Things you should know before going on your first African safari

Elephants in Kruger National Park

Ever since I was little, I’ve been known to be a huge lover of animals. My grandparents used to own and live on a farm that I frequently visited as a child and would be around the cows all the time. My grandma still has a photo of me lying in the hammock covered head to toe in all my stuffed animals…literally! Every single toy animal I owned was in that hammock with me.  

When I had the opportunity to be part of a tour to South Africa a few months ago with Toerboer and VividLife and have a chance to be on a South African safari, I couldn’t pass it up! I think it’s safe to say that an African safari, or game drive of any type is probably on every single traveller’s bucket list, and I was no different, so I jumped at the chance! With elephants being my favourite animal, I knew I was prepared to slightly ugly-cry when I saw one in the wild, or at least be completely awestruck! 

I was right.

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Being on safari in South Africa with wild animals roaming around in their natural habitat was simply incredible. As calm as the elephants are, you can’t help but feel a slight drop in your stomach as they inch closer to your vehicle, as it isn’t unheard of animals charging cars during safaris. They aren’t afraid of cars, you guys! It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened, but usually only when they feel threatened, or maybe during mating season. Just giving you a heads up! 

If you’re heading to Africa and want to do a safari, or game drive, here are some things you should know before you go:

They start early and move slowly

If you’re not a morning person, well, you better become one if you want to head out on a safari. Animals aren’t on your schedule and tend to be out and about during dusk and dawn more than any other time of the day. It gets crazy hot in Africa most days, so animals tend to be in the shade relaxing while waiting for the sun to dip below the horizon before they hunt and feast. Get a good night’s rest before your safari day, because you’ll be up early to catch the action and safaris do tend to move rather slowly, because every time there is an animal sighting, your vehicle will more than likely stop, turn the engine off and sit tight for a bit while people look and take photos. An hour’s drive could easily turn into 3 hours. 

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You will/may see dead carcasses

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you will probably see a dead animal, or a skull that’s been left behind. That’s the circle of life, friends. While on our drive through The Kruger, we stopped and saw a dead nyala hanging from the tree, which was probably put up there by a cheetah to consume later on. We also saw a leftover skull of a cape buffalo on our drive to our overnight campsite within The Kruger.

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Seeing animals is NOT guaranteed

Every safari, like every new day in life is different. Some days you’ll see a ton of animals, while other days you may only see one or two, or sometimes none. There were game drives we went on when we didn’t see animals for miles and other days we would see over 30 elephants roaming around. If I can recall correctly, I think we only managed to see three out of The Big 5 during our two weeks in South Africa. It’s still amazing to see any animal though, especially in the wild.

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What_To_Know_Your_First_African_Safari

What_To_Know_Your_First_African_Safari

What_To_Know_Your_First_African_Safari

Be quiet

I’m no ranger, or zoologist, or an animal expert by any means, BUT I can tell you that animals do NOT like it when you hoot and holler near them. It agitates them, which could potentially scare them off, or worse, feel threatened and approach…and not in a nice way. Most times, your ranger, or driver will cut the engine to make sure any noise pollution is out of the surrounding area of the animals. Just sit back, observe, take tons of photos, but remember to look away from the camera every now and again to experience the moment with your own eyes and not through a viewfinder.

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Bring a telephoto lens if you have one for your camera

If you have a camera with interchangeable lens capabilities (SLR or DSLR cameras), bring a telephoto lens if you have one. The animals are close while you are driving around, but they aren’t usually right beside you. To get some great photos, you’ll need a lens, or at the very least a digital camera with zoom. Some of these photos are taken with my phone, so I mean, you CAN get close shots, it all depends on the day to be honest.

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Bring binoculars, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat and A LOT of water

Some people forget to bring these five important things because it never occurs to you that you could potentially be outside in an open air vehicle for a long time. Binoculars are great for when there is an animal siting, but it’s just a touch too far in the distance to see. There was a lioness hanging out in the shade of a tree and she was just a little too far to take a great photo, so out come the binoculars and I was able to get a glimpse of the beautiful lioness. We were allowed to get out of our vehicles during our drive into The Kruger with our ranger’s permission and presence, of course and it was H-O-T that day! I mean scorching! Luckily I had sunscreen and lots of water, because the sun and I are not friends. #PaleGirlProblems

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Listen to your rangers…ALL. THE. TIME!!

Your ranger knows best. He, or she knows the areas best, the animals best, so if they say not to do something, or be quiet, or stand still…well you shut your mouth, stand still and listen to them! Not only are they there to educate you, they are also there to provide a safe environment for you, as well as the animals. A safe safari is a fun safari. Am I right!?

And the most important thing you should know while on safari… *drum roll please*

Always, always, ALWAYS stay in the vehicle

These are wild animals first and foremost. Please don’t become a statistic. Seriously though, keep your arms, legs, feet and hands inside the vehicle at all times. The animals see the trucks, buses and cars as louder metal animals because they are used to seeing them all the time. If they see a nice juicy leg hanging out a window, or over the edge of a Landrover, well, you’re pretty much taunting them with a potential snack. Do yourself and the rest of your safari group a favour, just stay in the vehicle unless your ranger assesses the area and allows you to get out with him and his rifle. Got it? Good! *phew*

Read more: What is Responsible Tourism and why is it so important?

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Have you guys ever been to Africa and done a safari? If not, is it something you’d like to do? Let me know in the comments below! xo

Read more: I left my heart in South Africa

I travelled to South Africa with Delta Airlines and toured with Toerboer and VividLife

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3 Replies to “Things you should know before going on your first African safari”

  1. It’s been my dream since for a while now to venture through the African Safari, and you’ve just rekindled my dream! Definitely looking to plan a trip hopefully!

    grace ♡ http://www.gracee.co

    1. Hi Grace! I’m so glad to hear that. It’s honestly one of the greatest things to see the animals out in the wild. It’s life changing, really! You’ll never go to another zoo again, I can tell you that. When you do plan your trip and experience it, let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear about it!! 🙂

  2. Wow! Such an enlightening post! Going on an African safari seems like an ultimate experinece!

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