Eventually, hopefully, there comes a time in every traveler’s life when they get to knock off a big travel bucket list item like the African safari. Personally that moment came much earlier in my life than I expected, but I was eager for the experience! Not knowing many other people personally who had been on safari, I was stuck scouring the depths of tripadvisor to make sure I was fully prepared.
Going on a safari was a life changing experience and I can’t wait to do it again–I also can’t recommend it enough. It’s made me the most annoying party guest! If you’re hesitating about going through the lengthy process of planning a safari trip, I hope I can assuage your concerns and inspire you to go!
I am by no means a safari expert, but I found these to be very helpful in planning my own trip. So if you’re going on safari soon, or dream of one day going, I hope that these tips will help guide and inspire you!
1. Update Your Vaccines
Vaccines, vaccines, vaccines. Before you plan any part of your trip make sure you’re up to date on all your vaccines. I list this one first because there is a required amount of time you’ll need to have this done before you leave on your travels. Check which ones you will need that are required for entry into each country…especially if you will be crossing borders. For example, I wasn’t required to have the Yellow Fever vaccine to enter Zambia, Zimbabwe, or Botswana but I was required to have the vaccine after traveling to those countries to re-enter South Africa on our way back home. Also, you most likely will need to get a prescription for malaria pills.
I am not a health-care professional, and you should always consult your doctor before getting vaccinated and traveling to foreign countries.
2. Check Your Visas
Same goes for visas. Always check which visas you’ll need ahead of time, or how many blank pages you’ll need in your passport if you get your visa at the border. One of the countries I visited required 12 blank pages for their visa at the border, so you may need to add pages like I did which requires extra time to mail your passport!
3. Pack Hot and Cold Weather Clothing
Game drives (the term for the actual drive when you’re out on safari), take place early in the morning and early evening. This is the coolest part of the day which is when the animals are most active so you’ll want to pack accordingly, especially when driving in an open air vehicle. I brought one pair of pants, a light fleece, and a scarf I could throw on in the morning if I got chilly. The midday heat will be the time to shed your layers!
4. Don’t Forget Bug Spray
You can’t be too cautious when it comes to mosquitoes, allegedly one of the deadliest animals because of their ability to transmit diseases. And make sure you use it.
5. Bring Your Zoom Lens
Don’t worry, you’ll be up close and personal with lots of African wildlife but some are best given a little space and photographed from a distance. I’ve recently discovered that you can rent different lenses for your camera. A zoom lens is something I would use very rarely, so renting is a great option if you don’t want to drop major dollars on a new lens!
6. Neutral Colored Clothes
This is not as big of a deal as I thought after I did some research (you don’t have to wear all khaki!), but you’ll definitely want to stay away from any neon or bright colors. Also, dark colors like black and blue can attract tsetse flies depending on your region of travel.
7. Movies To Watch Before You Go
African Queen; The Ghost and the Darkness; Virunga: Gorillas in Peril; Out of Africa
Watching some great safari inspo before you depart will get you excited! Although maybe leave The Ghost and the Darkness for your return…? Just a thought.
8. Ask Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I was blown away by the knowledge of my guide, and how much I learned about the animal kingdom. I wish I had asked even more questions! There is so much to learn. Did you know elephants spend 70% of their waking life eating?
9. Pack Some Patience
You will see animals every day. Warthogs, zebras, giraffes, birds, impala and other antelope, but it involves a lot of patience–especially if you’re expecting to see any of the big 5 (elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, cape buffalo). For example, I didn’t see lions up close until our final game drive of the trip (we almost didn’t even go out that morning!). On the other hand, I saw hundreds elephants almost every single day because Chobe National Park is known for its high concentration of elephants. The animals and frequency at which you find them will depend on your region. Make sure you pack some patience and you’re guaranteed a wonderful experience no matter what!
10. Put Your Phone Down and Be in the Moment
I can’t say this enough. My boss made this comment to me before I left, and it was a nice reminder. In the world of social media it is easy to get caught up snapping/tweeting/ instagramming every minute of your trip…and I get it–it’s exciting! It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity you want to share with family and friends back home! But be sure to soak it all in for yourself and appreciate the beauty of this once-in-a-lifetime (for most of us) experience. After all, you’re there to make memories and I’ve found I remember much more when I’m fully present.
How about you? Have you ever been on a safari? What tips do you have for planning your trip?!