A typical day on safari…
What will your day typically be like while you stay at a game lodge?
When you arrive at a game lodge or camp you will be pleasantly welcomed to the establishment and given a basic orientation. Following which your host will talk you through the schedule. At first, it may feel a touch regimented but as you ease into the flow, the excitement will overtake you and the structure will feel natural. Lodges tend to stick to the same formula but each adds their own unique touches. To tailor your entire stay to your preferences, it is recommended to consider booking a lodge that most suits your personal requirements.
Well worth the early start
The exact time of your morning wake up will depend on the lodge and the season. Nonetheless it’s an early start out on the game reserves, often before or just after sunrise. Usually, all guests meet in the main lodge for a quick cup of coffee and something light to eat. Great game viewing often takes place on the morning game drives so it should be well worth the early start. There is something special in witnessing the awakening of the bush at the start of a new day. During the morning game drive, there will be a brief stop, allowing you to stretch your legs and enjoy refreshments prepared by your guide. After three to four hours, you will return to the lodge where the delicious breakfast spread will be ready for you. If you so choose there is often an additional activity such as a bush walk or local village tour that is offered after the morning game drive.
Do what you came to do – relax
The rest of the day is yours to spend as you choose. Many guests decide to sleep, read and basically recover from the adrenalin of the morning game drive. Most lodges will have a view of a watering hole or open area and you may choose to sit patiently and wait to see what comes for a visit. If you are lucky, you may see antelope, giraffe or even elephants. You may opt to spend the day at the pool or reserve a treatment at the spa. Some lodges serve a light lunch, while others choose to serve a larger snack before the afternoon game drive.
Sunset over the plains
Before the afternoon game drive departs, guests will once again meet prior to departure. Tea and coffee may be available but it does differ from lodge to lodge. Once again, there will be a stop for some refreshments, possibly while the sun dips behind the horizon. As it begins to darken, your guide or tracker will use a spotlight to highlight special sightings of the night. As you return to the lodge after three to four hours, prepare yourself for another delicious meal.
Dinner is just another occasion
Once again, each lodge has their own approach to the evening meal. At some lodges your guide will join you for dinner and everyone will sit together. This is a very social and the ideal time to ask questions and interact with your guide. Arrange with your host before the afternoon game drive if you would prefer a private dinner (if available). After dinner, you may continue the conversation at the bar or lounge area. Alternatively, it’s off to bed in order to be ready to start the next day before the sun does….
Tips for wildlife photography
So you have certainly seen some astounding photos of wildlife… however, there are photographers who spend hours watching an animal to take that one poignant photo. Doing research, patience and practice, along with these handy hints can assist you in taking home memorable photos too.
- Before your trip, ensure that you know your equipment and if necessary, practice with it at home to understand it better
- Insure your camera and equipment before you leave home. During your trip, your camera may be exposed to water, rain, vehicle vibrations and often visitors drop their camera while on game drive.
- Read up about the animals, their behavior and their environment so that you know what to expect. You can also chat to your guide and use their knowledge to assist you.
- If you can afford a good lens for your camera then a 300mm is a good starting point and for bird photography a 500mm lens is recommended.
- A UV filter is recommended to reduce the glare
- A small bean bag is very handy for resting your camera and lens
- For those who have a basic “point and shoot” digital camera and cannot zoom too far, aim to take photos with the animals in their natural environment incorporating the landscape
- Be prepared for a photo as animals appear and disappear very quickly and the seconds it takes you to get your camera ready could cost you a photo
- For close up photos of animals, set your focus on their eyes, then the rest of the face should be in focus
- There are plenty of photos to take in the bush so ensure you have plenty of memory available and your batteries are charged or you have spares with you
- Take photos from different levels and angles to create more interesting pictures. Photos taken at the same level as an animal appear more dramatic
- Be patient with animals and try to take photos of them being active. If you see an animal sleeping, have your camera ready in case they yawn or move around as this will make for a more interesting shot
- Consider the background of the photo you are taking and try to exclude fences, other vehicles and buildings if at all possible
- When taking a photo of an animal, create a space for the animal to move into and do not place the animal in the centre of the photo
- Never interfere with animal behavior to capture a photo and rather allow the animals to move naturally
- Remember to enjoy the experience and not to hide behind your camera. Sit back and take in the scenery, the birds and the wildlife
- Be a considerate photographer and allow the rest of the guests to also take their photos. Alternatively, book a vehicle for private and benefit from having a guide cater to your photographic requirements
- If you’re using a video camera, be prepared for 3-4hours of filming and have enough batteries for back up
- Before you take a photo of a local person or a tribal community, it is polite to ask that person
- Take care not to zoom in and out too quickly and swinging around too fast
- Video’s pick up the slightest noise so be aware of what you say when it is switched on. If you want to film people not in your party, ask them before hand as not everyone is comfortable on camera. If you would like to comment on the animal you are watching, ask your guide if it is permitted
Safety hints whilst on safari
If this is your first visit to a game lodge, or if you’re traveled to a few places, it’s important to understand that there are a few minor safety precautions to consider. In this unfamiliar environment, no matter how comfortable your surroundings are, it is important to remember that you are surrounded by wild animals. Remember to obey the number one rule, to “respect mother nature”. The staff members at all lodges have your health and safety as their top priority and a bush trip is for the most part a safe and wonderful experience. Trust and listen to the trained professionals who spend their lives in the bush and know it in most cases intimately as they will take good care of you.
The perimeter of the lodge – fenced or unfenced
The area surrounding the rooms and the camp are generally safe, even without a fence around, but there are always exceptions. Different lodges take a different approach to the perimeter of the camp. A fence around the camp may mean a small single strand fence to keep out certain large animals such as elephants or it may mean a large fence to keep out all wild animals. If there is no fencing around the lodge, bear in mind that animals can and do move through the camp during the day or at night.
Walking around the lodge
It is advised to always stay on the designated walkways while staying at a game lodge and if you are staying at a lodge where you are permitted to walk around, always watch where you step. At night, take additional precautions and if you feel you would like assistance, ask a member of staff. If there is no fence around the lodge, for your own safety, one of the staff will escort you to your room. If the terrain is uneven, it is recommended to wear comfortable closed shoes.
Animals around the lodge
Regardless of fences, elephants are notorious for visiting lodges and drinking from swimming pools and snacking on garden plants. These lovely animals may seem docile and friendly but they are not tame and should never be approached. The animals are still wild and it not safe for you (or the animal) to attempt to interact with each other. You may encounter antelope grazing close to the lodge that will move off as you approach. Baboons and monkeys are infamous for their visits too and you should always keep your bedroom windows closed when you are out. The rule with encountering any wild animals is to stand still and allow them to move off. Do not attempt to touch them. Once it is safe, or when you have an opportunity, report the incident to a senior member of staff.
When the camp is surrounded by darkness, there are generally more animals around than during the day. Take care when moving around at night. It is usually safe to sit outside on a deck and enjoy the night sounds but remember to always sleep with your doors, windows or mesh shutters closed.
Ensure you have a sufficient supply of the medicine you require as doctors, hospitals and pharmacies are often a fair distance away from the lodges and camps. Certain areas do have a malaria risk and it is recommended to do obtain further information about the area you intend to visit and take the necessary precautions such as taking Malaria prophylactics. If you have medical concerns, speak to your local doctor.
Before you arrive at a lodge, contact them directly to ensure that they are aware of any special requirements you may have to ensure your health during your stay. If you have a major allergy, be certain to tell your host, manager and / or guide and if you have medication with you let your travel companion know where it is. Pregnant guests may still go on the game drives and enjoy the bush experience, but let the camp and your guide know about your condition in advance and consult your intention to travel with your doctor. Your health will always be the top priority of the staff.
Listen to the professionals
The staff members at game lodges have received training on looking after the health and safety of guests staying the lodge they work at. Listen to any briefing they give you and obey the rules whatever activity you are taking part in. Be certain to read any literature that is available at the place you choose to stay and make sure you are aware of the procedures in the event of an emergency. While you are on game drive, listen to your guide and obey his instructions. Your guide knows the animals and their behavior and has your best interests at heart and if you do not feel safe or feel uncomfortable let the guide know.
VISA AND VACCINATIONS
Visas NOT required for:
- Nationals of Britain, Australia, Canada, USA, Japan and EU countries
- Nationals of Andorra, Argentina, Bahrain, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Cape Verde, Iceland, Israel, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Singapore, Swaziland, Switzerland and Uruguay for business, tourist or transit purposes
- Nationals of Costa Rica, Ecuador and St Helena for business, tourist or transit purposes of up to 90 days
- Nationals of all other South and Central American countries (except nationals of Colombia), Barbados, Belize, Benin, Comoro Islands, Czech Republic, Ivory Coast, Congo, Cyprus, Egypt, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Gabon, Hong Kong, Hungary, Jordan, South Korea, Kuwait, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Morocco, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Slovak Republic, Surinam, Taiwan (China), Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and Zambia for business, tourist or transit purposes of up to 30 days.
All other countries require visas to visit South Africa. For more information please refer to http://www.home-affairs.gov.za or http://www.dfa.gov.za/consular/index.html
Compulsory: None Recommended: Tetanus, Polio, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Malaria
Visas NOT required for:
Antigua & Barbuda, Italy, Sierra, Leone, Argentina, Jamaica, Singapore, Australia, Japan, Slovak Republic, Austria, Kenya, Solomon Islands, Bahamas, Kiribati, South Africa, Barbados, Lesotho, South Korea (Republic of), Belgium, Liechtenstien, Spain, Belize, Latvia, St.Kitts and Nevis, Brazil, Lithuania, St. Lucia, Brunei Darussalam, Luzembourg, St. Vincent & The Gurenadines, Bulgaria, Malawi, Swaziland, Canada, Malaysia, Sweden, Chile, Maldives, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Malta, Tanzania, Croatia, Mauritius, Tonga, Cyprus, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, Denmark, Monaco, Tuvalu, Dominica, Mozambique, Uganda, Dominican Republic, Namibia, United Kingdom, Estonia, Nauru, United States of America, Fiji, Netherlands, Uruguay, Finland, New Zealand, Vanuatu, France, Norway & Colonies, Venezuela, Gambia, Papua New Guinea, Zambia, Germany, Paraguay, Zimbabwe, Greece, Peru, Grenada, Poland, Guyana, Portugal, Holy See, Romania, Hong Kong, Russia, Hungary, Somoa, Iceland, San Marico, Ireland, Seychelles, Israel. Nationals from countries not listed above please check with your local travel agent or http://www.botswanaembassy.org/index.php?page=visa-consular for more information.
Compulsory: None Recommended: Hepatitis A & Tetanus
Most countries in North America and Western Europe do NOT require visas. Please refer to http://www.namibia.org.za/consular.htm for more information.
Compulsory: Yellow Fever if coming from endemic country or traveled through an endemic country Recommended: Hepatitis A & Tetanus
Visas NOT required for:
South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Mauritius, Malawi and Swaziland All other countries require visas for Mozambique. These can usually be obtained at border control points and in international airports. For further information please refer to http://www.embamoc.co.za or contact the Mozambique Consulate General: Tel +27 11 3361819/1810 Fax +27 11 3369921
Compulsory: Yellow Fever if coming from endemic country or traveled through an endemic country Recommended: Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Typhoid & Meningitis
Visas NOT required for:
Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, Maldives, St. Lucia, Vanuatu, Aruba 12 Hong Kong, Malta, St. Vincent & The Grenadies, Zambia, Bahamas, Hong Kong (China), Mauritius, Swaziland, Ghana, Barbados, Jamaica, Montserrat, Tanzania, Mozambique, Belize, Kenya, Namibia, Tonga, South Africa, Botswana, Kiribati, Nauri, Trinidad & Tobago, Cayman, Leeward Island, Samoa Western, Turk & Caicos Island, Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Singapore, Tuvalu, Cyprus, Malaysia, Solomon Island, Uganda, Fiji, Malawi, St. Kitts Countries whose nationals are granted visas at the port of entry on payment of the requisite visa fees: Argentina, Egypt, Korea, Puerto Rico, Austria, Finland, Kuwait, Seychelles, Australia, France, Leitchtenstan, Slovak, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Bermuda, Russia, Monaco, Sweden, Brazil, Greece, Netherlands, Switzerland, Britain (UK ), Hungary, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, Brunei, Indonesia, Norway, Uruguay, Canada, Iceland, Palau Island, USA, Cook Island, Ireland, Palestine (State of), Vatican, Czech Rep, Israel, Papau New Guinea, Virgin Island, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Dominic Rep, Japan, Portugal For more information or for the list of countries whose nationals are required to apply for and obtain visas prior to traveling please refer to: http://www.zimconsulate.co.za/visacountries.htm
Compulsory: Yellow Fever if coming from endemic country or traveled through an endemic country Recommended: Hepatitis A, Tetanus & Meningitis
Please refer to http://www.zambiaembassy.org/visa.html for more information. Compulsory: Yellow Fever if coming from endemic country or traveled through an endemic country Recommended: Hepatitis A, Tetanus & Meningitis
Visas required for:
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Angola, Antarctica, Armenia, Aruba, Zerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belorussia, Benin, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burma, Urundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, French Guiana, French Polynesia, Gabon, Georgia, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea – Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Iribati, Kuwait, Krygyzstan, Laisser, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Macao, Macedonia, Mali, Marshall Islands, Martinque, Mauritania, Mexico,Micronesia, Maldova, Mongolia, Morroco, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Phillipines, Pitcairn, Poland,Puerto Rico, Republic of Korea, Reunion, Rwanda, Romania, Saint Helena, Saint Kitts, Saint Pierre, Saint Vincent Grenadines and Miquelon, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Turkemenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vatican City, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Virgin Islands, Western Sahara, Yemen. For further information please refer to http://www.welcometoswaziland.com/twpub/pag.cgi?m=howto or contact Swaziland Consulate: Tel +27 11 4032050/36 Fax +27 11 4037473
Compulsory: Yellow Fever if coming from or stopping over in an endemic area Recommended: Hepatitis A & Tetanus
Holders of the following passports do NOT require visas for Lesotho: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, Israel and Japan. Others such as Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A., Belgium and Austria do need visas. Any other passport holders should phone Immigration in Maseru on Tel: (09-266) 317339 Fax (09-266) 310409
Compulsory: Yellow Fever if coming from endemic country or traveled through an endemic country Recommended: Hepatitis A & Tetanus
Nationals from the US, UK, and most EU countries, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa do NOT require visas to enter Malawi. For more information please contact; Malawi Consulate General: Fax: +27 11 807 7790 Immigration Officer at the Malawi Consulate-General in Sandton: Cell: 082 908 7159 Or visit the website: http://www.tourismmalawi.com
Compulsory: Yellow Fever if coming from endemic country or traveled through an endemic country Recommended: Hepatitis A & Tetanus & Meningitis
WHAT TO BRING ON SAFARI
What to bring on safari
Much of what you should bring with you on safari depends on the lodges or camps you will be visiting as well as the type of safari you will be going on. Some establishments provide accessories such as water bottles, sun screen, insect repellant, medical kits, wet ones etc however it is better to rather be safe than sorry and take along your own kit. One must also take luggage restrictions into consideration, especially if small charter flights will be used. What to pack
- Good quality sunglasses
- Good walking shoes. Ankle high boots are recommended for those who will be going on walking safaris
- Sandals, flip flops or thongs
- Swimming costume
- Hat – a wide brimmed hat is recommended if lengthy periods of time will be spent outdoors
- Neutral coloured clothing. Colourful clothing is fine for while you are in camp however on drives and walks bright clothing is usually not recommended. Instead go for greens, khakis, browns or black coloured clothing
- Warm clothes. Mornings and evenings can often get quite chilly. It is advised to dress in layers so that items of clothing can be shed when it warms up
- Rain coat
- Sun cream
- Wet ones and tissues
- Medical kit. This should just have basics such as headache tablets, plasters, rehydrate formulas, antiseptic ointments and medicines for stomach ailments
- Water and dust proof casing for electronic equipment and other valuables. Heavy duty zip lock bags are good for this
- Small day pack
- Binoculars. If possible go for binoculars that are 8×30 or stronger. 8 is the magnification and the 30 refers to the field of view
- Camera equipment and back up batteries if going to areas with little or no electricity
- Dust proof bags for camera equipment
- Water bottle
- Malaria medication if you are visiting a malaria area (consult your doctor first)
- Insect repellant – a high DEET content is recommended
- Torch or flashlight
- Hairdryer (basic ones often supplies at most private lodges and camps)
- Visas and passport
Again one must take luggage weight restrictions into consideration. Secondly certain medications need to be approved by doctors or chemists before international travel.