A wildlife safari – what can I expect?
So you’ve finally decided it is time for that wildlife safari that you have been dreaming about. You’ve booked the safari, the plane tickets, arranged the transfers and now you’re rearing to go. But now you start wondering. What should I take along for my wildlife safari? What can I expect from my safari?
A wildlife safari can be made or broken by not being prepared. So take the time and make sure your preparations are done and you will have a great safari. Let’s have a look.
What to expect:
A safari or game drive is great way to see as much of the area as possible and increases your chances of seeing the wildlife that you want. Game drive or safari times and durations might vary from lodge to lodge and from area to area. But in most cases you will have a safari in the morning and another in the afternoon/evening. Many game drives will usually make a stop somewhere for a tea/coffee break in the morning and a sundowner stop in the afternoon/evening.
If you are in an area that allows self-drive safari’s such the Kruger National Park or the Pilanesberg National Park it gets a little more challenging to find the animals. A good idea is to check in at the various camps and picnic spots. Many of these will have sighting boards up where people can pin up the different sightings they have seen. Also try and do a night drive with these rest camps. This allows you to be out when the gates have already closed and you might encounter some of the nocturnal wildlife such as porcupine, genets civets and even some of the larger game.
A walking safari is a great way to get to know some of the smaller details of the bush. Animals leave all sorts signs of their passing and a walking safari allows you to learn about these as well as insects, trees and birds. You might even be lucky enough to walk into one of the bigger species. A fantastic adrenaline rush. A walking safari is a nice way to get rid of some of those extra calories that will inevitably be building up.
For a wildlife safari it is usually best to dress as neutral as possible. In other words no bright colours. The preferred colours are khaki or olive green. The whole idea is to blend into the environment as much as possible. Now from a safari vehicle this does not usually play a role but it is still preferred. Being on foot is a completely different scenario. Neutral colours are a MUST.
A walking safari is an amazing experience and worth considering if you are relatively fit. Comfortable walking shoes are essential. These need to be in the form of running shoes or ankle high boots. Open shoes are not recommended. The terrain may vary significantly. Some areas might be relatively flat while others might be hills and drainage lines and rocky.
Weather will also play a role with comfortability especially so in the winter months. The day time temperatures are often comfortable but the temperatures during the morning safari and evening safari might be cool to cold. So a good jacket will be very welcome. Most lodges will also provide blankets and some even hot water bottles or seat warmers.
Summer months are usually very hot. So light and comfortable clothing will be essential. A good pair of sunglasses is highly recommended
Some lodges will have someone escorting you around the lodge especially at night. However not all do. Then a good pocket sized flash light is important. Being in a wilderness area there is always a possibility of snakes and scorpions but also in some lodges even some of the bigger wildlife such as hippo, leopard, lion and elephant.
Not all areas are high risk areas for malaria. But it is important to find out if the area you are going to is a high risk area. In the event that it is consult your doctor in advance as some prophylactics need to be taken well in advance. But even if it is not a high risk area it is a good idea to cover up at night and to use a good insect repellent lotion or spray. Malaria has a 2 week window period. It is essential to see a doctor if you start seeing symptoms of the flu or a cold that is paired with lower back (kidney) and joint pain. Remember to mention that you were in a malaria area.
It is also advisable to use an insect repellent during the day against ticks and tick bite fever.
Don’t forget the sun. 100 factor sun cream is recommended and try avoiding the mid-day sun. A hat is highly recommended. A peak cap will do but a wide brim hat is better. Also remember to drink plenty of water and having some electrolytes for an emergency is a good idea (consult your doctor about this)
Camera equipment and binoculars:
With today’s technology a good point and shoot camera will be sufficient to capture your wildlife safari memories.
But for the more serious photographer a good dslr is a must. It is a good idea to go for a short course on the use of the camera if you are not familiar with it. I suggest having a number of memory cards particularly if you will be shooting raw. A high speed memory card is a nice to have but not essential. During a wildlife safari you will not only be taking photographs of the animals but also the landscapes and remember the African sunrise and sunsets can be spectacular. So aside from a good zoom lens a wide angle lens will also come in handy. Another nice to have is a lens cleaning pen and a blower to help remove dust both in- and outside the camera body.
There are a number of companies that will rent out camera equipment. This is a novel idea as you don’t have to lug massive lenses around the world. This is worth researching and I am also happy to send some of their details to you if needed.
Most rangers will have binoculars but it is always nice to have your own set. There are many makes available but I recommend a 10×50 model. The smaller pocket sized binoculars will work but in most cases the larger models will be better suited to the job at hand. As to the make, I will leave that up to you. But the old adage of you get what you pay for is very applicable to binoculars.
Other essential items to remember:
• Cell phone-, camera-, laptop- and tablet chargers
• International adapters compatible with your charging devices and the country you are going to.
• Any emergency and chronic medication. As well as some anti-histamine medication and some anti-septic lotion.
So enjoy your safari.