Planning a safari in Africa? Here is what you need to remember.
Going on safari is for most people something special because they can see wildlife for the first time outside a zoo. It is different. It is real. There’s no fence. These animals live here in their natural environment.
There’s a lot to think about when you plan safari, like where to go and which country to visit. But then you must also decide how to go on safari. You can go on a guided tour or explore the wild as a self-drive tourist.
You can go on a multiple-day safari into the world-famous Serengeti or do a day trip to a national park. There are many things you need to decide on before flying to Africa. Or not. You can also be spontaneous and decide what you want to do as you go.
Chose a destination
Your first part of the planning will be choosing a country or a region you want to visit. If you want to see the big migration — the big migration of the animals the way you saw it in a documentary, then East Africa will be your destination.
The Serengeti, together with the Ngorongoro Crater, offers the biggest variety and highest numbers of animals in Africa. Stretching across Tanzania and Kenya, the Serengeti is one of the ten natural wonders of the world.
A lot of other countries in southern and eastern Africa have national parks and game reserves where you can go on Safari. You just have to make up your mind about which one is interesting for you.
Chose a park
After selecting a country, you have to narrow down your destination. Most of these countries are huge and not easy to travel to. Plan your stay according to accessibility and availability.
Lots of famous parks are fully booked in high season and you’ll have to plan your stay in advance.
Do research on which animals live in which area. Think about what is important for you and where you lay your priorities. Some parks are known for lion sightings others for huge herds of antelopes.
But don’t set your expectations upon seeing certain animals. Only those who have expectations can be disappointed. If you don’t expect to see anything you can only be surprised. Positively surprised.
In the end, it is all nature. Nobody can promise you an animal sighting in the wild because this isn’t a zoo. So take a step back and embrace every animal you get to see.
Chose a time period
How much time would you like to spend with animals? Lots of campsites and lodges are located directly in these parks. It is rather easy to stay at least one night over there.
The best time for game viewing is twilight, just before and after sunrise. Sunset is when you get to see the most spectacular wildlife sightings — not exclusively but most likely.
Spending one day in a park is also possible. You can drive around all day long if you want to but during the midday heat, there’s not much point in looking for animals. They are smart. They are all somewhere hiding from the midday heat.
Chose the type of travel
Do you want to have a guide that drives you through the park? He will know the best spots to see predators and have an eye for seeing the hidden ones.
Or would you rather self drive? Most parks you can explore with your own vehicle. As long as you have some knowledge of driving on gravel roads. Drive carefully through the park and keep your eyes open.
The Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Etosha Park in Namibia are both known to be popular by self-drive tourists since it is easy to spot animals and the roads are well maintained.
You need to decide if you want to take responsibility for driving and spotting the animals or if you would rather just sit back and look out of the window.
A lot of places also offer game drives in the morning or evening. So if you are staying for a night or two in the park you can drive around by yourself and still book one guided tour.
Chose the type of accommodation
Coming to the next topic. If you decided on staying longer than just a day in the park you need a place to sleep. Most parks have several accommodation options which vary from basic camping to luxurious lodging.
I have stayed in campsites in the Serengeti where lion tracks were found the next morning. Just in the bushes. No fences are separating you from the wild. And a tent is not much protection.
This isn’t for everyone.
In Namibia, most campsites in the parks are fenced off but jackals still enter the premises. And jackals can be quite annoying when trying to steal your food from the fire or the corner you placed it in.
If the adventurous version of camping isn’t for you then go for the more comfortable option and chose a chalet or double room to stay in.
About your camera
Don’t just chase the perfect photograph. Put the camera aside from time to time. And live the moment. Just watch the animals. Without looking through the lens. So that you have something to remember.
The moment you lived.
Obviously, you do want to have a camera with you when going on safari, not just a phone. This is especially true when capturing animals in motion. A good camera makes a difference.
But don’t just buy one for the safari. Use whatever you have at home unless you’re making money off your photos.
But as I mentioned before don’t make it all about the camera. Live the moment. Look the animals in the eye. What do you feel? Try to hear sounds. Listen to the birds singing and monkeys screaming.
How to behave
Be quiet. When spotting animals stop talking. They can hear a hundred times better than humans. Some of them at least.
Don’t get out of your car just to get a better shot. There are lots of YouTube videos on how lions react to that kind of behavior. But there are many more animals more aggressive than lions.
Just keep a safe distance and always have a way to escape with your car. When stopping for game viewing be sure you can leave at any moment if need be.
Stay away from mothers with their children. They are the most dangerous animals. Nobody is more protective than a mother who can’t see her child. Do not ever place your car between them. It might be your death.
And finally, just sit back and relax. Enjoy nature’s beauty. Watch antelopes jump across the plains and lions take a nap. A safari will change your mindset as no other holiday does.
To ensure the best experience possible some good research does help. Think about what you want to see and how you want to travel. Plan those things so you don’t have to worry about them once there.
But don’t set your expectations too high. Preferably don’t have any expectations on animal sightings. Then you can only be surprised. There’s nothing worse than being disappointed because you didn’t see the animals you hoped to see.
It’s nature. This part of the safari can’t be planned. The wildlife you’ll spot. If you can’t deal with that unknown factor then go visit a zoo. They can guarantee you which animals you will see.
But if you’ve seen an elephant once in the wild you will never want to go back to your local zoo. I promise you that one. Because it is different.
“There is no WIFI on safari but you will find a better connection.” — Unknown