All you need to know about going on your first safari
Q What should I bring with me on safari?
A Lightweight, breathable garments with long sleeves and trousers to protect against insects after dark, plus trainers, a hat and something warm for evenings. Neutral colours are vital - animals spot anything white or colourful. Also pack binoculars and a torch.
Q Should I worry about malaria?
A Risk varies with location and season. For example, in Namibia's dry Damaraland malaria is rare - but you're likely to cross a malarial region to get there. South Africa offers the only guaranteed malaria-free safaris, notably in the eastern Cape and northern Cape. For more malaria advice see p138.
Q Are the animals dangerous?
A Dangers are negligible if you do as you're told. In a vehicle most animals will ignore you (though always give elephants plenty of space). On foot, guides will avoid risky situations and most animals will avoid you. In a canoe, you'll be told the protocol with hippos. Never feed or encourage wild animals: scavengers around busy camps, such as baboons, have lost their fear of humans. Also, assume all water holds crocodiles.
Q Will I be stuck in a safari vehicle all day?
A For an outdoor pursuit, safaris can be
surprisingly sedentary. Self-drive travellers should aim to keep
journeys short and allow leg-stretch time. Consider packages with
walks - or try
a full-on walking safari, where most of the time is spent on foot. Other active options include canoeing, horse-riding and mountain-biking. Try Victoria Falls or Namibia for adventure sports.
Q Where are the best guides?
A A good guide makes for a life-changing experience. Zambia's guides, especially in Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi, are reputedly excellent. High standards are also found in northern Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania.
Use private lodges for the best guides, where they live on site and know the terrain and wildlife inside out. Guides on budget packages may be sharp-eyed and helpful, but will lack the level of expertise.
Q How do I choose a tour operator?
A The best operators will advise from personal
experience, highlighting the pros and cons of
the month of your visit, making clear any 'extras' (eg park fees, activities) and explaining how long you spend in each place, not just en route. Be wary of wildlife 'guarantees': wild animals don't work to itineraries. Operators should be an ABTA or AITO member and ATOL protected.
5am Wake-up call, with hot coffee and biscuits
5.45am Set off on game drive with top guide as warthogs trot through camp
6am Watch sun rise over acacias; follow fresh tracks to pride of lions on a kill
7.30am Rest near a waterhole with a hot drink
and snack, watching hippos, birds
9am Spot giraffes, antelopes and wildebeest; head back to camp for delicious brunch
11am Relax with book on your veranda; monkeys scamper through overhanging tree
1pm Lovely lunch with array
of colourful salads
2.30pm Visit local village or school; buy gorgeous handicrafts
3.30pm Head out on private game drive; see herd of elephants heading to nearest water
5pm The 'golden hour', when savannah turns burnished gold - take photos, before parking up at sweeping viewpoint
6pm Watch world's best sunset, sundowner in hand
7pm Pre-dinner drinks round campfire; swap notes on highlights of day
8pm Surprise private dinner in wilderness - just you, your beloved and the flicker of oil lamps under the stars
10pm Raise night-cap to an incredible day; fall asleep to sound of lion's roar...
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