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Animal encounters

7 tips to survive your first safari

Louise Bell September 5, 2014

Early morning starts, rumbling down the dusty paths in a 4x4 and waiting what feels like hours for the chance to spot a lion emerging from the bush are all part of the exciting safari experience. For many it is a thrilling adventure through the African landscape keeping eyes peeled for endangered animals, however for some who have never been on a safari before, the excitement can be tinged by worry. 

 
Fear of what to pack and what to expect can put worry into what should be an exciting time, especially if booking a multi centre holiday with different destinations combined. For those taking the exciting step towards seeing the “Big Five” in the wild, here are seven tips to survive your first safari, so sit back, relax and don’t forget the binoculars… 
 

Packing essentials

Packing for a safari is never easy and often restrictions are in place on luggage size and weight to make things just that little bit more challenging. 

We spoke to Joanna, our Africa Destination Executive, for further advice. She’s been on safari numerous times and loved seeing baby cheetahs playing around in the Mara, and unwinding in an infinity pool overlooking Lake Manyara in Tanzania, or flying by light aircraft over the endless savannah, seeing all the wildlife underneath. We asked her for her tips on packing for a safari. 

“Usually I’d pack a soft-sided bag for my luggage... it’s better for internal flights, smaller aircraft and transfers to and from your lodge. Safaris can be rugged adventures and although your lodge may be luxurious, getting to and from your accommodation might be a little on the bumpy side. Also, it’s not a great idea, being ferried through the Okavango Delta with several luminous hard cases wobbling on the front of your canoe. 

I try to pack lightly for a safari. Most itineraries involve travelling to different national parks, so you have to pack and repack your things quite often. Also pack a small comfortable backpack in your luggage as this will come in handy for your sun tan lotion, sun sunglasses, camera, binoculars, batteries and other tech stuff on game drives.  I normally pack an extension lead so I can charge all my digital gear together on the move. 

Travel insurance, mosquito repellent and insect bite and sting relief cream plus malaria tablets (if you’re going to a malaria area) are essentials and make sure you go to the doctors to ensure your vaccinations are up to date. Cool, loose fitting clothing and sun hats are also important, but don’t forget warmer clothing for early morning wake-ups or evening game drives.

My top safari tip: In the Serengeti in Tanzania, try not to wear dark clothing as many insects are attracted to this, plus black clothing attracts the heat so it’s best to wear comfortable white or light coloured clothing.”

Camera 

For many, returning home from your trip with impressive photos is a must. However it is not always about having the best equipment or latest technology, instead it is down to catching the right moment. 
 
Always make sure you have your camera fully charged, spare batteries nearby and camera in your hand ready to snap the perfect shot of the lion roaring or the herd of baby elephants playing. Blink or simply look the wrong way and the moment has gone. 
 
Don't forget your camera

Be patient

Unfortunately a large part of a safari is a waiting game, but that is half the fun of it – waiting in anticipation for endangered animals to emerge over the landscape or watching as a pack of lions guard their land. It doesn’t always pan out like it does on the TV, where giraffes are around every corner. Often you will find yourself watching the clock, however don’t loose hope. The minute you switch off you will miss the action!
 

Trust your guide

Guides have a wealth of knowledge and years of experience, so make sure you listen to your carefully. Not only will this keep you safe while on safari, but your guide will be able to tell you lots of interesting stories about the region and background information on its inhabitants. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. 
 

Book a hot air balloon ride

Booking a hot air balloon ride is one of the best experiences on safari, however make sure you book in advance to avoid disappointment. Gracefully floating over the Masai Mara or the Serengeti is an unforgettable experience, and best enjoyed at sunrise as the animals are beginning to awaken. Glide silently over the land before returning back to camp for breakfast. 
 
Sit back, relax and enjoy

Relax

After a few long days on a safari, sleeping in a tent and enduring early morning starts, why not twin your holiday with another destination to make a multi centre holiday with a difference? Combine Kenya with the beaches of Mauritius, or pair the Serengeti with Zanzibar to ensure you return home rejuvenated and brimming with holiday memories and photographs.