10 African Safari tips for first timers

  1. No Yelling
    You aren’t in a zoo, and the animals are not domesticated. The excitement can be overwhelming when safari-goers visit animals in their natural habitat. The urge to get up, wave your arms, and yell is not something we would ever recommend. Humans are just guests in animals’ homes when on safari and should act accordingly.Many safari animals are dangerous, and it doesn’t matter if you’re in a truck if an elephant decides to charge. In fact, while elephants may be some of the most incredible animals on this planet, they’re also immensely dangerous and a member of the big five animals.
  2. Dress The Part
    Not only is it fun to don the safari get-up, but those green and khaki clothes serve a practical purpose too. Safari clothes are purpose-built and made to be comfortable, blend in with the environment, and hold up to the elements of the African bush. That doesn’t mean you need to go full-blown leopard print or get a monocle, but it does mean wearing clothes that are appropriate to the safari environment.There’s also the argument that you can wear whatever you want for safari clothes since you’ll be in a car unless you’re going on bush walks when you don’t want the animals spotting any odd colors! If you’re doing some bush walks, we recommend packing a good pair of safari boots to wear.
  3. Get A Telephoto Lens
    Although you’re going to get closer to the African animals than ever before, to really capture them on camera requires a telephoto lens. Something around 200mm plus should do the job.That doesn’t mean you’ll need an 800mm lens that costs as much as a car. However, get ready for lens envy while on safari because some take photography seriously. We travel with a Fuji X-T3 with a 200mm lens.
  4. Wake Up Early
    It’s something you’ll have to learn to live with in Africa. Animals are most active in the morning and evening, as mid-day is too hot for them to move around. This is why most safari days consist of two game drives, a morning and an evening.The morning typically involves waking up at the crack of dawn and having coffee on the go. Evening game drives are our favorite since they leave in the afternoon and end with a cold gin and tonic.
  5. Enjoy Sundowner Time
    The best way to end a safari day is, without a doubt, with a beautiful sunset and a drink. Or, in other words, a “sundowner.” Are you familiar with the term sundowner? No? We suggest you familiarize yourself with the ritual of having a drink at sunset to celebrate a long African day’s end.
  6. Bring Binoculars
    Identifying birds or spotting what animal is on the horizon requires some great eyes or a good pair of binoculars. Since most of us do not have the eyes of an eagle, we’d say a pair of binoculars is crucial.We recommend you pick a decent pair that will last longer than one trip. Here are our ten favorite safari binoculars with in-depth reviews.
  7. Don’t Forget About the Birds
    One of our favorite activities we’ve learned about on safari is birding. Yes, that’s right, we’ve become those people… Birders. We used to make fun of them. I even replaced my mother’s binoculars and bird book bag with potatoes. However, after seeing our thousandth elephant, we realized it was time to look for something new. Enter the birds.There are thousands of variations of birds and species. Some are physically beautiful, some have splendid calls, and others are fascinating, like the picture above. It is a pied kingfisher. One of our favorite birds hangs out around rivers and lakes in search of its next meal.
  8. Ask Questions!
    Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I may be guilty of wanting to know it all, but showing some curiosity creates a better safari and will probably make your guide happy. The safari guest learns more and better understands African wildlife and what they see. We find that curiosity brings the passion out of our guides and enhances our whole game drive experience.
  9. Stay HealthyThis one covers a lot, but you are spending a lot of time in the bush and sitting. Here’s how we suggest mitigating the health risks of both.
    • Drink plenty of water from one of these travel water bottles
    • Keep yourself covered from the sun. I’ll never forget the day I was burned so bad that I had blisters on my face. Bring some sunblock and a hat!
    • Stay limber. Between game drives, make sure to walk some, do some yoga, exercise, or stretch.
    • Take antimalarial medicine if you are a worrier. We are not your doctor, but we recommend taking doxycycline. We have periodically taken it, but due to our time in Africa, we have chosen to avoid long-term doses of the antimalarial medicines and use the mosquito avoidance strategy. Cover up at night, wear insect repellant, use a mosquito net, and be aware of
      your surroundings.
    • Get some shut-eye. This one shouldn’t be too hard, but you’ll need to go to bed early on safari since you’ll rise at dawn.
    • Take it easy on your stomach. We travel often, and we’re used to the local bacteria. However, we’ve met many travelers who have stomach issues eating the same food we do. We suggest taking it easy to begin. Watch out for the skins of fruits and veggies, avoid large quantities of meat, and avoid spicy food and check where ice is coming from. That being said, the majority of safari lodges are exceptional at taking the proper hygienic steps when it comes to preparing food.
    • Bring a small medical kit with some basic needs for emergencies.
  10. Tip Your Guide
    To be a safari guide in Africa is a coveted job. A good guide is responsible, knows their safari animals, has ample bush knowledge, and has grown up in the environment they work in. A guide is up before you are and goes to bed after you do. They are switched on all the time and answer all your questions that they have without a doubt been asked over hundreds of times.Working in a safari lodge is a great job, and most take it very seriously. However, after talking to some of the guides, they still don’t make what you may think they are making and rely on tips.Tipping a guide and other lodge staff is like tipping your server at a restaurant in the US. It’s not mandatory but is almost expected and appreciated. These people work very hard to ensure you are having an enjoyable holiday and it’s essential to reward them if you think they are doing a good job.I know African safaris are expensive, and you probably don’t want to dish out more cash after dropping so much on holiday itself, but it is important to budget for tips.A standard guideline for tipping is $10-$15 per person per day for your guide, and anywhere between $5-$15 per person, per day for the general employees.