You are probably aware of this already but going on safari is not like any other holiday you may have taken…it’s really not. So if you like to know what to expect on safari, then let’s take a look at what lies ahead.
Here’s a comprehensive list of tried and true safari tips and tricks:
From sunsrise to sunset..
1. Early starts. Most camps will wake you at first light (sparrows!). Be warned.
2. Up to 4 hour game drives in the hot African sun, hard seats (sometimes), and a lot of bumping and bouncing around (safari massage – no extra charge!). But it is exciting and the time will fly past. A good hat and sunblock a must.
3. HOT and dusty conditions. Hot in summer and dusty through the dry winter months. Just so you know…expect it.
4. COLD (near freezing) game drives in winter (June to August inclusive) in southern Africa, especially in the region termed the ‘Kalahari Sands’; stretching from the Kgalagadi in South Africa, up through Central Kalahariand Okavango Delta in Botswana, all the way north to Hwange NP in Zimbabwe. Even in lowveld areas like Kruger NP, and other private reserves in South Africa, winters can get very chilly. Gloves, scarf, heavy jacket and a beanie are not an over-reaction! The wind-chill factor in an open 4×4 just adds to the misery unless you are wrapped up warmly – so be (mentally and physically) prepared.
When nature calls
5. Taking your ‘comfort break’ in the bush when out on game drives. That’s right – no flushing toilet, no toilet seat and no toilet paper! You will be ‘going to the loo’ behind the nearest bush.
What to expect on safari? Well, ladies, it is a good idea to carry tissues and a small bag to deposit them in until you can dispose of them back at camp (and a hand sanitizer too). Do NOT leave toilet tissues lying in the bush. A hand sanitizer is a good option too.
Guides are predominantly male, and seemingly under the impression that everyone gets to do this at home! If you haven’t had to ‘go’ outdoors before – start getting your mind around it now!
Keep in mind that it is worth ensuring that you go to the bathroom last thing before getting on the vehicle for your drive – and don’t consume too much tea or coffee beforehand either – there’s nothing worse than having to ‘hang on’!
Although darting behind a bush in the middle of Africa to drop your pants doesn’t sound especially dignified, you will get used to it (and will have little choice in the matter…nature calls us all).
Your guide will plan to stop for regular ‘comfort’ breaks but if you need to ‘go’ at any other time you only need let your guide know and he/she will find a suitable location where you will be afforded have some privacy (most likely bushes) and will be safe (no lions hiding behind them!).
A little common sense
6. Resting through the heat of the day. Most safari camps and lodges will co-ordinate their activities so that you spend the heat of the day in camp – snoozing, reading, relaxing and dining. Get into the rhythm of an afternoon nap – you will be up at first light, so you have probably had a full day already!
7. Small 4-seater, single-engine charter flights into short dirt airstrips. Perfectly safe mind you – but not a bad idea to be mentally prepared. Flights through the middle of the day can get bumpy. No on-board toilets on these flights either!
Coping with pesky critters
8. Biting tsetse flies and bothersome mopane flies (actually a stingless bee) are definitely what to expect on safari! There will quite possibly be times when one (or both) of these little devils will harass you incessantly. Tsetse flies are particularly unsettling as they can really bite and are devious little buggers. They have the unnerving ability of landing so lightly on your skin that you do not feel a thing until they bite, and then ZING! They can get you through your clothes too – and are fond of getting into your hair too! On top of all that, they are truly tricky to kill as you can virtually squash them flat between thumb and forefinger and they will merely get up and fly off!
I recommend being vigilant and merely using your hat/cap to brush them away and out of the vehicle as you drive. Unfortunately, the moving vehicle (and dark places – like the foot-well) tend to attract them.
Of course mosquitoes are prevalent in many safari areas (although less so through the winter months) – be sure to cover up in the early evenings to avoid being bitten.
Whilst we are talking creepy crawlies…don’t worry too much if you find the odd spider, frog, grasshopper or other insect/reptile inside your tent/chalet. You have come to spend time in the great outdoors – so it shouldn’t come as any surprise. Even so, if it bothers you, it is quite OK to ask a staff member to remove them!
Food glorious food!
9. Over-eat. There is an ever present danger of over-eating on safari! Most safari lodges serve three full meals a day. Now that might be OK if you were also exercising correspondingly – but as you will likely spend most of the day in the back of a game-drive vehicle, this is not going to be the case.
Although most safari camps and lodges stick to a regimen of three cooked meals every day, interspersed with teas, coffees and cake, some have acknowledged that guests are quite comfortable with an early light breakfast to precede the morning activity, a respectable brunch closer to midday after returning to camp and tea, coffee and cakes served after an afternoon nap and prior to the afternoon drive. The main meal of the day, dinner, is then served on your return to camp after the afternoon/evening activity and following a hot shower and a drink by the fire.