African Safari blog

What do I need to know before I go on safari?

Preparing for a Safari

The most important thing to know is how essential it is to listen to your safari guide and comply with his (it is usually a male but some females are now breaking in to the field) instructions.

General
Apart from educating and entertaining you, the guide’s job is to keep you safe, and you will be perfectly safe if you

  • Refrain from standing up in open 4×4 WD game drive vehicles (the vehicle might move off without warning – this happened to a friend of ours who ended up in a coma as a result of the fall. Also the wildlife seem to regard game vehicles with seated passengers as a benign animal – changing the outline by standing up changes the “nature of the 4×4 WD beast” from the perspective of the wildlife
  • Avoid making loud noises when at a sighting as animals may react defensively – and a defensive elephant is best to avoid
  • Abstain from trying to attract the attention of the wildlife – they have your attention but you really don’t want theirs
  • Keep your hands inside the vehicle as some of the vegetation that you will pass on your drives has very unforgiving thorns

The best way to react to encounters with wildlife is to stay still, quiet and calm or as our friend, Peter Allison, advises “whatever you do, don’t run, food runs!” Finally on the subject of wildlife, meeting an animal’s gaze is generally thought to be a combative threat.

Clothes
Bearing in mind that you want a “fly on the wall” type of game experience (ie you want to observe the creatures going about their day to day activities rather than alarming them) it is best to dress in muted colours eg beige, khaki or muted green etc. So it is best to leave the canary yellow and shocking pink at home! While denim jeans are quite acceptable safari attire, be warned that tsetse flies (bigger and nastier than the housefly with a sharp bite) are attracted to blue & black – an attraction best avoided. However these horrid creatures are mainly confined to East Africa and are significantly more predominant in Tanzania.)

Before we leave the subject of attire, a hat is absolutely essential, preferably with a broad-rim rather than a cap (which leaves ears exposed – unless of course you are not adverse to sunscreen in your ears, which I hate!) A warm jacket is also strongly recommended whatever the time of the year but especially in winter as the mornings can be very “bracing” with temperatures hovering around 0 degrees centigrade. However you need to be able to peel off layers as the morning progresses but again best to have long sleeves to protect against sunburn.

Luggage Limitations
Some safaris involve light aircraft flights in which both weight and bag type are critical. The usual restriction is a maximum of 15 kgs in a soft bag without wheels (hard cases and even some soft bags with spines and wheels do not fit into the luggage hold of these little planes.) Except in East Africa (Kenya & Tanzania) that luggage allowance is extended to permit an additional 5kgs of hand luggage. However ladies please be reassured, it is actually possible to comfortably survive that small luggage allowance as most places have laundry facilities (though it may be necessary to hand wash “smalls”.) Alternatively, it is generally possible to “park” some excess gear in a safe place – which is what I tend to do as my African trips usually involve meetings and social functions as well as safaris.

Travel Insurance
While some things, like the need for sunscreen and insect repellent, go without saying, the need for travel insurance cannot be repeated too often. Safaris tend to occur in relatively remote locations which are perfect for if you love adventure but are less than ideal spots to sustain an injury or illness. Suitable travel insurance can ensure prompt, appropriate medical attention without having to fork out a fortune. Having broken my foot in Victoria Falls (which is not even that remote in safari terms) I have first-hand experience! Firstly the X-ray machine was out of order and the sole pharmacy in town was prepared to LEND me the only pair of crutches they had (Noah had thrown them off the arc as past their use-by date!) So we had to return to Joburg and cancel our trip to Zambia. Our travel insurer paid the claim without argument. However you need to make sure the travel insurer is reputable and the terms of your policy are adequate to your needs and includes all activities in which you are proposing to engage (eg abseiling, white-water rafting).

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