Have you ever been on a Safari? If yes, then you know well what unforgettable emotions this experience can give, if not, you are probably wondering what makes this experience so extraordinary, what emotions and what memories it will provide you, but, above all how, you should also prepare yourself to face it in the best way.
First of all, it is essential to put ourselves in the most appropriate mood: a safari is not a long walk, a car or a boat ride in search of wild animals, but an experience in the most remote and fascinating places, rooted in our DNA, as human beings. During a Safari, the relationship with the wild nature and its inhabitants wrap us with extraordinary strength and provokes respect and admiration. Before planning a trip to Africa It is necessary to understand this basic principle as we will need a strong adaptation ability, a great love for nature and a great respect for the wild life that lives there.
However not all Safaris are the same as much depends on the Country you choose to visit. The most popular are Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, Namibia, Uganda. Each of these Countries offers a different experience. In some cases open jeeps are used offering breathtaking experiences, but the excursions are organized directly from the lodges where you stay and can be either by jeep or by boat (for example in Botswana). In this case your Guide will change at every Safari, while in other cases closed jeeps are used (for example in Tanzania) with sunroof and open windows. The entire trip includes a driver – Guide who also leads all the excursions, in other cases (for example in South Africa), it is possible to visit the parks on a self drive … but this choice requires the utmost attention to avoid too close encounters with wild animals.
Therefore, what you need to bring with you on a Safari changes according to the type of vehicle used, the country and the season. Below is a list of items that you should pack if you are going on a Safari based travel. Some will be obvious, others will surprise you. In any case do not underestimate the advice you receive from those who have experience, and do not pack too much.
1 – Sunglasses: the sun shines dazzlingly in Africa, especially in those Countries that are crossed by the equator or in desert areas. Therefore whether you travel in the rain forests of Uganda or in the middle of the Kalahari, wear your sunglasses if you don’t want to go home with some less dioptres or extremely photophobic.
2) A Hat: If you are in closed jeep, it will seem unnecessary to wear a hat. Do not underestimate the fact that you will very often look out of the window or stand with your head out of the sunroof. If you are aboard an open jeep or a boat, the sun will hit you strongly and powerfully. For example, many of the boats traveling along the Chobe river, on the border between Botswana and Namibia, have two decks, one covered and one uncovered. The sun decks obviously offer a better view but often have no coverage. Your hat will protect you from excessive sun exposure. A baseball hat with a visor is sufficient but if you have very white skin it is better to have a fisherman’s hat with wide brim to also cover the back of the neck.
3) The camera: during a Safari even the most amateur photographers feel the need to always be glued to their camera. It is not a mistake of course, but if you constantly observe the nature around you through the lenses of your camera, you risk losing the true essence of your excursion. Don’t look for the perfect shot at all costs. It is better to keep indelible memories in your eyes rather than on the screen of a PC, a tablet or a smartphone. A word of advice: the Guides are not authorized to drive outside the official tracks arranged by the Rangers, to guarantee the safety of the environment and the passengers. Therefore you might see the animals from a certain distance. I advise you to use a camera with a good zoom. A 300mm is fine.
4) Scarf and gloves: in the collective imagination, Africa it is always hot. It’s not true. If you travel during the northern summer, in many of the African Countries below the equator it will be winter. Although it is milder, in the early hours of the morning (until about 10 am) and immediately before sunset, the temperature drops sharply, even below freezing point. Therefore if your safari starts early in the morning or returns after sunset (recommended times to see predators), you should cover yourself well with a winter jacket, gloves and scarf, or you will definitely freeze. If are aboard an open jeep, the hotel or the Safari company will also provide you with a thick blanket to cover yourself until the temperature rises.
5) Binoculars: it is a very useful tool for Safaris. It must be understood that each Safari is a different experience. If your day is lucky and you have a good Guide who knows the places well and checks where to find the various species, you can see many animals in a few hours. Other times, even with the most experienced of the Guides, the animals hide or it is not possible to get too close, both for safety reasons and to avoid disturbing them. Binoculars in this case are very useful, because they allow a better view, especially for the most shy felines such as Leopards that are difficult to spot during the day, except in the fortunate cases in which one is sleeping in the leafy branches of a tree, or after a long stakeout.
It is very important that travelers understand that it is not possible to ensure the sighting of a specific animal during a Safari. We may wander for hours in the open savannah of the Serengeti without seeing anything, and then suddenly, in the last minutes of your Safari we spot a cheetah or a lion, or we can fill our eyes with wildebeest all day, or worst not seeing anything at all.
What else to pack? In addition to the list above, it is also good to pack a good sunscreen, especially for the hottest hours of the day when a T shirt is sufficient and your arms are exposed. Regardless of the duration of your Safari, from time to time you will stop at a clearing to stretch your legs, have a refreshing drink or even to eat (only in the allowed places). The sun exposure will be total in these moments, regardless of the means of transport used. My family and I were lucky last summer because during a stop to admire the sunset we witnessed the hunt of a herd of lions … the giraffe, however, managed to escape.
Don’t forget a good mosquito repellent . Although insects are less frequent and annoying in winter, it is good to have it with you, especially in the more humid areas, such as the shores of Lake Victoria or along the waterways, from Zambezi to Chobe.