Safari – A Journey
I have been travelling to East Africa for over a decade now and it is my passion and home. That is why I wanted to share my personal advice on how to have the most wonderful experience on safari. For many people a safari will be a honeymoon, anniversary, bucket list holiday or a trip of a lifetime; that is why it is important that you have the most memorable experience you can. As you would have read from my blogs it can be a really life changing experience or just simply the best trip you have ever taken. The word Safari is Swahili and means to journey or travel. I hope my blogs have taken you on an inspiring exciting journey that you now would like to experience for yourself.
Where in the world!
I have been blessed to travel the world to see animals born and living free in the wild. Tigers in India, Jaguars in Brazil and Leopards in Sri Lanka to name but a few, all incredible trips. However for me there is nowhere in the world like East Africa. There is a reason the Lion King is still the most popular Disney to date, the plains of the Masai Mara and Serengeti are vast, breathtakingly beautiful and abundant with prey and big cats including large prides of Lions, Cheetah, Leopard, Serval and Caracal. Of course they are most famous for the migration which is an incredible sight. The forests of Zambia are green and home to such a diverse array of animals especially Leopard and the Zambezi teaming with hippos and crocodiles. Of course Botswana has the stunning Okavango Delta, here dugout canoes are used to navigate past hippos, elephants and crocodiles and on dry land wildlife includes Lions, Leopards, Giraffes and Rhinos. As you would have read from my blog, sightings even though certainly not guaranteed as the animals here are free to roam but with their excellent knowledge and skills your camp guides will be extremely good.
Safari Camps and game drives
I have stayed at many different types of camps but for me the best is small tented camps with less than around twelve tents. Do not be put off by the word tent, as you can see from my photos they are stunning beautiful, very comfortable with all the amenities you need. The smaller camps have also a good friendly atmosphere; you will get the chance to get to know the managers, staff and all the guides. The smaller camps I find employ the best most experienced guides, your guide will become your friend as they teach you about the land, vegetation and animals; you will be in very safe knowledgeable hands. Of course the best part is the guides will all be locals who grew up on the land who are passionate about the environment and the conservation of it. It is a more homely atmosphere in smaller camps with drinks around open fires after your day game drive and group dinners so you can share stories of your day.
The other advantage of the smaller camps is they either guarantee you a private vehicle so you are not sharing with any other guests or they will certainly try and accommodate your requirements. Personally I prefer to not share my vehicle with other guests as everyone has different passions, whether birds or big cats say so it is important that your guide can focus on your needs. Some guests bring independent guides with them but I never have as the guides who work in the camps are beyond excellent and live and breathe their home and you will be given the best safari experience.
One of the most common questions I get is do I feel safe in such an open vehicle? The simple answer is yes. The animals are used to the vehicles and you are just part of the vehicle. The most important lesson to learn on safari is respect for your environment. Keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle and listen to the advice of your guide. When you are at a sighing be respectful and talk quietly so as not be disturb the animals, this way also you can sit and observe them acting naturally. Always put the safety of the animals first so keep a good distance between you and the animals, of course when stationery they may decide to walk or sit right next to your vehicle! But again you are perfectly safe so enjoy the privilege of being so close to such amazing animals.
The best time to observe animals is generally between 6 – 10 am and 4 – 7pm; this is when they are most active. Camps organise morning and afternoon game drives in these hours which means you will have a truly memorable safari experience. However as you would have seen from my blog I go out on full day game drives of around 12 – 13 hours and we take packed breakfast and lunch. Most camps will be happy to arrange this for you if like me you have endless energy and the spirit of adventure. Personally my best Leopard sightings are always between 11-3 when most guests are back in camp as they are elusive private cats.
African food is absolutely delicious and the smaller camps have excellent chefs who will fully take on board your dietary requirements. The food is fresh, locally sourced and for me the best food I have ever tasted. Be adventurous and ask to taste some of the local dishes I promise you you will not regret it.
When it comes to safety the tented camps are open to the wild so you will get animals in camp but the camps employ local men as watchmen to ensure the safety of the guests. You can walk around camp by yourself during the day but just remember to be observant. At night the watchmen walk with you, in all the years I have been on safari I have never felt unsafe or had any accidents. Enjoy the experience of listening to Elephants and Hippos grazing around your tent, where else in the world can you experience this!
If you would like any assistance in booking your next safari please contact me
Masai Mara Reserve
When to visit
This of course this depends on what you would like to see. If you are passionate to see the great migration from Kenya to Tanzania, peak season will be late June through to early October. It really is an incredible experience but do be aware the camps will be busy and there will be plenty of vehicles at the river sightings. I have seen this many times and it is quite breath-taking and big cat sightings are excellent. The plains are green and it is not too hot I find.
I have spent Christmas in camp and it is a magical time, the prey and predators are very active as the migration is over and the big cats have to work harder to hunt prey as they only have the local herds of Wildebeest and other prey to hunt. It is still warm this time of year but cooler in the evenings.
I personally love breeding season in East Africa so mid-January through to the end of March. You will see many of the prey giving birth which is beautiful but it is also an amazing time to see the big cats hunting. It is quite hot and dry but I enjoy that. Also camps are quieter and there are fewer vehicles at sightings. In fact when we find an incredible sighting it is usually only us at the sighting which for me makes the experience more unique, beautiful and exciting.
After the rains it is green season or low season around May and June. The grass is higher so it is more challenging to see the big cats but it is stunningly beautiful to see the forests and plains so luscious and green. The trees will be in blossom with intoxicating scents and flowers grow through the long iridescent grasses. What I love is it is more challenging for the big cats to see prey so you will often see Lions, Cheetahs or Leopards climbing up trees to scan the horizon for prey. I love watching them stalking through the grasses.
What to wear and pack!
It is not necessary to khaki or beige or any other neutral colours, be bold and colourful! You would have seen my safari clothes on my biography page and the attire of my guides and the staff that work in camp. You would have also seen my photos of the beautiful local women gathering wood. In East Africa men and women wear where beautiful vibrant brightly coloured fabrics, stunningly offset with beaded jewellery. I absolutely love my Masai clothes on safari, I would recommend you embrace the vibrancy of the culture; you will get the opportunity to purchase the beautiful jewellery and fabrics on safari. I am of course happy to help you source stunning clothes for your trip that will benefit the local charities. The exception is I would recommend you pack good sturdy walking boots, thick socks, long sleeved tops, long trousers and a hat for walking safaris in neutral colours to blend in. Whilst you are on a driving safari sandals are fine as you will mainly be sat down, personally I am usually bare foot in the vehicle so I can quickly stand up in the vehicle and jump on my seat to get the best views if we suddenly see big cats hunting. You will need to bring a warm waterproof jacket, the early mornings before sunrise can be chilly and also the rains can come down fast although they often do not last long. The sun in Africa is very strong so do pack a good sunblock, a hat with a rim and polarised sun glasses.
I would recommend you invest in some good camera equipment. You do not need to be a professional or even amateur photographer as you will have the best subject matter however a camera with a powerful long zoom will be important as some of the best sightings will be at a distance such as a leopard laying on a branch up a tree or thousands of Wildebeest thundering day the banks of the river to cross. I would also recommend your camera has full HD videoing as much of the best action is best viewed in action. I would also recommend investing in binoculars with image stabilisation as when you are driving through the plains it is exciting to be the first to spot a sighting such as a the elusive Serval cat or a rare bird.
Check with your doctor about vaccinations and malaria medication. I personally am fully immunised and take malaria tablets on each safari. I also take a full medical kit although I rarely use it. I have always been well on safari the food is excellent. It is important you take high strength mosquito repellent such as Deet.
Take a pad and a pen and make notes of the animals and birds you see, many camps will give you a checklist to use, it really enhances the safari experience.
This is a truly amazing experience, enjoy it embrace it and remember how privileged you are to be spending time in such a beautiful country with such friendly amazing people and the best wildlife in the world.
I wish you a very happy Safari.