While in the past safaris were associated with the hunting of the wild animals in their natural habitats, today the meaning of safaris is referred to trips where tourists can appreciate and observe wildlife in game reserves, in Africa commonly known as a game drive.
Africa is simply one wonderful country with extraordinary nature, culture and of course wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else on the planet.
The safari game drives are a perfect way for anyone to experience Africa right in the middle of the wildlife where all those animals roam freely.
Game drives are trips where visitors are driven in an open vehicle in the middle of a game reserve, a protected area where animals live safely in Africa. The national parks and game reserves are open and there aren’t any fences like in the zoos. In these game parks, visitors can observe and admire the animals in the wild and get close to them even if they aren’t captured in cages. It’s their natural habitat where they hunt for their pray, sleep, eat and mate. Visitors to the game reserves can see the wildlife’s natural behavior. Although the experienced guides will do everything to get you to the best sightings for you to be able to see every animal that’s on your list, still during these drives no one guarantees which animals will be seen and where. We are driving in the middle of the wildlife’s habitat and not visiting the zoo. Simply there are some animals that are spotted more frequently than others which is the main reason that makes the game drives to be so exciting in the first place.
Game rangers are the people that manage the game reserve, take care of the animals, their health, as well for the roads, ecology, and much more issues related to nature, the parks, and wildlife. Now, the safari guides or field guides are the ones that will lead the visitors throughout this remarkable experience providing much interesting information about the animals and the natural parks on the way. They are the link between the guests, the animals, and nature.
Which animals can you see in Africa when on safari?
There are many safari animals in Africa to be seen such as giraffes, zebras, antelopes, cheetah, but in the game reserves and national parks to see the big five animals that are considered to be the top of one game drive are: African lion, African leopard, African elephant, Cape buffalo and Rhino black and white (but the black one is considered to be the true five). These animals were the most difficult ones to be hunted in the past by the game hunters in Africa on foot and that’s where the ”big 5” comes from. The Kruger National Park in South Africa is the most popular and probably the most visited where the big 5 can be best seen.
Now another five that I found very interesting is the Samburu Special Five: Beisa oryx, Reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, Gerenuk antelope, and Somali ostrich. Samburu National Park is located in Kenya and these five precious animals can be found only in this park.
Safaris can be guided in groups making it one great adventure, where people can share their safari experiences and learn interesting things about the wildlife and animal behavior from the guides that will do their best for them to get the most of the visit.
What to do on a guided game drive?
The best time for a game drive in Africa would be in dry seasons when animals gather around the water and are easier to be found and located. During a game drive, anyone can ask for the vehicle to stop at any time, if he/she thinks something was interesting enough or an animal was spotted that can be observed for a while or photographed. There are limited numbers of cars that can be on the same spot at the same time so whoever gets first can stay and watch for as long as he wants.
Now, there are people that will take a few photos and move on and the ones that will want to take their time and admire for a while. Probably the best way is to respect the guides judgment for the distance of the vehicle to the animals and not to insist otherwise for the sake of a better photography. When attending a group game drive the thing to consider is the people you will be driving with. It means that we should be more considerate of others when taking photos or asking questions. Simply let yourself go into the ride, observe relaxed and avoid being too demanding, talkative or loud. Turning the phone off and the camera on silent is at least anyone can do.
Animals are used to the shape of the cars and their presence which is why vehicles can approach up close for one better experience, but the recommended distance for the animals well being not to be disturbed is 20 m. In the wild keeping things quiet and not talking too loud is much appreciated since animals can get easily disturbed or frighten. It is their natural habitat and that’s something that are not used to. Not only that leaving the vehicles or going out of the car is not safe, but if any part of the body is outside the car or window, or if someone makes sudden movements the animal can get scared and run off or attack the vehicle. We may not see the animals, but they may be ambushed and can see us, so stepping out of the car should only be done if approved by the guide when there is a room for that and it’s quite safe.
There are no toilets in the wild so if you have to go to do your thing during a game drive you will have to tell the driver or the guide and he will find an appropriate bush for you where probably won’t be any lion ambushed. Of course, you should always take your garbage with you wherever you go, not just in nature. But, in the game reserves except for the pollution, the risk of choking or killing the animal is another aspect too. Interaction with animals in any way isn’t allowed and feeding as well. If fed in the wild animals can become aggressive and stop being afraid of humans.
On the other hand, the self-drive safaris have their own advantages. Visitors can drive their own vehicles (or rent one) on their own schedules in the natural park so to admire and photograph animals freely roaming in their natural surroundings. The speed limits on the roads are 40km/h and off-road drive isn’t allowed in most of the game reserves for self-drives. When people do wanna stop the car they should be considerate of the other cars, animals as well and do that on the side of the road. If you like to take your kids on a safari probably the best option will be to take a group family drives or your own private safari vehicle.
There are also so-called private safari game drives when the drive itself is off road and cars can get very close to the animals. Visitors are accommodated in the private lodges provided in the property that usually doesn’t have any fence where animals may pass through or get too close to the property. When the guests want to move from their lodge additional safety measures are taken and they have to be guided by an armed employee.
What to wear?
People tend to get excited before going to safari and may spend more on safari gear that would actually need. The best advice as always when in nature and outdoor is to wear comfortable clothes and for safaris, the point is not to wear brightly colored, because they can affect the animal’s behavior. Wear clothes in neutral colors. Khaki is advisable but not mandatory. Another thing, when you wear a few layers of clothes you can easily adjust from hot to cold weather. In Africa when driving in the open vehicles at night can get a little bit chilly. One can capture extraordinary photographs in Africa, but many of us forget the main benefit of observing the wildlife and how much we can actually enjoy while observing their true behavior for a while. For that, we would need binoculars. Finally, before you go consult your doctor to take all the precautions needed since only a few areas in Africa are Malaria-free.
Whichever is your way of one adventurous safari there are certain manners or an etiquette to think of that’s for the best of the animals and your safety. Get familiar with the park rules before you go and take all the bits of advice from the guides and rangers.
read more: AFRICA SAFARI TOURS