Having never experienced an African safari before, traveling throughout Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa for an entire month via Land Rover was everything I imagined yet nothing like what I expected. Does that even make sense?! Just think of it this way – conjure up memories of every African movie you’ve seen, news you’ve heard about the great southern continent, and your own opinions on what traveling in an African country may be like, and roll it all into one. Now you probably have some idea of what Africa may be like, but it is so much more than that, and to find out what I’m talking about, you have to take the big leap and just go there! To give you an idea of what I’ve experienced, I thought I would provide you with an example of a typical day on safari.
First, I must mention that sleeping in on African safari just isn’t an option if you don’t want to miss out on the best game sightings of the day! Your camp staff will come around to each canvas tent at 5:00 AM with a big happy, “WAKE UP!!!” And get this, they even bring you coffee! Once you roll out of bed, brush your teeth, and grab your daypack (complete with camera, binoculars, raincoat, sunscreen, etc.), head over to the main lodge for a light breakfast with your safari companions and guides. Around 6:00, it’s time to head out on safari, so get your game face on!
Now you have two options: A) make a plan for the route you’ll travel in the Land Rover based on what animals/birds/plants/geology you’re looking for, or B) head out in any random direction to see what you come across! If you’re anything like me on your first African safari, you’ll want to see all of the wildlife, and your expert guides know all of the tips and tricks in the book for tracking animals and birds alike to give you the ultimate safari experience! Sometimes, you’ll just pop in on an animal that you weren’t expecting. Other times you’ll follow a lion’s tracks through the sand, trying to find out where he’s going to stop for shade mid-morning. Every now and then, you’ll stop the vehicle, listening to the calling of the animals and birds around you as these noises can give clues as to the whereabouts of a larger predator. The guides also communicate back and forth with radios and clue other vehicles in on what wildlife they’ve found in the area. One way or another, your safari guides work with you to provide you the ultimate wildlife sightings you’ve always dreamed of, and a little luck never hurts either!
After your morning game drive, you’ll arrive back to the lodge around 10:00, and a big, delicious brunch is served around 11:00. Once your stomach is full and you’ve relived your favorite moments of the morning with the other members of your camp, a nap is looking pretty darn good, or maybe you just want to head back to your tent to relax in the shade of your deck. If you’re in southern Africa in the summer time, taking the afternoon to rest is your best option, and often the wildlife are not active either because of the heat. Choose to take a dip in your lodge’s plunge pool, read a book on one of the comfy couches, or sleep away the heat of the day. Whatever you choose, meet back at the main lodge at 4:00 for tea time before another safari activity!
In the afternoon, you can of course choose to head out on another game drive, perhaps in a different area of the concession or Park you reside in. But often, the lodges provide other activities dependent on what features are in the area. Some guides provide “game walks” where you can track game on foot. A few lodges, especially the ones near a water source, provide boat rides or mokoro excursions (a type of canoe-like boat propelled forward by a “poleman”). Some lodges are near villages where you can meet the locals and buy African trinkets to bring home to your friends. Still others are near operators that can take you on a hot air balloon ride, zip lining, or even bungee jumping. Whatever you decide to do, don’t miss the opportunity to get out and experience Africa!
Typically, just as the sun goes down (assuming you aren’t in the middle of a wildlife viewing) your guide will stop the vehicle at a beautiful sunset viewing spot for what Africans call a “sundowner”. As the sun disappears over the horizon, illuminating everything in a golden light, clink glasses with your guide as you sip your favorite drink under a beautiful African sunset.
After you get back from your afternoon excursion, take a few minutes to head back to your tent for a quick shower before pre-dinner drinks back at the lodge. Often, you’ll need to have a guide come pick you up at a certain time because you can’t walk by yourself after dark with all of the wild animals wandering around at night in camp. Maybe choose a gin and tonic or an Amarula on ice before a delicious dinner with your camp mates around 8:00 PM. Dinner will be accompanied by your choice of wine and often features a vegetarian dish, a red meat choice, and something like chicken or lamb with a side of fresh veggies, rice, and potatoes. Regional options are often included and I highly encourage you to try the kudu or Oryx, yum!
-After dinner, a member of the staff will accompany you back to your tent for a restful night’s sleep. As you lay in bed at night, listen to the sounds of the African bush come alive. Frogs, hippos, baboons, and hyenas will all “sing” you to sleep as you drift off after a thrilling day spent exploring Africa’s wilderness. Tomorrow, look forward to waking up and doing it all over again!
Experience everything the bush has to offer on safari with Austin Adventures. If you want a mix of adrenaline-inducing game watching mixed with much-needed relaxation time for you, your significant other, and/or family, you know who to call!
See you in the bush!