10 ways to make your next safari unforgettable
Updated: Nov 1
Whether an African safari is high on your bucket list, or you’ve been on dozens of game drives, you want to make the most of your experience. Soaking in the summer sun, watching elephants greet each other with their trunks, listening to the low sounds of a lion’s roar in the distance.
From the friendly greeting of your safari guide to the amazing stories around the campfire, these are the moments that make a safari unforgettable. How can you make the most of it? Here are our top tips for the best bush holiday ever.
4 min read
1. Arrive prepared
Doing a bit of research ahead of time can make your trip that much more enjoyable. Where are you heading for your safari? Is it winter or summer there? What types of animals are you likely to see (and equally, what won’t you see)?
It’s always good to have a bit of knowledge before arrival to get the most out of your experience. This will also help you prepare some fun questions to ask your guide.
2. Follow a packing list
Packing the appropriate clothing and supplies is key. No one wants to be cold or driven mosquito-crazy. Most lodges can provide you with packing recommendations. Morning game drives can be cold, even in the winter, so bring layers! Insect repellent and sunscreen are essential in the bush.
Check out our guide’s guide to essential gear.
3. Appreciate the little things
A lot of people want to see the big, impressive or endangered species when they come on safari. And while you may see many of these animals, you’re not always going to see the Big Five on every game drive or bush walk.
But the bush has so much more to offer! From hundreds of species of birds, reptiles and arthropods to a myriad of plants and trees, and of course smaller, unique mammals, there’s so much more to see. It’s really the small things that bring the wild to life, if you take time to appreciate them.
4. Practise your photography
Wildlife photography is a special skillset. At Bushwise we have many students that love to practise this art (in fact, we teach wildlife photography in our course). As with any skill, practice makes perfect. And it takes a lot of patience to get the perfect shot.
You don’t want to miss that yawning hippo photo because your shutter speed was too slow! Test your skills by taking photos of household pets, or even at a sporting event – somewhere with lots of action and movement.
5. Put the camera down (occasionally)
Amazing photos really do make lasting memories, but don’t forget to live in the moment! We often see something happen with safari guests who visit for a week or more. Eventually, they leave the camera behind for a game drive or two – to experience each sighting as fully as possible. Between all the amazing photos you capture, be sure to occasionally set your camera aside and take in the experience with all of your senses.
6. Seek out moments of silence
There’s something incredibly fulfilling about finding a quiet corner and enjoying the silence. Bush holidays often go by way too quickly, full of excitement and action. Make the moment last by finding time for a quiet reflection.
Listen to the sounds of the bush – the birds, the insects, the distance sounds of mammals. Try and hold on to that special feeling, long after your safari ends.
7. Look down
When you’re on a game drive, you’re constantly scanning the surroundings for animal movement. It takes a lot of focus to actively look for wildlife, but don’t forget to check out what’s happening on the ground.
Animals leave tracks and signs everywhere, and interpreting their messages is like reading the morning paper! How cool would it be to see a lion paw print, or evidence from an elephant feeding? Point out anything interesting to your guide, it might just lead to a sighting.
8. Look up
South Africa hosts hundreds of bird species – up to 900 have been recorded! If you develop an interest in birding, there’s no such thing as a quiet game drive. Sitting by a waterhole on a summer’s day can lead to you seeing dozens of species in a short amount of time. Challenge friends and family to see as many different birds as possible.
9. Get to know your guide
One of the best parts of a safari is having an excellent safari guide. Becoming a safari guide takes a lot of work and training, so these individuals definitely have some great stories to share. They might even know individual animals (like resident leopards) or know a secret spot to see some elusive species.
An accomplished field guide really knows their stuff and interprets the wild world around them, making each sighting more interesting. Ask them questions – they love to talk!
10. Have fun!
Let’s be real – this is actually safari tip #1 – so go for it. Have fun, keep an open mind, laugh at the cheeky baboons and melt into a puddle over the baby elephants. And just imagine it: what if you could have a safari career?
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