Going on your first African safari can be a life-changing experience.
Africa is home to some of the world’s most fascinating animals such as elephants, lions, and giraffes, so it’s not surprising that millions of people dream about one day seeing them live in their natural environment.
In order to make the most of your journey, there are a few safari tips and tricks you should know that will help you enjoy a hassle-free and unforgettable experience.
Let’s explore what to know before going on an African safari below.
Decide If You Want a Self-Drive Safari or a Guided Tour
When going through safari tips, you will probably discover a lot of contradicting information about whether you should go with a self-drive safari or opt for a guided tour. The truth is, which of these African safari tips you should listen to depends on your personal preferences and travel style.
When you go on a self-drive tour, you get the freedom to stop wherever you like, go where you want, and not have to adjust to anyone else’s schedule, which may allow you to get the best pictures—if you can find the animals without an experienced guide tracking them on your behalf.
When you go on a safari with a practiced guide, you usually have a much better chance of seeing the animals, as guides know the area by heart and can take you to the spots that the animals tend to frequent. Taking advantage of their skills and local knowledge can lead to a less frustrating experience for those new to safaris.
On Zegrahm’s safaris to Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar, you’ll travel with expert guides and naturalists who know exactly where to find animals of all kinds. Our guided small-group expeditions are the ideal way to explore remote, varied, and pristine habitats that are off the beaten path, allowing you to see wildlife in its natural environment.
What to Pack in Your Bag on Safari
A crucial aspect of African safaris and travel is packing a bag that is not too heavy while still containing everything that you’ll need. The specific packing list depends on the individual, but there are some must-have items on any safari.
As with any journey, you should have your passport and other documents, as well as any tickets that you’ll require. For the trip itself, any African safari travel guide will tell you that you should have sunglasses, medicine that you will need to take during the journey, some spare comfortable clothes, as well as warmer clothes if you’re staying at a camp.
Also make sure that you have your phone and a camera that you’ll be taking pictures with because it’s likely that you’ll see a lot of breathtaking sights that you’ll want to capture.
What to Wear
We briefly mentioned clothing in the previous safari tips section, but it is essential for being comfortable during the trip, so it deserves another look.
On many safaris, temperatures between day and night will fluctuate greatly, so you’ll need to plan on bringing clothing that will be comfortable during hot days as well as colder nights.
The best approach is layering—you can put on a warmer jacket over your t-shirt or blouse, or use zip-on trousers that can be turned to shorts when it’s hot. You can also wear a hat and a scarf for the cold nights and open-air vehicle drives.
Know the Best Season to Go
As you can imagine, there are quite a few safaris across Africa, so it’s not surprising that the best season to visit will depend on the country that you want to explore and the animals that you want to observe.
For instance, some of the most fascinating animal migrations in Kenya happen from June to mid-October, although the November and December may allow you to see some beautiful migrating birds or even baby animals.
On the other hand, when planning a trip to Botswana, our safari advice would be to go in the late spring or early summer, as that’s when the climate is the driest and more animals flock to the same water sources.
Our Luxury Botswana Safari, departing this April and led by expert naturalist Lex Hes, features a comprehensive itinerary through a variety of habitats, traveling by open-air 4x4 vehicles and in mokoros (dug-out canoes) that allow you to glide through flood plains as you seek out a variety of wildlife.
Obey Your Guide’s Rules and Stay Safe
Probably the most crucial safari tip you should follow is always obeying the guide’s rules throughout the trip—the rules are there for a reason, as they help prevent serious accidents that could have tragic consequences.
Even though safari tours are designed to be completely safe, you need to remember that you are entering a wild habitat full of dangerous predators and large animals that may act unpredictably when provoked. Be sure to avoid doing anything that your guide doesn’t approve of, including leaving the safety of your safari vehicle. Predators can appear without warning at any time, and your guide is responsible for your safety, so heeding their expert advice is a great way to prevent injury.
Know What Times of Day Yield the Best Results
When going on a safari, it’s important to understand the animal habits and behaviors so that you know what time of the day you should visit. The most common African safari advice is to go early in the morning or later in the evening when the visibility is still excellent and the animals are active. Mid-day sun is usually too scorching for the animals to be active, and you’re likely to see them idling or hiding from the heat under shade.
There are also night safari options available, which allow you to hear the nocturnal animals, but because of poor visibility, this type of trip is not for everyone and may leave you disappointed.
How to Keep Your Camera and Equipment Safe
One of the most overlooked issues on a safari is protecting the camera and accompanying equipment throughout the journey, which is why one of the most useful safari tips we can give you is to properly prepare for potential issues.
Sand is a reality of the plains and savannahs over which most safaris take place and can be damaging to photography equipment. To avoid exposing your camera to the scratches grains of sand can cause on lenses, it’s a good idea to have it in a sealable bag that won’t allow anything to get through. Likewise, if it rains, using a plastic bag or even a shower cap can prevent your camera from getting wet.
Electrical Adapters, Internet, and Cell Phone Service
As you can probably imagine, connectivity in some remote parts of Africa may not always be the most reliable, and you may not have access to electricity or at least to electrical sockets that you are used to.
That’s why one of the crucial safari tips that you should consider is to carefully plan the electronics that you bring with you, which should include your phone, power socket adapters used in the region, and a power bank.
Africa is becoming more connected every year, and you are likely to have a stable cell phone service and an internet connection, with some lodges and camps even offering Wi-Fi.
Safety Precautions for You and Your Personal Belongings
Just as anywhere in life and in travel, common sense is essential when taking care of yourself, your loved ones, and your belongings.
As mentioned before, it’s crucial to stay in the vehicle at all times unless instructed otherwise, but you should also be very careful about sticking your hands or cameras through the windows or sides of the car, as that can be dangerous when moving, or provoke the animals when observing them.
If you go on a walking tour, make sure to wear boots and socks, as there are plenty of venomous snakes and scorpions that you could encounter in bushland.
You should also have your personal belongings close and not carry unnecessarily large amounts of cash with you.
Going on a safari is one of the most memorable journeys that you could experience, but in order to make the most of the trip, you should use a tour organizer that has a good reputation.
At Zegrahm, we have years of experience organizing tours all around Africa and can help you find a safari experience that helps realize your dreams of seeing some of the most fascinating animals on the continent. Please call 800.628.8747 or fill out our online contact form, and we’ll guide you through the entire process.