Its YOUR safari
A safari in Africa is the ultimate holiday. And it is your safari – your itinerary should reflect your budget, interests, expectations and desired accommodation comfort levels.
Here’s a guideline to accommodation types that you will encounter:
• City Hotel/Guesthouse/B&B, situated in or near main cities or airports, often used for overnight stays or as a base for day excursions.
• Country Hotel/Lodge, situated in rural areas, often located on large properties or farms.
• Game Lodge – situated in or near game reserves or remote wild areas.
• Bush Camp/Fly Camp. These small camps are often situated in very remote areas and often set up in areas that are inaccessible during the rainy season, resulting in the camp being totally broken down and rebuilt each year.
• Mobile Tented Camps are erected for a limited period, after which they are broken down. They are generally erected in game reserves for specific wildlife encounters (such as the migrations on the Mara in Kenya) or as part of an overland or walking expedition.
+ Accommodation comfort levels
• Rustic – This is no-frills accommodation and usually in very remote areas. Large tents or reed/pole huts are the norm, as are pit toilets and bucket showers. Water is often heated over a fire. Furnishing is basic but caters for all your needs.
• Comfortable – Comfortable furnishings, running hot and cold water, flush toilets.
• Luxury – Comparable to 4- and 5-star hotel standards.
• Deluxe – A clear rung above Luxury. Furnishings and attention to detail tend to be noticeably superior. Staff members often outnumber the guests.
You can also lessen the risk by avoiding being bitten. Wear long sleeves, trousers and socks and douse any exposed skin with a good mosquito repellent shortly before it gets dark (the anopheles mosquito is active at dawn and dusk), and always sleep under a net. Should you experience any combination of headache, fever, nausea, flu-like aches or disorientation within three months of returning home, get yourself tested immediately – malaria responds best to treatment when detected early.
+ Other diseases
Speak to your doctor about inoculations for yellow fever, tetanus, hepatitis A and B, cholera and rabies.
Best time to travel
Game is best viewed during dry seasons when there is less vegetation to hinder your view and when animals congregate near water sources. The dry months are generally more popular with safari goers, although this is partly because it coincides with the long northern hemisphere summer break. Prime game-viewing months tend to be May to October.
On the other hand, most animals have their babies during the wet seasons, when there is more to eat and drink. Babies are cute and great to watch and predators hunt very successfully at this time because the young animals are easy to catch. In addition bird watching is generally better during the wet summer months, when many birds are breeding and very vocal and visible and when the migratory birds are present.
Certain wildlife areas are very seasonal – in other words certain animals move in and out depending on the availability of water and food – while others have more sedentary animal populations (sometimes because they are fenced in).
Photography is arguably better during the wet months because the air is clear (no dust) and the colours more vibrant. Resign yourself to the fact that your camera equipment will get wet in the wet season and in the dry season it will become covered in dust.
• East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda and far northern Zambia)
This area is close to the equator and so seasonal fluctuations in temperature are largely insignificant. Expect generally warm weather, although temperatures can drop significantly during and after rainy weather, and at night. Temperatures will vary between 20 to 40 degrees Celsius.
The main rainy season is from April to May, with a lighter second rainy season from mid October to December. Neither rainy season should influence your travel plans although you should pack rain gear during those times.
Coastal areas are hot and humid throughout the year with December to March being uncomfortably so.
• Southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa excluding the Western Cape)
Expect hot & wet summers (November to March) and cool & dry winters (April to October). Rainfall tends to be in short thunder storms in the late afternoon. Temperatures will vary between 20 to 40 degrees Celsius in summer and 10 to 25 degrees in winter (with close to freezing at times, especially in higher lying areas). November can be especially hot and humid, with relief when the rains arrive.
• South Africa’s Western Cape
Mediterranean climate. Expect hot & dry summers (November to March) and cold & wet winters (April to October). Temperatures will vary between 15 to 32 degrees Celsius in summer (with up to 40 degrees every now and then) and 0 to 20 degrees in winter (snow in high-lying areas).
This is the southern tip of Africa and so expect the odd freak weather system in summer, bringing rain and lower temperatures.
+ A typical safari day
• Early morning wake up with tea/coffee and biscuits, or a light continental breakfast.
• Morning game drive – usually for about 3 to 4 hours.
• Late morning breakfast (brunch) or early lunch
• Siesta (some people choose this time for bush walks or excursions to nearby villages)
• Mid-afternoon tea and cake
• Late afternoon game drive with sundowners and snacks, often ending up as a night drive (with spot lights) – usually about 3 to 4 hours
• Dinner and fireside drinks
This routine can of course change if you bump into something really interesting during your game drive and stay out for the day or if that elusive leopard walks through camp during lunch and you decide to follow him by vehicle.
For some, skipping a game drive or two and doing some reading, writing, sketching or bird-watching around camp makes the safari truly relaxing.
Africa is no different to the rest of the world. If you plan to spend time in a city, take precautions as you would in your home country. Petty theft is common in cities, but physical attacks on tourists are very rare.
Safety tips for cities:
• Don’t wander around the streets after dark.
• Ask your hotel about unsafe areas and avoid them.
• Leave expensive jewellery at home and wear a cheap plastic watch.
• Don’t carry cameras and video cameras in full view.
• Keep your money and passport in a money belt and out of site or in a safe at your hotel.
• Dress like a local or at least dress casually.
• Use your cell phone discreetly, and not while driving.
Our final comment regarding crime and safety: You will spend most of your African holiday in a relatively remote and wild area where crime of any sort is extremely rare, if not non-existent.
+ Dangerous wildlife
• They are wild! These are not tame zoo or theme park animals. Even a small doe-eyed antelope can and will attack you if it feels threatened.
• Most safari camps are unfenced and dangerous animals can (and do!) wander through the camps, particularly at night.
• Please listen to the camp staff and guides. The safety precautions need to be taken seriously, and strictly adhered to.
• Don’t go wandering off on your own without a guide – even to your rooms. Don’t leave your rooms at night and don’t walk along river banks (crocodiles and hippos kill many people every year).
• Observe animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities. Loud talking and standing up on game drives can frighten the animals away.
• Never attempt to attract an animal’s attention. Don’t imitate animal sounds, clap your hands, pound the vehicle or throw objects. Please respect your driver-guide’s judgment about proximity to predators. A vehicle driven too close can hinder a hunt or cause animals to abandon a hard-earned meal. It can also trigger a charge.
• Litter tossed on the ground, in addition to being unsightly, can choke or poison animals and birds.
• Never attempt to feed or approach any wild animal on foot. This is especially important near lodges or in campsites where animals may have become accustomed to human visitors.
• Refrain from smoking on game drives. The dry African bush ignites very easily, and a flash fire can kill animals and destroy vast areas of grazing.
• Noisy children irritate other guests. They can also attract predators like leopards, as childlike noises are much like prey animal distress calls. For these reasons many lodges do not take children on game drives or even allow them at the lodge..
+ Passports, visas and paperwork
All passport holders should verify with their travel agent or relevant consulate concerning visa entry requirements. If you are extending your journey to other countries, please establish entry requirements for those countries as well. Please ensure that you have all the necessary visas prior to departure (unless available on entry).
If you intend to drive a vehicle in Africa please make sure you have a valid international driving license and vehicle ownership papers.
Make sure you have a vaccination certificate for yellow fever.
Keep copies of your documents and vital information as well as a few passport photos in your luggage, and leave a few with friends at home (passport, insurance docs, bank and credit card details, travellers cheque numbers, 24 hour emergency contact number, contact details of relatives or friends).
+ Airport departure taxes
+ Special interests
+ Bird watching
+ Children and age limits
+ Power and battery charging
Ask your lodge or agent about battery charging facilities and make sure you bring the necessary converters and adaptors (and spare batteries). Three prong square or round plugs are most commonly used in Africa.
Don’t expect them to wash your underwear – do that yourself.
Don’t hand in delicate or expensive clothing – the laundry process is often rather rudimentary and could cause damage to your clothes.
Plan on a 24 hour turn-around for your washing (but rain delays do occur).
+ Luggage limits
+ Customs and etiquette
Always treat people in other parts of the world with respect. Their cultures and reactions to things may be different to yours.
Most people go on holiday to escape from things, but if you anticipate having to be in constant contact with the outside world make sure that your lodge has facilities such as wireless Internet or satellite phone. Cell phone coverage can be found in most parts of Africa, but be prepared for areas of no coverage or lengthy trips to find sufficient signal strength.
For those guests that bring satellite phones on safari, and in areas where mobile phone reception is available, keep in mind the following:
1. Please ensure the ring tone is kept at a low volume to avoid disturbing other guests.
2. Please use your phone in the privacy of your room and not in any of the common areas or on any of the vehicles or on game drives
Remember that most people come on safari to “get away from it all”.
+ Packing list
• Light scarf – for hot and cold weather
• Sun hat
• Golf-shirts, T-shirts and long-sleeved cotton shirts
• Long trousers/slacks
• More formal attire for your stay at prestigious city hotels or on one of the luxury trains.
• Underwear (sports bra recommended on game drives as the roads can be bumpy and uneven) and socks
• Good walking shoes (running/tennis shoes are fine)
• Swimming costume
• Warm Anorak or Parka, scarf & gloves (it can get cold at night and early morning)
• Light rain gear for the rainy months
• Camera and video equipment and plenty of film and spare batteries
• If you wear contact lenses, we recommend that you bring along a pair of glasses in case your eyes get irritated by the dust
• Binoculars (Night vision binoculars are not essential but highly recommended if your safari includes night activities)
• Relevant bird book or app if you are a keen birder
• Personal toiletries
• Malaria tablets (if applicable)
• Moisturising cream & suntan lotion
• Insect repellent e.g. Tabard, Peaceful Sleep, Rid, Jungle Juice, etc
• Basic medical kit (aspirins, plasters, Imodium, antiseptic cream and anti-histamine cream etc)
• Tissues/”Wet Wipes”
• Visas, tickets, passports, money and important documents
• Waterproof/dustproof bags/cover for your cameras.
• A good torch and spare batteries.
• Padlocks for your luggage during international and regional flights
Please note that bright colours and white are NOT advised whilst on safari. We advise that you wear neutral coloured clothes – brown, tan, khaki, green etc.