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05 August 2016

A Beginner’s Guide To Safaris

First time on safari? We’ve got the low-down on what to pack, how to stay safe and what to expect.

Tamara Hinson is a Surrey-based freelance travel journalist who writes for newspapers such as the Telegraph and Guardian, along with in-flight publications and travel websites. She’s especially interested in getting off the beaten track and some of the more unusual destinations she’s visited include North Korea and Benin.

Banner Image Credit: iStock.com/Kanoke_46

Be Open Minded

Safari - Giraffes

Image Credit: Gane and Marshall

You might have spent endless hours daydreaming about roving across Maasai Mara in your battered safari jeep – but when it comes to the reality, there’s much to consider. What will help you get the most out of your adventure? There’s more to being on safari than the iconic destinations and species,” says Michael Haines, owner of Safari & Company . “Many of the lesser-known species can be just as interesting. For example, a troop of baboons can provide endless entertainment – often much more so than a pride of lions dozing under a tree!”

Think About Transport

Safari - Transport

Image Credit: iStock.com/freistilchaot

Once you’ve decided which area you want to visit, think about how you’ll get there – how long will it take and will the roads be passable? How much will any internal flights cost? What will be your mode of transport? “Misunderstanding the logistics of safari travel can mean enduring very long transfers,” warns Jeremy Gane, founder of adventure tour operator Gane and Marshall. “For example, road transfers offer more insight into the destination but require hours or days more than local safari flights.”

Pack Light

Suitcases for Safari

Image Credit: iStock.com/Remains

Safari transfer flights generally have 15-kilogram luggage restrictions. “If you’re travelling with a companion, share items such as personal medical kits, binoculars and guide books,” suggests Jeremy Gane. One thing to make space for is sun protection. “Sun protection is essential because sunburn can happen even on cloudy days in Africa,” says Michael at Safari & Company. “Essential items to pack include a wide brimmed hat to protect the face and neck, and factor 50 sun cream.”

Don’t Dress To Impress

Safari Dress Code

Image Credit: Gane and Marshall

Leave the high heels at home. Safari wear is all about practicality. “Bush walkers should wear light Gortex boots or desert boots to protect feet from thorns and bites,” says Jeremy. Light, long-sleeved tops and trousers will offer protection from bites and scratches if you’re going to be doing a lot of walking.

And while we’re not suggesting packing your thermals, don’t assume it will be blisteringly hot, either. “Temperatures vary wildly,” warns Michael. “In the South Luangwa Valley, for example, it can get up to 37C during September and October. In July, temperatures in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe drop to below freezing in the morning.”

Additionally, standing out on safari is the last thing you want to do. Opt for greens, browns, greys and beiges – earthy colours which won’t stand out, or startle that lion/giraffe/wildebeest you’ve been tracking all day. Although nobody’s sure why, tsetse flies, large biting flies found throughout Africa, are attracted to blue and black, so these are two colours you’ll want to avoid.

Kit Up

Safari - Binoculars

Image Credit: iStock.com/SimCh

Leave the iPod, portable DVD player and iPad at home and focus on the items which matter. “Binoculars are very important, because not everything will be under your nose,” says Michael. “Remember to bring spare media cards for cameras, too. And it’s dusty on safari, so items like cameras should be carried in a good dust and waterproof bag. A torch or a headlamp can be useful, too.”

Follow The Rules

Safari - Tent

Image Credit: Gane and Marshall

If you’re someone who struggles to play by the rules, you might just end up being the main course for that hungry lion you’ve been admiring all day. “

“Always listen to your guide and obey the safari camp rules,” says Michael Haines. “Animals are inherently more afraid of humans than we are of them. We are the super predator, so they will avoid us. Once you’re in your sleeping quarters, you are safe. However, animals are certainly bolder at night, so rule number one is to stay in your tent during the night.”

Finally, Don’t Forget To Tip

Safari - Zebras

Image Credit: Gane and Marshall

Us Brits hate talking about money but tipping is the standard way to show your appreciation on safari. “There are two groups of people to tip whilst on safari,” explains Michael Haines. “There are your guides and the support staff in the camp or lodge. At the end of your stay at a particular property, you should tip your guide directly, then add a similar amount to the camp tip box, which gets divided up between all the other camp staff. We recommend between $5 to $10 per traveller per day to both guide and staff tip box.”

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