So you’ve finally booked that safari trip you have been dreaming of since your teens (that was certainly the case for me!). Whether it’s your honeymoon, annual holiday, a girls getaway or the next item to tick off your bucket list, a safari is such a unique trip. To ensure you make the most of it, here are 11-what-to-know before your first safari.
Ever wondered why everyone ever pictured on safari is dressed in khaki? Turns out it’s not just for the Tarzan-aesthetic but in fact recommended by your safari guide.
Khaki, greens, browns, and greys are the go-to colours for the bush and help you blend in with your surroundings so as not to disturb the wildlife (and attract more sightings). This is a MUST if you are on foot as any bright colours will scare away all animals, which is the whole reason you came on safari right?!
That being said, when in your safari jeep you can tend to get away without dressing like a Wild Thornberry as animals perceive the vehicle as one being rather than lots of humans.
2) DO NOT MISS A WALKING SAFARI
Without a doubt, this was the best part of my safari trip. Getting on foot opens a whole new world up and instead of being a spectator in the jeep, you suddenly become part of the drama.
Of the three walking safaris we took, one included being surrounded by two elephant herds, the next lead us to a rare sighting of a leopard after tracking a hyena pack, and the third walk had us trekking barefoot through a river with crocodiles and hippos.
All of which were accompanied by two guides, their guns and a strong set of rules that must be followed. 1. Never run. 2. Always follow the guide’s instruction. 3. Walk in a single file line. 4. No talking while walking.
3) BINNY = BINOCULARS
This may have just been in South Africa but all the locals, guides and South African residents referred to their binoculars as ‘binnies.’ And what’s more, this item is a necessity. Lions won’t just be parading up to your jeep, you’re going to need to track them down in the far distance.
I arranged my safari trip very last minute so borrowed binoculars from my parents (as well as the ultimate khaki safari hat, thanks Dad). But if you are into your wildlife or have been saving for this trip forever, consider investing in a decent pair as you wouldn’t want cheap blurry binoculars to prevent a rare leopard sighting.
4) BRING A JUMPER
Early starts to spot animals mean you will be up and out before sunrise and although you may be in a hot continent, it surprised me just how cold it was before the sun came up.
I’m a cold-blooded human and needed a t-shirt, fleece, jacket, and blanket in the morning while my warm-blooded travel partner survived perfectly with just a jumper (Side note: I was freezing on the beach in Australia in the height of summer, drama Queen).
5) IT TAKES TIME
Thankfully you’re on safari and not at the zoo. This does mean that you will have to be patient and keep your eyes peeled for animals.
Depending on where you go on safari will also affect how often and what your sightings are. We opted for the far North of Kruger National Park in South Africa and did not see a single tourist, but it also meant sometimes we had to wait longer to spot that elephant footprint and thus the herd.
I’ve also heard of the opposite, where animal sightings are like trips to the zoo which also includes traffic jams of tourists queuing for their turn.
6) SAY YES TO YOUR GUIDE
For each game drive or walking safari you do, you will have a guide. At our lodge, we were assigned the same guide for the duration of our trip which meant he got to know us and could tailor our experiences.
On our penultimate evening, our guide asked if we wanted to go for a walk by the river in the morning. Slightly exhausted by this point of the trip we could have easily opted to sit down in the jeep for our final morning but, ever the enthusiasts we agreed and ended up knee deep with crocodiles – an experience we would have never had in the car.
So if your guide has a wacky plan or asks if you are interested in a sunset hike always say yes (otherwise you may as well be watching David Attenborough on your sofa)!
7) ZOOM LENS
If you’re reading this we can assume you are into photography, whether it is snaps for your social media, or you enjoy it on a more professional level having a good lens is key for a safari.
Thankfully my wildlife-nerd-Dad came to the rescue with this one. Again, because we had booked the safari so last minute we hadn’t even considered zoom lenses until my Dad mentioned we could borrow his, what a life saver.
A zoom lens enabled us to capture truly amazing moments which we couldn’t have done on our regular (20 mm – 55mm) lens or phone. We used a 55 – 250 mm lens which was perfect for snapping animals in the distance but not too bulky when on foot. There were some rather hysterical members in our safari group who’s super-duper-zoom lens could almost tickle the animals yet their photos weren’t leaps ahead of ours.
When justifying spending money on a zoom lens, just think how much money you’ve spent on the safari trip itself. It seems silly not to bring home the memories.
8) IT’S NOT A HOLIDAY
I said a similar thing about skiing. For me a holiday = relaxing. A safari, like skiing, is not relaxing in the slightest. Sure, you can make it relaxing and opt out of a morning walk or choose to stay in for the evening game drive but where’s the adventure in that?
If you do a safari properly there will be a 5 am wake-up call, at least 6 hours spent in the bush and little time for chilling. Although some days will be spent sitting in the jeep for a lengthy duration, your eyes will be forever scanning the bush and heart racing when you spot an animal which means no time to nod off in the car. By the end of the day, you will roll into bed excited by the prospect of the next early morning alarm.
9) FOLLOW THE RULES
Your guide will explain the basics like don’t jump out the jeep, don’t try to touch the animals, don’t litter etc, so do yourself a favor and follow these rules for the sake of your life and the animals.
While on walking safari this is even more paramount! I’ve heard horror stories about people ‘doing it for the photo,’ hanging out the side of the jeep next to a pack of lions. Don’t be that guy.
10) CHOOSE YOUR ACCOMMODATION WISELY
Whether you go to Tanzania, South Africa or Sri Lanka there are going to be a variety of accommodation options for you. These will range from basic campsites to glamping to luxury honeymoon lodges.
While one may assume spending big bucks means you will have a better experience, often those in the campsites have far more interaction with wildlife than the honeymooners. If you are sleeping in the heart of the bush, you are far more likely to find a giraffe nibbling your toes at breakfast than the honeymooners who opted for seclusion!
What’s more, if you have an option to choose your room/tent/spot make sure you choose one on the edge of the resort to increase your chance of accommodation animal sightings. As a rule of thumb, where there are fewer people there is more wildlife (this can also be applied to water if your accommodation has a pool, and you may find a thirsty elephant poking around the sun loungers!)
11) ASK SILLY QUESTIONS
If you are the only person in your group who doesn’t know the difference between a baboon and a vervet monkey, ask your guide! Otherwise, you will spend the whole week sitting silently nodding your head, pointing your binoculars at the sky because you can’t remember whether baboons run away from or towards their tree when a jeep approaches.
If I hadn’t of asked what that lump in the tree was, we would have never stopped to examine and come to realise it was the lesser-spotted-rainbow-owl (Pel’s Fishing Owl). This was an incredibly rare sighting in Kruger National Park and our South African bird-enthusiast friends were buzzing to record it in their birding notepad.
12) BONUS TIP: CHECK THE SEASONS
We went on a last minute safari in Kruger National Park South Africa during October which was the end of winter and noticed a lack of greenery. What would normally be a bustling water hole was instead a dried up sand patch. That’s not to say we saw less wildlife! If anything, Winter means less foliage so it is easier to sight animals, while Summer is greener, so it can be harder to spot animals but visually gorgeous.
In winter, the guides can confidently take you to known animal hang out spots (for predator and prey) yet during the rainy summer, the animals tend to be more widespread as their food options increase.
The time of year will also impact how many other tourists you see on safari. If you are going to a public national park, opting for either side of peak season shouldn’t lessen your chance of witnessing wildlife but should increase your enjoyment. I’ve heard many horror stories of jeep-loads of tourists queuing to sight an elephant, with traffic jams around the water hole. You check the local season before you go!
Going on safari is truly incredible and totally considered to be a once in a lifetime trip (that hopefully, you can take again and again!).
If you’ve never been on safari before why not join We Are Travel Girls Getaway in Malawi? This October we are taking a group on game drives in Liwonde National Park, riverboat safari spotting elephants and taking part in a community project around Lake Malawi.
Have you ever been on a safari? If you have any questions about the destination please leave these in the comments below.
To receive our articles and reviews straight to your inbox Subscribe Here.
Our Top Places To Stay In Kruger National Park, South Africa
- The Outpost Lodge
- Kambaku River Lodge
- Tintswalo Safari Lodge
- Find the best price on hotels in Kruger National Park, South Africa
- Sign up to AirBnB with this link and receive a US $35 off your first booking
Read More About Africa
- 10 Reasons You Should Visit Malawi, Africa
- How Adventuring Through Africa Helped Me Grow As A Traveler
- South African Safari In The Karoo, Eastern Cape
- 10 Awesome Things To Do In Cape Town, South Africa
Book A Safari With We Are Travel Girls
Pin For Later
This website is a free resource and to keep it free for our readers we may use affiliate links in our articles. If you make a purchase via the links on our site you will pay the same price, but we may receive a small percentage which helps us to keep bringing you new and informative travel content every day! Any products we endorse we personally use and love. Please see our Disclosures for more information.