A Safari Guide for your next Adventure
Words & Images By The Travel Manuel
There’s a reason everyone wants to go on safari at least once in their lifetime, and that’s because there is quite simply, nothing that compares to disappearing into the unknown world of wild animals. In South Africa, we are absolutely spoilt for choice with many private and public reserves holding protected areas of bushveld and majestic creatures within their borders. But there is also a plethora of other African nations such as Nambia, Botswana, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana and more which all hold unique opportunities to encounter animals indigenous to their corners of the earth. To be in the bush is a privilege and one which I’m so happy to have experienced, so if you can; tick a safari off your bucket list soon. Here’s a few tips ahead of your first safari…
All Creatures great and small
Of course the number one reason why most people go on safari is for the chance to spot the Big Five but there are many fascinating, smaller animals who often miss the limelight and are worth every sighting. Leopard Tortoise, rhino beetles and the bat-eared fox for example, are all smaller creatures that aren’t easy to spot but each display their own unique characteristics and allure.
Aside from the furry animals, many birding enthusiasts are in heaven when on safari. Armed with binoculars and as a long a lens as you can muster, you can spend all your time just on the lookout for various feathered friends. I’ve seen some incredible birds on safari such as the lilac breasted roller (my favourite), the hornbill (of the Lion King’s Zazu inspiration), the ugly ground hornbill, vultures atop trees, storks, fish eagles, blue cranes and malachite kingfishers. If you’re into birding, enquire with your resort about sending you on safari with a guide who has a keen birding interest. That way the focus of the drive will be on the birds and they may know exactly where certain birds like to hang around and during what time of the day.
Fauna and Flora
Years ago, I would’ve scoffed at the idea of starring at various forms of vegetation and shrubbery, but I’ve come to really appreciate bush landscapes and all that each environment holds. From the lush swamps, savannah, baobabs and palm trees within the Okavango Delta to the dry acacias of the Kruger National Park and Limpopo to the green Caprivi Strip of Namibia; each country’s bush will hold it’s very own magic. I’ve once been on a game drive in the Waterberg, where the guide only stopped to show us various trees, the relationships they have with insects and birds as well as the symbolic meaning they hold for local people- it was absolutely fascinating and well worth your time to at least add some fauna and flora knowledge to your trip.
Luxury and Affordable Escapes
Some people go on African safaris seeking escape to an environment foreign to their own. From mokoro (canoe) rides in swamps, to game drives on sandy pathways. Flights over rivers in a small plane and boat cruises across channels and waterways; there are so many ways to experience the wild. Many game reserves offer exclusivity and luxury options of accommodation where you could be the only game drive vehicle around for miles. But you don’t always have to go with the luxury safari option. There are more affordable lodges which exist for those not wanting to break the bank Either way, you’ll be so far removed from all city lights, gridlock and deadlines that you’ll soon forget that world completely.
On my first solo safari, my greatest joy and reason for going was a digital detox. In a world where screens consume 80% of our days at work and at leisure with TV, news and social media, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and have the desire to take it back to basics. Most safari lodges don’t provide wifi access for the guests for this reason. It’s a glorious time where you are free to unplug, disconnect your mind from all the clutter and bombardment of messaging and just focus all your attention on sipping sundowners beside a watering hole, looking for a leopard after a kill or watching elephants wade through the waters.
Things to pack
What you pack will depend on which country you choose to safari in. Don’t be fooled into thinking that all African nations will be scorching hot throughout the year. Do your research before-hand to firstly find out which seasons are best for game-viewing and also what temperatures winter seasons bring with it. Often winters bring really cold morning and evening temperatures which require jackets, beanies and gloves ( plus blankets) for those 5am drives. Aside from extra warm clothes for winter, in general, a safari always calls for long-sleeved neutral coloured apparel that helps you blend into the environment, keeps you cool and shaded from the sun when its hot and also prevents mosquitoes biting.
Mosquito repellent, sunblock, sun glasses, hat, binoculars and camera are always top of my list for a safari. Lodges will usually provide water bottles for you to keep whilst there, mosquito nets on your beds and thick warm blankets for cold game drives. Do enquire ahead of time what’s provided so you don’t have to carry additional things with you.
Depending on the country and the region, you may have to take precautionary measures against Malaria and/or yellow fever. Enquire with your nearest travel clinic and doctor as to what medication and/or vaccinations you may require for you and your family and the time frame of use. e.g Malaria prophylaxis often need to be taken before, during and after your stay. Make sure you pack enough mosquito repellent and cover up after dark as bite prevention is always a good idea. If you’re going to be far off the grid, make sure you pack enough of your necessary medication as well as for those ‘in case’ moments such a cold, flu, allergy and stomach bug medication.
For travel to countries such as Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Botswana, South Africans do not require a visa; which is always exciting news and diminishes so much of our pre-holiday admin. There are also countries like Ghana, where all we need do is quickly apply online for one. Check online and with the embassy of the country you’ve visiting, so that if you require a visa, you can apply for it well in advance and obtain all necessary documentation needed.
Once you get to your destination of choice, step aboard a game vehicle and make sure you soak it all in ( sometimes without a camera). If you’re lucky you may witness the roar or heavy breathing of a lion after a kill, a herd of elephants crossing a river, a leopard sleeping in the grass or giraffe chewing on the acacia tree. Either way, the sounds, scents and landscapes of the bush are magical enough and worth every trip out, so breathe it in and enjoy!