There comes a time in every traveller’s life when they start thinking about ticking off the quintessential bucket list experience – the safari. Imagine getting up close to the Big Five, driving into blazing sunsets and sitting around a campfire under a vast starry-sky. There are a few things that first time safari-goers should know before embarking on a big African adventure.
Wondering what to wear on safari? When dressing for the African bush there are a few things to consider. Sun protection is a must; bring a wide brim hat and sunglasses. On the crisp early morning game drives wear warm layers that you can peel off when the sun starts to shine.
Safeguarding yourself against mosquitos is another good reason to cover up. Beige, green and brown coloured clothes are excellent for camouflage. Long pants and comfortable boots are ideal for bush trekking. Oh, and don’t forget your swimsuit for lazing around the pool during the heat of the day.
Kruger isn’t the only park worth visiting
Kruger National Park, home to Africa’s Big Five, is one of the most famous safari destinations in the world. If you dig a little deeper you’ll realise that South Africa is a vast country that has plenty of incredible national parks and game reserves. Do some research; you’ll soon discover that each region offers different opportunities for viewing wildlife.
- Staying at Kosi Forest Lodge in Isimangaliso Wetland Park is prime for viewing hippos, crocodiles and flamingos. Those brave enough can even canoe along the river just like a scene out of Indiana Jones.
- Nearby, Thonga Beach Lodge offers the ultimate in seclusion. Wander along wild, pristine beaches perfect for snorkelling and tracking turtles.
- If rhinos are your main interest, be sure to stay at Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge. Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park is home to the Big Five and offers sightings of both the black and white rhinoceros. The area is famous for saving the white rhino from extinction.
- Get off the beaten path at Mopane Bush Lodge at Mapungbwe National Park, where you can visit the point that South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe meet.
Luxury Safari’s don’t have to break the bank
South Africa has its fair share of James Bond worthy safari settings. There’s a common misconception that safaris are reserved for high-flyers and honeymooners. With careful research you can find luxurious lodges that aren’t prohibitively expensive. Check out the eco-friendly Isibindi Africa Lodges in pristine locations around the country. When you consider that accommodation, meals and guided activities are all included – it’s excellent value.
The early bird catches the worm
Expect to rise bright and early for prime animal viewing time. Don’t worry; you’ll be met with a cup of tea and biscuits to wake you up. The vehicles are typically open-sided which adds to the excitement of being out in the elements. Your game ranger is an expert in the African bush, so let them know which animals you’re particularly interested in spotting and they’ll do their best to track them down.
‘Sundowners’ is a word you’ll gladly become accustomed to whilst on safari. Sundowners are the drinks enjoyed in the golden hour as the fierce African sun sets over the horizon. Luxury safaris will inevitably conclude an afternoon game drive with the classic sundowner in a suitably picturesque location.
Expect the unexpected
There’s a difference between safaris in the wild versus private game reserves. In the wild, it’s the animal’s kingdom and any creature you spot is purely good luck. It’s not a zoo, there are no guarantees you’ll see all the animals you came to see. On the flip side, you may encounter something special like I did whilst staying at Mopane Bush Lodge. We were driving back to the lodge in the evening, the sun had set and we didn’t expect to encounter any more animals. We happened upon a cheetah in the dark, which was incredibly rare for the area. It was even the first sighting for our game ranger who was just as excited as we were.
Between your morning and afternoon game drives there’s plenty of time to soak up your surroundings. Relish in lavish lunches, bar service and swoon-worthy swimming pools. Karkloof Safari Spa even has an incredible spa facility with professional massage that you could squeeze in between game drives.
Dinner by the campfire
What’s more magical than dinner by a campfire in the African wilderness? Nothing. Dine on gourmet three-course meals under the stars and then sit around the campfire swapping safari stories with other guests.
It’s everything you ever imagined but even better
Keep your squeals of delight in check because you don’t want to scare off the adorable baby animals. This giraffe calf was just as curious about us as we were about him. It must have been a couple of minutes of simply just staring at each other before the mamma giraffe guided him away into the bushes. A South African Safari is filled with truly unforgettable moments.
Eddie Hart is a Sydney-based travel blogger, writer and photographer who feels most at home living out of a suitcase. Eddie’s wanderlust has seen her travelling to 40+ different countries and residing in London, Paris, Berlin and New York. You can follow along on more of her adventures over on her blog, The Portmanteau Press, and on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.