Most of us have never had the chance to visit Africa, and even then, so many travelers end up missing out on going on a real safari in Africa. Whether due to political disturbances, vaccinations or the countless myths surrounding a safari, we often tend to give it a miss, favoring African beaches, culture and cuisines instead. However, those who haven’t been on a safari are surely missing out on one of the most exotic sights that Mother Nature has in store for us. Sure, you get to see animals at the local zoo. Sure, you’ve visited a national park or two. But if you haven’t been on a safari in Africa, you haven’t come close to experiencing a real national park filled with wildlife experiences. After all, the country that gave birth to the whole idea is sure to have something special!
One of the biggest problems that visitors face while embarking on a Safari in Africa is planning. A trip to the wild requires you to follow a specific set of instructions and carry some very specific items as well. There are certain health and safety precautions to take care of and you must prepare yourself for what lies in store for you. You wouldn’t want to fall sick just when things seem to become interesting, or worse yet, you wouldn’t want to end up as lunch either!
To help you on your way, Bookmundi presents a guide on what to expect on an African safari. This guide not only shows you what to pack, but also lets you understand what to do and what to avoid while on a safari.
Why go on a Safari in Africa?
Simply put, nothing else comes close. African safaris are every bit deserving of their stardom and a couple of days in one of the national parks in Africa is enough to understand why safaris have such a huge fan following. Africa gave birth to the concept of a safari, and needless to say, this is where you get to enjoy the best game drives, explore untouched tracts of land, see all kinds of birds and animals and get back to the real mother nature.
What Happens on an African Safari?
Answering this question will take some doing, primarily because, there is so much that goes on in a typical African safari. Your experience starts the moment you step foot in the national park and ends only when you’re on the plane, heading back home, realizing it’s over even before it started. You curse yourself for not adding that extra day into your itinerary, but that will always be the case. And that’s the beauty of Africa! Despite its apparent hardships and way of life, it tends to capture your imagination and your heart.
- Arrival: The way you approach your chosen safari depends on your tour operator and also on the destination. Some safaris are best accessed via air while others can be reached by car.
- Let the Games Begin: When thinking of a safari, the first thing that comes to mind is the Game Drive. Game drives are one of the most romantic elements of a safari, and they are usually the highlight of your safari experience. Game drives involve getting up close (real close) with the local wildlife in an open-top vehicle. Watching predators fight for a kill or herds of elephants come by the local waterhole for a sip is very common during these drives.
- The Wildlife: Elephants spraying themselves with water, lions lazing in the open grasslands, giraffes grazing… these are things that you usually associate with African safaris. However, not all experiences are as candid. You even get to see other aspects of the animal kingdom, particularly during mating season. Most camps offer two game drives a day, each drive lasting between 3 to 5 hours. These drives take place early in the morning and late at night.
- Bush Activities: As exciting as game drives sound, they are only a part of your safari. You are kept entertained through the day with all kinds of activities which vary from rifle shooting and archeries to spa massages and swimming.
- The Instagram Moment: The highlight of your safari is sure to be the stunning sunset views that these national parks have on offer. And if you happen to see an animal just when the sky turns into all shades of orange, well, you just got yourself hundreds of new followers.
Safaris are beautiful and incredible, and completely safe as long as you follow a very specific set of instructions. However, even the safest safari tends to have an element of danger. After all, that’s what makes it so exciting, so unique. And even though you have highly skilled guides for company, you need to take certain precautions to ensure your own safety and the safety of those around you.
- In a Vehicle:
- Never leave your vehicle unless specifically told to do so by your guide. Sounds silly, duuuh, but tourists are known to leave their vehicles, cameras in hand, trying to get a closer shot of the lion, oblivious to the fact that they might just end up being its next meal!
- Never stick anything outside of the vehicle. Most vehicles used for safaris have an open top, but don’t make that obvious to the animals around you.
- Keep the windows up. If your vehicle has windows, make sure they’re closed. Monkeys and baboons tend to be very irritating, and if you feel the ones seen in a city are harassing, just wait till you meet these wild ones.
- On Foot:
- Try and stay downwind. If the animal catches your scent, it will have an idea of your movement.
- Avoid standing in the escape route of an animal that looks hostile.
- Walk away slowly if the animal doesn’t like being disturbed.
- General Tips:
- Avoid swimming in lakes unless your guide specifically tells you that there are no crocodiles or hippos in the lake.
- Carry lots of mosquito repellent and don’t forget to reapply that all-important SPF 30 sunscreen every 4 hours.
- Always wear high socks and boots.
- Don’t leave the campsite at night.
- Don’t expect to see everything in the first hour itself. Animal sightings are never guaranteed, but with enough patience, you will always come back satisfied.
- Animals don’t need night vision equipment to see in the dark. You may not be able to sense their presence, but they certainly sense yours.
- Get rid of the cell phone. Good heavens no. Don’t throw it away! Just don’t bring it with you on a game drive.
- Toddlers and game drives are the worst of enemies. Never pair the two together.
- Mute the camera. You don’t want to end up irritating everyone else in your vehicle.
- Don’t forget to tip drivers, camp staff and your guides.
As bad as it sounds, going on an African safari doesn’t mean that you have to stay in the jungle with nothing but a tent for company. There are a number of lodges and resorts in most national parks of Africa which cater to all kinds of travelers. Whether you’re searching for over-the-top luxuries and the best of man-made comforts or need something more economical, you’re sure to find the right place. Moreover, sleeping in tents doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Most campsites offer deluxe tents that feature firm mattresses. Thoughtful touches, exquisite furnishings and outstanding service make the experience even more pleasurable. Oh, you also have hot water in most places! In fact, it’s quite normal to feel that the last 5-star hotel you stayed in wasn’t as comfortable!
Traveling to Africa without the right vaccinations could be dangerous and malaria tends to be the least of your problems. There are a number of mandatory and optional vaccines recommended for Africa, and there has been a lot of debate on what you must have and what you can avoid. Bookmundi recommends you to take precautions against the following before venturing on an African safari: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Measles, Mumps, Rabies, Rubella, Tetanus, Polio and Diphtheria.
Irrespective of the location or your budget, exceptional food is common to most African safaris. The African cuisine itself is very inviting and there are all kinds of dishes you would want to try out. And even if you’re not in the mood to experiment, your campsite is sure to offer a variety of choices and cuisines from all over the world. Better yet, most ingredients are grown locally, making the food even more special.