How to make the most of an African safari trip
Strap in for the ride
Growing up in Sudan, I had the chance to go on a few safari adventures with my family. My greatest memory was witnessing the mammal migration in the dry season — where millions of white-eared kobs, tiangs (African antelopes), gazelles, elephants, zebras and buffalos traverse the region in search of water and grass.
If you're planning a safari visit, there will no doubt be various factors to consider when planning for it. Here are my top tips to help you maximise your chances of witnessing some of the best wildlife dramas on earth.
1. Decide on which safari you would like to visit
Most safaris are located at the bottom half of the African continent: Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda, Kenya, and Zambia. Every safari has a different offering, so have a think about what you would like to see first. For your first safari trip, I would recommend going for the classics — The Masai Mara in Kenya, or Kruger in South Africa. These two parks are the biggest and the chances of viewing the Big Five (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, buffalos) are pretty high.
2. Selecting a tour operator
Group tours offer better value while private tours will be able to accommodate your needs and requests. Go into detail when you research to see if the operator is committed to giving back to their community. If they are, it is more likely that they will put in an extra effort to make your visit enjoyable.
3. Get onto nature's timezone
Start your day early (I know, that snooze button is tempting) so you can get out to the park when the animals are awake and active. Save your naps for the heat of the day — just like the animals do.
4. Make friends
Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with your guide. Tap into their knowledge pool to grow your own. If you'd like to stop and take a closer look at something, just ask. However do so in a soft and calm manner — you don't want to startle the animal with loud noises.
5. What to wear
Leave the techni-coloured coat and Pantone's colour of the year behind. Wear neutral coloured clothes. If the weather is cold, wear layers that allow for flexibility. When it's hot, bring along a lightweight long sleeve shirt and hat to protect your skin from the sun. Make sure all your clothes are comfortable enough for you to wear for an entire day (think sports bras, sweat-wicking and non-itchy materials). Do put on comfortable covered shoes that you can walk in.
6. What to bring
The single most important piece of equipment to bring is a pair of binoculars. Wildlife is often far away and you won't be able to get up close to them. To combat safari dust, bring eye drops and a buff to cover your mouth and nose. Insect repellent is also a must to prevent insect bites. Wet wipes and waterproof bags will also come in handy.
7. Leave your valuables behind
Leave your travel documents, most of your cash, and valuables in the hotel safe. Carry photocopies of your identification with you and just enough cash (and a credit card) instead.
8. Drink up
Dehydration is real and dangerous. Make sure you drink enough water to make up for the water loss through sweating. Always have a bottle of water with you and bring some isotonic drinks (powdered versions) if possible.
9. Stay a little longer
Stay in the same lodge for at least three nights. This will allow you to familiarise yourself with the environment and immerse yourself with the wildlife that is around you. While you're out in the African bush, take time to appreciate the night because this is where you will see some of the clearest skies in your life and have the chance to marvel at thousands of glittering stars right above you.
10. Wide-eyed wonder
Last but not least, remember to bring along your sense of wonder. Turn off your cell phones and put down those cameras (just for a moment or two). Experience the wonders of nature with your own eyes and create memories that will last for a lifetime.
Have you already been to a safari? Share your tips with us by commenting below. We would love to hear from you.
About Mehdi Elaichouni
Always ready for his next adventure, Mehdi took his first flight to Sudan when he was three years old and stayed there for seven years with his family. Mehdi is now based in Singapore where he founded ANIA, a skincare company inspired by his childhood in Africa, with a focus to bring the highest quality natural and organic formulations from Africa. Follow his adventures with ANIA on Facebook and Instagram.