One of the greatest thrills I’ve had while traveling the world has been on a safari in South Africa. The bucket list experience of witnessing some of the world’s fiercest animals who sit comfortably at the top of the food chain in their natural environment is truly incredible. I’ve been on my fair share of safaris in South Africa thanks to Explore Africa Tour and each experience has been memorable in their own special way. If you’re prepping for your first safari in South Africa or in any country across the vast continent, I’ve got you covered. I’m sharing everything you need to know about a safari in South Africa that I’ve learned over the past few years!
What To Expect
First things first, let me correct myself. You’re actually not going on a safari, you’re going on a game drive! On my last “safari”, one of the guides explained that a safari in its true sense means that you’re going out to hunt and kill animals, while a game drive means that you’re going out to observe them.
So, what should you expect on a game drive?
- Expect to wake up very early. The majority of drives that I’ve done have been in the morning when it’s very cool. The animals, like humans, do not like the heat. They tend to move about very early making this time optimal for a drive. Think 4 am wake up call. Trust me, you won’t regret it. If you’re not a morning person, you can also opt for an evening/night drive when the temperature drops. Personally, I prefer the mornings.
- Expect to be amazed by the beauty and vastness of Africa. Game drives are usually located an hour or two from your hotel unless you are staying at a hotel on property. You will have the opportunity to see lots of lush landscapes before you even get to your location. When most people think of safari, they think of a zoo, a small enclosed area where they see a few animals. Think the opposite. Game drives take place in parks that span miles and miles of land and bush. You are literally in the wild, in the animal’s habitat.
- Expect to be out for hours. A safari is not like a zoo, you don’t walk in, see the animals and then leave. The animals won’t be hanging out waiting for you to meet them. They’re living life. It may take hours to find an elephant or a pride of lions. You may not even see any. That’s the nature of the wild. You will see something, but no two safaris are alike. Go with no expectations. It took me three safaris to see lions and rhinos, there was even one safari I didn’t see anything except gazelles and zebras.
What To Wear
- Dress Comfortable. African mornings and evenings in the bush can be bone-chilling, so please keep this in mind when picking out your outfit for the occasion. Long sleeve top with a pair of pants and some sneakers are my go-to’s. Safaris tend to be long, meaning you’ll be out there for a few hours, so keep in mind that the weather will warm up. You can also just pack a warm jacket or blanket to get you through the morning or evening chill.
- Dress Like You’re On A Safari. You’re on a safari in Africa, why wouldn’t you want to dress like you’re a host of National Geographics? That’s part of the fun. Wear your earth tones, anything brown, tan, or green, throw in a matching hat and boots. Avoid anything fluorescent, neon or too bright that will bring unneeded attention your way.
What To Do
- Take Lots Of Pictures. Document these moments, they’re pretty incredible. Do pack your cameras with appropriate lenses. To keep things light, I would suggest just one versatile lens that can capture close up shots but also animals at a distance. Remember, you’ll possibly be out for a few good hours so pack extra batteries and memory cards. I love to travel with rain sleeves as the weather can change instantly as well as accessories like dust cloths and brushes to clean my camera.
- Be Present. Enjoy the moment, in the moment. You may want to snap photos and record videos of every single encounter, but do take some time to simply enjoy this lifetime experience. Let it sink it, you’re on the amazing continent of Africa on a safari in South Africa.
What Not To Do
- Disobey Park & Guide Rules. I can not stress how important this tip is. Park and guide rules are extremely important for the welfare of visitors and animals alike. Pay special attention to those given. You are in the wild, these animals are not trained and you don’t want to become a casualty. If you are in a vehicle, stay there. Keep hands and feet inside at all times, unless instructed by your guide. On certain drives, there will be periods of rest, where you will be able to stretch your legs, get a cup of coffee or champagne and use the restroom.
- Make Loud Noises. Safaris are for observing animals in their element, one that is usually very quiet. Be sure to keep your voices low and keep noises to a minimum. Yes, it’s exciting spotting all of the animals, but you don’t want to startle them or draw attention to you and your group. Don’t ruin the experience for everyone. Keep cell phones on mute, cameras on silent and voices low.
A safari/game drive is truly an exhilarating experience whether you see the Big Five, lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants, and buffalos or just the zebras, antelopes or giraffes. It’s not every day that you are able to explore nature and see an experience like this. So please, enjoy it!
If you’re interested in joining me on an upcoming safari in South Africa, visit ExploreAfricaTour.com for more information on the upcoming Johannesburg, South Africa Tour.