration levels.
5. Wear a breathable hat
The sun at mid-day gets extremely hot, and game drives are often undertaken in open-air vehicles to maximize viewing area. To avoid the harsh sun on the face and stay cool, wear a hat made in a breathable fabric.
6. Be prepared to wake up early
In Africa, wild animals are most active during the coolest times of day – so before sunrise and after sunset. Night drives are not universally allowed in the parks, so you will definitely be waking up around 5.30am to have a quick cup of coffee or tea before setting off on your first game drive.
7. Bring something warm to wear
On the subject of early game drives, the combination of wind movement from the open vehicle and cooler temperatures combine to make those morning drives a very chilly experience! A light fleecy jacket and windbreaker combine to cut the wind and chill, so make sure to pack these essentials.
8. Learn the fine art of silence
Most wildlife species will be more at ease when surrounded in the sounds to which they are accustomed – other wildlife calling, the wind, the rain, the leaves rustling. Although many species are habituated to human chatter, in the wildest parks of Africa the sound of our voices can startle the animals. It’s a wonderful experience to just sit back, be silent, and enjoy the experience of witnessing animals in their natural habitat surrounded by natural sounds.
9. Ensure your personal safety
When venturing out into the wild where predators roam freely, it’s absolutely crucial to ensure your personal safety. Each camp manager will offer safety briefings, and it is very rare that a client gets hurt if they behave according exactly the guidelines of the camp managers. Read up on the behaviours of specific wildlife and never walk around randomly or god forbid fall asleep (it’s happened, seriously) in the parks.
10. Bring good quality binoculars and a telephoto lens
In most of the parks, off road driving is not allowed. To see wildlife properly in photographs, or just to the naked eye, a good pair of binoculars is essential. If you are a keen wildlife photographer, you will need a bean bag to stabilize and a telephoto lens to truly capture the magic of the wildlife.
These tips are just the beginning – to truly understand how to make the most of your safari experience, please contact us with any questions you may have. Advice is always freely given to our clients!