Safari advice

It’s 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

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Clothing

Comfortable, casual clothes are best. Muted colours and neutral tones such as beige, khaki and green are recommended for game viewing. Steer clear of bright colours like red, yellow, purple and white. Game drives are conducted in the early morning and late afternoon, which can be very cold, especially in winter.

  • Shirts with long sleeves (even in summer for protection from the sun and insects)

  • T-shirts / cotton blouses

  • Long socks as bug protection

  • Light scarf / buff for dust and sun protection

  • Shorts or a light skirt (short skirts aren’t practical)

  • Jeans or safari trousers for evenings and cooler days

  • Jackets, sweaters, a scarf and gloves are recommended for early morning and evening game drives during winter

  • Lightweight water-proof jacket

  • Swim- and beach-wear

  • Underwear – roads can be bumpy so suitable women’s attire is suggested

  • Formal attire if you are staying at a prestigious hotel/luxury train

  • Comfortable walking shoes and sandals (heels aren’t recommended)

Equipment
  • Sun protection: hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, lip protection (SPF30 or higher recommended)

  • If you wear contact lenses, we recommend you bring a pair of glasses along should your eyes get irritated by dust

  • Personal medical kit including malaria prophylactics if applicable

  • Personal toiletries (basic amenities are supplied by most hotels/lodges)

  • Important travel documents, and digital and physical copies thereof

  • Insect repellent for body application

  • Lightweight backpack to carry essentials on walking safaris

  • Tote bag / waist bag

  • Insulated water bottle

  • Sweat/gym towel

  • Tissues / hand wipes / sanitizer

  • Binoculars: general purpose specifications are 8x40 or 10x42

  • Camera & video equipment including spare memory cards, batteries, charging cables

  • Waterproof / dust-proof bags for camera equipment

  • Mobile phone chargers

  • Torch and reading headlamp + batteries

  • Padlocks / cable ties to lock your luggage

  • Ziplock bags of various sizes

  • Ear plugs

  • Travel pillow

  • Power bank for on-the-go charging

  • Country-specific plugs and adaptors

  • Envelopes for tipping

  • Notebook and pencil

  • Relevant bird book/app – ask us for recommendations

  • Favourite entertainment to relax – sketch book / colouring-in book / Kindle / books / magazines

See you on safari!

The exact makeup of your day will depend on what activities are on offer, but most safari days look (something) like this:

  • Early morning wake up with tea/coffee and biscuits, or a light continental breakfast

  • Morning game drive – usually for about 3–4 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 spotlights) – usually about 3–4 hours

  • Dinner and fireside drinks

This routine may change depending on what nature delivers during your stay. The routine also depends on the season – game drives often start later during summer due to higher temperatures and extended sunlight hours.

For some, skipping a game drive or two to do some reading, writing, sketching or bird-watching around camp adds to their enjoyment

Most accommodation options have en-suite and private bathrooms/toilets, hot water, clean bedding, good food and well-stocked bars with ice – unless otherwise stated.

Expect the following broad comfort levels:

  • Rustic: This is no-frills accommodation, usually in very remote areas. Large tents or reed/pole huts are the norm, as are pit toilets and safari/bucket showers. Water is often heated over a fire. Furnishing is basic but caters for 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

The selection of accommodation options is vast, ranging from straw huts and tented camps to ultra-luxury hotels and lodges, and your choice will be influenced mainly by your needs and budget.

Here’s a guideline for 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 that are inaccessible during the rainy season, resulting in the camp being broken down and rebuilt each year.

  • Mobile tented camps: 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 Maasai Mara in Kenya) or as part of a mobile safari or walking expedition

Quality (and quantity!) of food will impress you. Every establishment will have its own style, ranging from sophisticated Euro-cuisine to indigenous African fare.

Expect attention to detail, even with fireside snacks and hors d’oeuvres. Even the most rustic bush camps and mobile camps that cook over coals often put extra effort into producing the most appetising meals.

Please let us know your dietary requirements so we can inform the catering services on your trip about your needs, whether for health or religious reasons

Many lodges are accessed via air. Weight restrictions on small aeroplanes are generally 12–15kg in soft bags for all luggage, including camera equipment. Treat these limits seriously.

Let us know if you have excess luggage weight or if you weigh above 100kg – you may need to pay a premium.

Keep clothing to a minimum as safari style is casual, and there is most often a daily laundry service.

Use soft luggage so it can be stowed easily in the luggage hold of small aeroplanes

The majority of hotels and lodges provide a daily laundry service.

A few rules:

  • Underwear: please wash your own underwear with soap provided by your lodge, or request soap from the lodge manager. Most washing is done by hand, and cultural restrictions mean that many lodge staff members will not wash other people’s underwear.

  • 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 (though rain delays can occur)

Tipping is often a sensitive issue – for you and the recipient. Our tried and tested strategy is to ask the lodge manager or guide for assistance.

We usually tip about US$15–20 per day to our guide/tracker to share between them and about the same for general staff (porters, cooks, cleaners, fire makers, waiters, guards etc) to share. Some lodges have an anonymous tipping box for all staff.

People travelling in a group often end up pooling tips and presenting this at the end of the safari. Some people prefer to tip directly. An important point is that this is entirely at your discretion.

One golden rule: Never tell your guide/tracker that their tip depends on them finding certain animals – this is unfair and may pressure them to bend the rules to please you. This could cause damage to the environment and wildlife.

Further reading: Safari tips: Tipping while on safari

Africa, the second largest continent (after Asia), is host to variable climates, from Mediterranean to equatorial. Expect low-lying areas to be hotter and more humid and high-lying areas to be cooler. Geographical features such as mountains and lakes can affect weather patterns by bringing more rain and wind.

General guidelines are:

  • East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Rwanda, DRC, Ethiopia and far northern Zambia)
    This area is close to the equator, so seasonal temperature fluctuations are largely insignificant. Expect generally warm weather, although temperatures can drop during and after rainy weather and at night. Temperatures will vary between 20–40 degrees Celsius. The main rainy season is from April to May, with a lighter second rainy season from mid-October to December. Pack rain gear during those times. Coastal areas are hot and humid throughout the year, with December to March being uncomfortably humid.

  • Southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa, excluding the Western Cape)
    Expect hot and wet summers (November to March) and cool and dry winters (April to October). Rainfall tends to be during brief thunderstorms in the late afternoon or evening. Temperatures will vary between 20–40 degrees Celsius in summer and 10–25 degrees in winter (with close-to-freezing temperatures sometimes, 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 and dry summers (November to March) and cold & wet winters (April to October). Temperatures will vary between 15–32 degrees Celsius in summer (up to 40 degrees now and then, especially inland) and 0–20 degrees in winter (snow in high-lying areas). This is the southern tip of Africa, so expect the odd freak weather system in summer, bringing rain and lower temperatures. The windy season is from September to February and is a popular time with international & competitive kite surfers

Wildlife is best viewed during the dry seasons when there is less vegetation to hinder your view and when animals are more likely to 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 from 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 a delight to watch, and predators hunt very successfully at this time because the young animals are easy prey.

Bird watching is generally better during the wet summer months, when many birds are breeding, vocal and visible,  and when migratory birds are present.

Photography is good all year round – from the vibrant colours and clear air of the rainy months to the smoky air and subtle colours of the dry months. Resign yourself to the fact that your camera equipment may get wet in the wet season and dusty in the dry season

Let us know your children’s ages so we can advise on the best child-friendly lodges and experiences. Some lodges have age restrictions, but well-behaved children over 8 are usually permitted, although some lodges only allow children older than 12. Please be considerate of your fellow guests, as noisy children can disrupt their holiday.

There is no upper age limit on safaris. Please let us know your age and fitness level for safaris involving any form of physical exercise (such as bush walking or gorilla trekking). We will then suggest options that suit you.
A letter from your physician declaring a certain fitness level might be required to partake in a walking safari if you are above a certain age. The minimum age for gorilla trekking is usually 15 years, and for walking safaris 16 years

A good antihistamine cream is recommended for your travels, in case you are bitten by any bugs while on safari (such as tsetse flies, pepper ticks, spiders or sand fleas).

Check your body for ticks after every bush walk and at least once a day, even if you are not walking. If these bites cause discomfort or concern, approach your lodge manager for advice

Malaria is a potentially fatal disease transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito.

Please consult your doctor for advice on malaria precautions before you travel to Africa. Your doctor may recommend malaria prophylaxis and other precautionary measures.

When travelling to risk areas, take all precautions possible. Wear long sleeves, trousers and socks and douse any exposed skin with a good mosquito repellent, especially before it gets dark (the anopheles mosquito is active at dawn and dusk). Always sleep under a mosquito net.

Should you experience any combination of headache, fever, nausea, flu-like aches or disorientation while or after entering a malaria area, get yourself tested immediately – malaria responds best to treatment when detected early.

Certain factors influence the risk of contracting malaria. For example, a low-lying equatorial swamp will be high-risk all year round, a dry montane plateau set at a subtropical latitude will probably carry low risk, and places falling between these extremes often show a marked seasonal pattern – medium to high risk in the wet summer months, low to no risk in the dry winter.

Read more about malaria here

Consult your doctor before travelling to Africa for advice on necessary vaccinations and precautions for diseases such as yellow fever, typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A and B, cholera and rabies. Please always carry your “International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP)” (or “Yellow Card”) with you

The African sun is powerful and harmful, and overexposure can cause sunburns and skin cancer. Always use sunblock and a hat – particularly if you are on foot, in a boat, or in an open vehicle

It is essential that you drink plenty of water to limit the effects of dehydration, especially during the warmer months. Most lodges and mobile safari operators provide bottled water. Ask your lodge manager if the local tap water is safe to drink.

Note that tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages act as diuretics and can contribute to dehydration

While there are trouble spots in Africa, the areas where you will spend time are probably as far away from those trouble spots as the Middle East is from London.

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 extremely 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 sight or in the hotel safe.

  • Dress like a local, or at least casually.

  • Use your cell phone discreetly, and not while driving.

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

A few things to remember about wild animals:

  • Wild animals can be dangerous and should be treated with respect and caution.

  • Most safari camps are unfenced, and dangerous animals like buffaloes, lions, hippos and elephants can (and do) wander through the camps, particularly at night.

  • Listen to camp staff and guides. Safety precautions and advice must be taken seriously and strictly adhered to.

  • Don’t wander off on your own without a guide. Even walking to your room at night can be dangerous. Elephants and buffaloes are impossible to see after dark, even a few metres. Don’t leave your rooms at night, and don’t walk along riverbanks (crocodiles and hippos kill many people yearly).

  • Observe animals silently and with minimal disturbance to their natural activities. Loud talking and standing up on game drive vehicles can frighten animals away or illicit an aggressive reaction.

  • 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 judgement about proximity to predators and large animals like elephants. 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. Lodges and campsites suffer the consequences as these animals may become accustomed to humans – leading to danger for all involved.

  • Refrain from smoking on game drives. The dry African bushveld ignites very easily, and a fire can kill animals and destroy grazing areas.

  • Do not leave young children unattended while on safari. Noisy children can irritate other guests. Also, to predators such as leopards, children often sound like prey animals making distress calls. Young children that are unsteady on their feet or erratic in their movements can trigger an attack from even small animals that would typically avoid humans. For these reasons, many lodges do not allow children on game drives or even allow them at the lodge

As far as cash is concerned, US Dollars and local currency are accepted through most of Southern and East Africa. Only in South Africa are US Dollars not legally accepted – the only accepted currency is the South African Rand (ZAR).

Banks and foreign exchange bureaus are available at all international airports and main towns. However ATMs do not dispense USD notes, only local currency. Do not buy local currency from street dealers. Officials and vendors may not always be able to issue large amounts of change, so please carry small denominations of cash where possible.

Credit cards: VISA and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards, with American Express and Diners only accepted at some lodges (due to their high fees). Please note that credit card transactions could take up to a few months to go through on guests’ cards, especially from more remote areas. Some lodges accept tipping by credit card, but most prefer cash placed in an envelope or in the communal tip box.

Having some local cash and USD on hand is recommended, however, you will not require large sums of cash while on safari as most lodges are all-inclusive unless of course, you wish to do curio shopping (markets will require cash). We advise against using traveller’s cheques as they are not accepted by street vendors and only by a small minority of restaurants and lodges.

In South Africa, travellers taking goods out of South Africa can reclaim VAT. VAT Reclaim Offices are found at international airports

Travel insurance is vital for travel anywhere in the world, and you should purchase it within 14 days of paying the deposit for your trip.

Make sure your insurance package covers cancellation or curtailment of the safari, emergency evacuation expenses, medical expenses such as hospitalisation, repatriation expenses, and damage/theft/loss of personal baggage, money and goods

All passport holders should verify visa entry requirements with their relevant consulate. Visas are the responsibility of the traveller.

International visitors require a passport valid for at least six months, together with onward travel documents.

Passports should have a minimum of 2–4 clean pages per country visited for visas and entry/exit stamps (some visas take up an entire page).

If you are extending your journey to other countries, please also establish entry requirements for those countries.
Please ensure you have all the necessary visas before 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 electronic and physical copies of your documents and vital information, as well as a few passport photos, in your luggage. Leave a few with friends at home (passport, insurance docs, bank and credit card details, 24-hour emergency contact number, and contact details of relatives or friends).

The choice of camera equipment in addition to your mobile phone will determine the quality of your photographs.

A decent DSLR camera with a telephoto lens is necessary for good photography of birds and animals. A zoom lens can be extremely useful on safari; the minimum recommended size is 200mm. Most of your photos will probably be taken on an 80–200mm lens. Before travelling with any lens bigger than 400 mm, consideration should be given as most interesting shots are taken using hand-held equipment.

Bring sufficient memory cards and batteries, as these are not readily available. A tripod and beanbag are essential. Always ask about camera-charging facilities at lodges.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) are not allowed in most conservation areas throughout Africa, and we advise that these be left at home.

Please remember to ask permission before taking a photograph of any local person.

Speak to your consultant about luggage restrictions and excess luggage for your photography equipment, especially if you will be travelling in smaller planes.

Africa has over 2,100 species of birds, and you will need to come prepared if you want to make the most of your trip. Buy a good field guide (paper or app) before you arrive.

Most lodges stock guidebooks in their libraries, but they are for general guest use. Take the time beforehand to peruse the guidebook and get to know the birds in the area. Take a good pair of binoculars and a notebook.

Some lodges supply a bird list. Most importantly, if you are a birder, remember that your fellow travellers may not share your enthusiasm.

If you are not on an organised birding expedition, please be considerate when on game drives and ask your lodge manager to group you with other birders

Larger establishments will have a mains power supply (220–240 volts), but smaller remote lodges often make do with solar power or generators linked to 12-volt battery power.

Generators are run during the day when guests are on game drives. Some remote bush camps only offer charging via the game drive vehicle, if at all, and lighting is via paraffin lamps.

Many lodges will have plug adaptors for most countries but check which plugs are used, and bring your own adaptors. Three-prong square or round plugs are most commonly used in Africa.

Let us know your battery charging requirements so that we can find out the finer details for you.

Bring spare batteries or travel with a power bank

Be sensitive about and respectful of local customs wherever you go. A bit of research beforehand will stand you in good stead.

Almost any dress code goes in hotels and lodges, but on certain city streets, beaches and rural communities, it is advised to dress and behave more conservatively. This is especially so in Islamic parts of East Africa when visiting remote tribes, attending cultural ceremonies, or visiting areas near shrines, places of worship, burial and sacred sites, etc.

Always treat people in other parts of the world with respect. Their cultures and reactions to things may be different to yours

Communication with the outside world is possible in some form from most lodges. However, mobile camps and bush camps are often completely cut off from the outside world, with emergencies catered for via two-way radio or satellite phone between the camp and the nearest larger lodge.

If you anticipate having to be in constant contact with the outside world, ask us if your lodge has facilities such as wireless internet or satellite phone. Many remote lodges do have internet facilities, but many have a policy of no internet for guests. If this is a problem, let us know.

Cell phone coverage can be found in many parts of Africa, but be prepared for areas without 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 ringtone 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

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