Planning for a Southern Africa safari? Check out these tips to help make your experience one to boast about.
1.Pack Warm Clothes
The best time to view game is during Southern Africa’s winter months (June, July, August). And while it gets warmer during the day, you will need to start early. In fact, you will see very little during the warmer parts of the day, as most of the animals will be resting. So that leaves cool, early mornings for game drives and it gets cold. I thought the oversized stadium seat jeeps were amazing until I felt the wind hit my body as we drove to and from the national park. I also thought I’d get warmer once the sun rose, but it didn’t actually do much. I was pretty icy throughout most of my safaris and again at night during dinner. Do yourself a favor and pack accordingly.
2.It’s Worth the Money for a Guide
Self-drive safaris are a great option, but I suggest you do at least one guided safari. For one, the driving gets tiring. You’re also not able to enjoy the safari as much if you have to be the one driving the jeep or car. It’s much better to sit back and take it all in, letting your eyes roam the bush for hidden game. As a self-driver, in many cases you are following crowds or pulling up to hot spots literally seeing the tail end of something. But with a guide you are often first on the scene when say a lion or leopard is near, and you are able to get a lot closer, for a lot longer. There is a reason they get paid to guide. They can follow animal tracks, know movement patterns and get help from other guides. You will not be able to do this on your own.
The very first day of going out for safari, I saw three of the big five. I thought to myself, wow this is easy. But I didn’t see the other two (I hadn’t yet seen a rhino or leopard) until I visited a second park in a different country. If I had only planned to visit one national park, I wouldn’t have seen the remaining two. But thankfully after visiting Chobe National Park in Botswana, I also visited Kruger National Park in South Africa, where I saw the last of the big five. Judging from other people I’ve talked to who have been, or even listening to side conversations, it seems like many come to Africa on safari and miss out on something. So visiting a second game reserve, if not a second country, is definitely worth it.
4.Try Going By Boat
On my very first day in Chobe I actually saw the park from the banks of the Chobe River and I’m so glad I did! It really is the best way to see the hippos, which I fell in love with. They are so cute, yet ferocious, but seeing them from land does them no justice. We were able to get very close to them as they fed on the plants growing in the river. We also saw elephant up close and personal, crocs, monkey, kudu, birds and even a pride of lions enjoying dinner. All animals rely on the water for survival, so you can just sit back and watch them congregate from the comfort of the boat.
5. Manage Expectations
Last but not least you have to manage your expectations. Safaris are incredible, but these are dangerous animals with declining numbers. You may not have the intimate experience you were hoping for with multiple trucks viewing the same thing at the same time. When we saw a lioness with two cubs there were at least 5 other trucks tracking the same lioness. We all had to share. Safaris are also an exercise in waiting. You may be out for hours before you actually see something. And it’s usually when you least expect it that your jaw drops and something amazing shows up and literally crosses your path.
Have you been on a Southern Africa safari? Drop any tips you have in the comments below.