What to Know Before Going on a Safari

Game drives can be booked at most camps, but it’s often cheaper to drive yourself
Game drives can be booked at most camps, but it’s often cheaper to drive yourself | © Louis Blythe / Unsplash
Photo of Carina Claassens
5 April 2018

Whether you’re heading to Africa, Asia or Australia, a safari holiday is bound to be unforgettable. Before the excitement completely takes over, read our quick guide on what to know before embarking on your journey.

Take the time to do some research

Read up on the country you’re traveling to. This way, you’ll have a better understanding of how to interact with locals, what to eat, what to pack and what to look out for when on safari. Research will complement your experience.

Australia is home to millions of kangaroos | ©Mark Galer/Unsplash

Rules aren’t meant to be broken

No matter how tempting it might be to stretch out your hand and pet a lion cub, or any other animal, tourists should refrain from touching, feeding or approaching any wild animals. Same goes for stepping out of the vehicle to get a better position for taking that memorable picture. If you can’t get the shot from inside the car, wait it out or move on.

Feel free to chat with your guide

When going on safari with a guide you’re encouraged to ask questions – regardless of how irrelevant they might seem. Most guides are extremely knowledgeable and will share as much as they know, and more, if you just ask.

Tigers are masters of camouflage | ©Vincent van Zalinge/Unsplash

Don’t be shy to ask the guide to stop

The bush has the ability to play tricks on your eyes – you’re sure you’ve spotted an African wild dog, but on second glance it’s a dead tree branch. It’s still worth stopping for, because if it turns out to be an animal you’ll earn major brownie points with the rest of the group. Plus, you’ll have another sighting to add to the list!

Pack backup gear

The last thing you want is a dead camera battery or a full memory card right in the middle of a game drive. Pack enough backups to avoid lugging around a heavy camera for nothing. And while we’re on the subject, remember that bright lights will disturb most wild animals, so please switch off that flash.

A curious polar bear observes the tourists | ©Colby Brokvist/Natural Habitat Adventures

Timing is everything

Depending on your destination, make sure to book game drives when animals are most active. Think early mornings and right before sunset if you’re self driving. Evenings are also great as you’ll get to spot otherwise unseen nocturnal animals. Most game parks won’t allow you to self drive after dark, so book a game drive in advance.

Take the necessary precautions

Some countries require you to have certain vaccines before arrival, others are hotspots for diseases like malaria. Enquire about the necessary steps and medication from your medical practitioner.

Battling bison in Yellowstone National Park | ©Hans Veth/Unsplash

Don’t be disappointed

Every single safari is unique regarding which animals are spotted. Hours can go by where it seems like there’s absolutely nothing to see, but take note of the finer things. Look at the flora in the region, the birds, and even interesting insects. You’ll soon realise just how much is going on around you when you’re not focused on spotting specific animals.

Pack guide books

It’s a good idea to pick up travel maps as well as other guide books (such as birding guides) focusing on specific elements within the reserve you’re visiting. This will give you a better idea of where you are and what you’re looking at. You’ll also learn much more along the way.

If you’re lucky you’ll spot lions while on safari. Remember that Satara in The Kruger National Park is lion territory | ©Amar Yashlaha/Unsplash

Planning a trip to South Africa? Don’t forget to read our guide on how to safari on a budget and, while you’re at it, check out these stylish safari lodges in Africa.

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