An African safari experience features on almost everyone’s bucket list…with unique lodges, breathtaking vistas, and unbeatable wildlife encounters, we completely understand why! Whether you choose to visit the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, the Masai Mara in Kenya, Kruger National Park in South Africa, or any of the countless other incredible locations within Africa, you will never be disappointed.
I have been fortunate enough to go on several safari’s, primarily in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and what I have learned is that no matter where you are, the typical structure of your day will be the same. It all starts at sunrise…
Generally, your safari lodge stay will include two game drives each day- these normally take place at dawn and dusk. These are the coolest times of the day, so the animals are at their most active, offering the best opportunities for wildlife sightings.
Dependent on the time of year, your wake-up call will come at around 05:30-6:00. Dress warmly and layer up, it’s likely to be very chilly but will warm up as the morning goes on! I’d recommend packing your backpack with a full water bottle, camera, binoculars (if you have them) sun cream and sunglasses (for later). Remember to use the bathroom before you leave too- there will be a stop during the morning, but options are limited once you head out! Guests will meet in the lodge lobby, and once everyone has arrived, you will hop into your game drive vehicles and set off. The vehicles normally seat ten people or less, so they will never be overcrowded.
A morning game drive is a great way to start the day! With fresh air blowing past you, and the excitement of the day beginning, you can watch the sun coming up over the horizon.
The rangers know the parks like the back of their hands, so you’ll head out on a trail to begin your search. They communicate via radios to keep each other updated on wildlife sightings - This further increases your chances of finding the Big Five on your drive.
Some of my best game viewing experiences have happened on sunrise drives! The animals are often on the move at this time of day, finding water to drink and a nice place to settle before the sun reaches its peak and heats up the day.
One of my most memorable experiences came around two hours into a sunrise drive- We were in the first vehicle to happen across a herd of around forty elephants! There were calves, adolescents and adults striding through the trees and then playing in mud puddles together- it was amazing! We had the luxury of taking our time and watching them until they eventually wandered off to find a new spot.
After a couple of hours, your ranger will take you to a safe and scenic spot where you will be able to stretch your legs, use a bathroom, and have a bite to eat for breakfast. Behind the vehicle, a table will be set up with tea, coffee, juices, fruit and muffins (or something along those lines). You will normally return to your lodge between around 10:00-11:00, dependent on what you have seen and whether there have been interesting sightings reported by another ranger nearby.
Once you return to the lodge, the day is your own! Can you think of a more perfect place to unwind?
Some lodges have rooms with private plunge pools, or a shared pool with sunbeds and great views- lookout, though, as these are rarely heated and likely to be cold!
One of my favourite ways to spend time during the day is to find a nice spot, with a great view, and read a book. The lodges will normally have unobstructed views from the terrace or balcony of your room, and I can’t imagine anywhere more peaceful.
A popular feature of some lodges is an outdoor bathtub. After a long morning game drive, you could return to your room, run yourself a nice bubble bath, lay back and relax!
If you're the sort of person who likes to fill your days with activities, why not participate in one of the guided bush walks offered? An armed ranger will lead you out onto the plains to track wildlife, explore the flora and fauna, and help you make a more intimate connection to your surroundings. Some lodges might also offer archery, birding day tours, fishing, or boat tours (dependent on the location).
Most safari accommodations come on a full board meal plan, so remember to factor in time to enjoy a delicious, fresh lunch in the restaurant too!
Your sunset game drive will head out around 16:30-17:00 after a light afternoon tea- This normally consists of a small selection of sandwiches, pastries, and cakes. Help yourself, this needs to see you through until dinnertime!
The drive will be just like what you experienced this morning, except instead of the sun coming up, it will gradually be going down (so remember to dress warmly again). Not only will you be treated to a stunning African sunset, but you will also have the opportunity to see some of the more nocturnal animals that live in the bush.
After hours spent napping in the foliage through the hottest part of the day, the wildlife will be out and about again, making this one of the best times to view game.
The most intimate lion sighting I have ever experienced was during a sunset game drive- we came across two brothers who
were playing and calling to each other. Their manes were stunning, and we observed them for some time before they strode right along the side of our vehicle, disappearing through the bush behind us! Keep your eyes peeled as you speed through the park, searching for the elusive Big Five, they’re out there!
As the sun begins to set, your ranger will find a great spot to stop at- it’s sundowners time! The table will return, but this time it will be set with snacks, beers, wine and spirits so that you can enjoy a beverage while the sun goes down. I’d recommend an Amarula on the rocks, a cream liqueur made from the Marula fruit which is native to South Africa!
You will return to the lodge after dark and it’s totally up to you if you’d like to head straight to dinner, or return to your room to wash up, get changed, and make more of a night of it.
Savour your delicious meal in the restaurant, or if your lodge has one, at the traditional Boma outdoor firepit. Spend the evening in the communal areas, bar, or back on your private deck. No matter where you choose to spend your time, one thing is guaranteed the stars will be breathtaking.
Written by Travel Specialist Leanne
If you would like to speak to our Travel Specialists about your Safari, please call 0208 924 888 or enquire here
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