Many people list an African safari as one of the key things on their “bucket list”… At Extraordinary we believe it needn’t be a once in a lifetime trip – but it can be the experience of a lifetime. Here are our top tips for getting the very most from your safari.
Try and take time before your safari to read up on where you’re going, and what sort of wildlife you will likely encounter there. A little bit of “homework” will pay huge dividends when you arrive at your destination.
Whether your travelling companion is nine years old – or ninety – choose them wisely. An African safari makes the perfect choice for a honeymoon, for a fantastic family holiday with lots of bonding time and precious moments with the kids, or (with the Waterberg just 2½ hours from Jo’burg) why not make it a weekend to remember and get out of the City.
A safari holiday is a brilliant opportunity to spend quality time with your loved ones, and you’ll make memories together that you’ll still be talking about in many years’ time. Some lodges may have age restrictions for safety reasons – please be sure to check when you make your reservation.
A lot of people set off on safari having spent thousands on new khaki outfits but often this isn’t necessary at all… In the bush, the only real dress code is what you feel comfortable in. A few practical tips would be to bring a hat and sunglasses, and also good strong shoes for walking. If you do take part in a bush walk, dark or neutral colours are best so that you don’t stand out against the backdrop of the wilderness.
Long sleeved tops and pants will help keep away any evening bugs, and always travel with at least a sweater or fleece – the temperature can drop noticeably once the sun has gone down. If you’re going on safari in the southern African winter, you’ll be glad of a few more layers, as well as a beanie and gloves for those invigorating morning game drives!
Perhaps the most important piece of equipment for getting the most out of your safari is a decent pair of binoculars. 8 x 42 or 10 x 50. Don’t go for anything over 10 x magnification or you risking seeing a lot of blurred wildlife. Binoculars literally bring the action you – don’t leave home without them.
Wildlife photography is a major part of any safari experience for a lot of people… Which camera and which lens to choose is something many people spend a lot of time on, but even “point and shoot” cameras nowadays can take great pictures – as can smartphones. For amazing wildlife images though you may want to consider upgrading to a DSLR camera.
Whichever camera you are rocking on safari at the moment, our two top tips would be firstly, to make the most of the “golden hour” light for really memorable images (that is the hour just after dawn, and the last hour before sunset) when the sun is lower in the sky and the Bushveld is flooded with the most beautiful, soft light, making animals and their surroundings seem to glow; and secondly, to put the camera down from time to time and just enjoy the moment, taking in the wildlife, its behaviour and habitat and seeing the bigger picture…
Your inbox will still be there when you get back to the office! Safaris operate at a different pace, following the rhythms of Nature rather than calendars and meeting requests. By disconnecting and taking a “digital detox” you can reconnect in far more meaningful ways with the people closest to you, and with Nature… Feel the heartbeat of the African bush and enjoy slowing down for a few days while you catch your breath and immerse yourself in beauty and wonder.
Your guide will do his or her best to give you as much information as possible, acting as your navigator and interpreter as you explore the Bushveld together. But if you have a special interest, whether it be birds or butterflies, you only need to ask! Or is there a burning question you’ve always wanted to know the answer to: Why is a zebra striped? Is it true that you get right- and left-handed elephants? How many bones in a giraffe’s neck?
Your guide will be delighted to answer these and any other questions you may have – and never be shy to point out things that you’ve spotted. Safari guides are eagle-eyed but even they can miss things from time to time, so if you spot that elusive lion, sing out! (Even if it does turn out to be a log or a stump!)…
Smell the flowers
Slow down… Stop and look around… Take time to appreciate where you are, and especially the smaller details of life in the bush and all the sensory experiences it offers. Whilst the larger animals will always impress, there are many little critters also living in the bush which your guide can show you. From the chameleon’s ability to change its skin colour to match its surroundings to the tenacity of a dung beetle pushing a ball of dung many times its own size and weight, there are wonders everywhere.
Animal tracks and other signs can tell you all you need to know about what happened the night before. It’s like reading your morning newspaper, only without the boring bits about the economy. Instead your guide and tracker can reveal to you all the mysteries, scandals and even violence of the previous evening. Who was patrolling their territory? Who snuck off to mate with a female from another pride? And even, who killed who?
Smaller details can add so much to your African safari experience, so be sure to crouch down, look at the tracks, rub leaves between your fingers to release aromas, and (for the brave) check how warm the elephant dung is to see how recently it was deposited…
Safaris can be extremely addictive, so we confidently predict that you’ll return to experience the Bushveld again. Keep notes of everything you see, so that when you get home you can relive the memories of your trip and also keep track of which birds and animals you’ve seen, and which ones are on your “most-wanted” list.
A checklist will also help when it comes to identifying all the wildlife in your pictures when you get home. Was that a tawny eagle or a bateleur? Nyala or Kudu?
Do everything – and nothing!
African safaris offer a great range of activities, from traditional game drives and bush walks with your guides, to indulgent spa treatments, gourmet dinners, and even sleeping safaris (yes, contrary to popular belief, it’s not a crime to sleep in when on safari – and with guest accommodation as luxurious as in our lodges, we sure you’ll be tempted!). For a different perspective on the Bushveld, try a horseback safari or enjoy one of the many cultural experiences – insights into the lives and stories of the local communities will give you an even richer understanding of your African safari experience.
Getting the most out of you safari is often a question of achieving a balance between as many awesome experiences as possible, and also taking time out (this is a holiday, after all!) to pause and relax far from the stresses and worries of everyday life… Without traffic congestion, office politics, and the news, it is possible to find true peace. Breathe deeply and let the spirit of the African bush inspire and revive you.
Enjoy planning and preparing for your safari, and we look forward to welcoming you on your African safari very soon…