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African Safari

  • Zebras in Africa

Africa is an amazing continent in which to view animals as it lends itself to being the natural home for many exceptional creatures. The word Safari is a Swahili word meaning journey. Today’s safari is an occasion to see but not harm the local wildlife. This can be experienced on an African safari by staying in upscale lodges as well as less expensive communal accommodation sharing very basic dormitory accommodation. It all depends on one’s travel style and budget.

In Africa, there are 1100 different species of animals and 2600 different bird species.  These numbers obviously are not going to be viewed in any one specific game park but there definitely will be a large enough number to thrill anyone on African vacations. By the way, Africa has the fastest, largest and strangest animals anywhere in the world. This also includes sadly, a number of endangered species.

Wherever you stay, most of your game viewing is pretty certain to be in a small vehicle with open sides and possibly an open top. You will usually share it with several other safari-going participants. The average size of a safari vehicle can vary but the average is anywhere from 6 to 10 passenger vehicles.  Animals being dangerous might make you wonder if it is safe on an African safari surrounded by wild, sometimes ferocious and unpredictable creatures. In a safari vehicle, you are in the hands of a professional experienced driver/guide and will not experience any problems. Just don’t stand up or lean out of the vehicle. The professionalism and experience of the guide will be yours to benefit from as they will be not only knowledgeable but are trained to have almost a sixth sense as to where the animals are located or hiding.  Animals do not run away or hide from safari vehicles as they are so accustomed to the constant game drive vehicles in their territory following them around and not harming them in any way. They have no interest or concern in your safari vehicle. 

As a rule, there are three types of game drives on an African safari. There are morning, afternoon and night drives. The morning game drive is usually taken early before the sun gets too hot as many of the animals tend to want to hibernate as the day gets hotter.  You will head off before breakfast which will be waiting on your return from the drive. You will not only have an enjoyable time but will really be ready for your first meal. The afternoon game drive is usually taken later in the day when the sun is not so hot. This is the time to enjoy a pleasant experience called the Sundowner. This is set up by your driver/guide right in the middle of the bush or plain.  Your vehicle stops and he puts up a table laden with drinks and snacks. Jump down from your vehicle to enjoy a beverage while watching the sun go down over the spectacular and glorious African scenery. And what a perfect end to a day of a safari drive with game viewing. A night drive is an “animal of a different colour” as the dark brings out the nocturnal animals. It is also a time when the predators are on the prowl looking for their next meal. Because it is completely dark, you are equipped with a powerful torch and if necessary, your driver/guide will shine his headlights into the bush when he spots an animal. There is nothing like the excitement of seeing a pair of eyes gleaming at you out of the pitch black. And once again, the animals will completely ignore you.

Something totally different is a walking safari which can be taken at most lodges with an experienced guide. A walking safari is exactly what it says. You walk instead of drive into the bush. Nothing can bring you closer to an African adventure quite like a walking safari. You will walk with an experienced guide with the aim being to learn and appreciate the intricate details of the nature that surround you. The guide carries a rifle, but nothing bad has ever happened during one of these. You will learn how to tell which animals are or have been in the vicinity by studying their tracks and footprints. You will come close to some animals such as the giraffe as they snack on the leaves of a very tall tree. 

The ultimate Africa safari is through staying at a private lodge. You, more often than not, will be staying in your own building with exquisite furnishings and with close proximity to the main lodge building. You could well experience the opportunity to look out from your room, possibly with a verandah, and observe all kinds of animals (at a safe distance) while taking in the idyllic scene of the Africa countryside unfolding in front of you. Enjoy dinner in the evenings with fellow guests comparing notes of what has been seen and experienced during the day, possibly also in the company of the guides. 

Something different on an African safari again is sleeping in a tent for accommodation – a totally special experience. You are at one with the bush as you listen to the thrilling sounds of animals echoing in the African night. But don’t think you will be roughing it. Far from it - you will have all the luxuries with a tent with a comfortable bed and a complete bathroom more often than not.  Again, is it safe? Absolutely! The tented camp is cordoned off from the animal kingdom and there are guards watching to make sure no animal gets too close.

To avoid long road transfers or roads, especially in Kenya and Tanzania, which are not always in the best of condition, a fly-in safari could be a convenient way to enjoy an Africa safari.  You land on a private airstrip close to your accommodation from the nearest major airport and immediately, you are involved in your safari.  

In Southern Africa, the best times to visit on an African safari are from May to September as this is the dry season. However, the period from October to April, although the wet season, is a still a time to enjoy animal viewing. It is when the landscapes turn green and also there are fewer visitors. It is also a time when the animals congregate at waterholes and rivers. If bird watching is of interest, this is when the migratory birds are present. The rain consists of short, usually afternoon showers which will not interfere with your safari. 

In East Africa, safaris are fine all year round. The dry season is from late June to October and is also the time of the great wildebeest migration starting in the Masai Mara in Kenya in June and which lasts when they return from Serengeti in Tanzania in October.  It is also when it is easier to spot the animals with plenty of sunshine prevailing. The low season consists of two rainy seasons - March to June inclusive when the rains are longer and October to December inclusive when the rains are shorter. Once again, these are the periods when the scenery is more lush and greener and the animals gather at waterholes.  Migratory birds are around between September and April.  

An African safari is like no other experience and will never be dull. There are many countries to choose from that offer exceptional game viewing. These include South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. And it should be noted that animals know no borders and are free to roam wherever they want (within reason).  


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