Thinking of Going on an Africa Safari? Helpful Insights from the Experts.

This month’s Active World Journeys travel blog: “Thinking of going on an Africa Safari? Helpful insights from the experts.”

[NoHo Arts District, CA] –  This month’s Active World Journeys’ travel blog: “Thinking of going on an Africa Safari? Helpful insights from the experts.”

Going on a safari in Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people, but it does come with concerns about comfort, safety, and protection and wellness efforts for the wildlife.  I asked my tour partners at Amazing Africa, who live and work there, to give a little background and history of safaris and how they’ve evolved, current wildlife preservation efforts, misconceptions, and what to expect as a first timer going on an African safari.

How has going on safari changed over time in Africa since the early days of European colonialism?

Safari Expeditions were discovered as new frontiers by adventurers, scientists, and botanists, through journeys of discovery and hardship. Taking back the stories of these voyagers, they portrayed picture-perfect stories which were not true. To bring an end to the hardships of traveling through Africa, travel and tourism was introduced by the development of accommodation ranging from budget to luxury to enjoy the opportunity to experience the wild and at the same time be in a safe and secure environment. Today going on safari means having a roof over your head, hot water to bathe and a prepared meal to eat while enjoying the sightings of these wild animals through open 4×4 safari vehicles or trekking them by foot with qualified rangers.

What animals are considered the “Big 5” and why did they become so significant?

The Big Five consists of the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo. These five large African mammal species were known to be dangerous, and it was considered a feat by trophy hunters to bring them home. In fact, their difficulty made them the most sought-after animals for most hunters and they soon became a rite of passage for seasoned hunting pros.

What types of national and regional efforts are in place in Africa to ensure the preservation and wellness of the animals most encountered on a safari?

For wildlife in Africa to grow for future generations to appreciate, it must be considered by the local communities to have some sort of value and thus wild animals must pay their way. This is why Safari tourism has a major impact in helping to preserve Africa’s wild habitats and creatures. Without tourists, the wildlife will quickly disappear. However, tourism needs to be properly managed, benefit the local communities and impact on the environment as little as possible.

Environmental and ethical principles are taken into consideration to promote sustainable tourism and involvement in community projects, health clinics, and rural schools, as well as in wildlife and habitat protection. It has become common for local communities to enjoy full or part-ownership of land set aside specifically for wildlife-based tourism. Communities are compensated for loss of livestock through predation, and ex-poachers have turned a leaf and are employed as guides or game scouts.

Guests are charged a conservation or conservancy fee with these contributions going directly to the local communities and/or the management of the relevant protected areas. Also, more accommodation establishments are now relying on solar power, and efforts are being made to remove single-use plastic use in camps and lodges, especially plastic water bottles.

There are volunteer programs in which people can get involved to help with research and animal behavior. There are multiple rehabilitation and rescue centers for animals as well as anti-poaching units and contraception programs for these wild species.

Are there any particular organizations you recommend where people can get involved and/or donate their time or money to help with wildlife conservation solutions?

Yes, there are a number:

Pack for a Purpose

Born to Live Wild

Elephants for Africa

Zambian Carnivore Program

Rhino’s without borders

How do you see Safari’s evolving in Africa over the next 10 years?

As more and more elements are being put into place for the sustainability of the environment and wildlife, I feel that Safari will become a great deal in Africa, with more and more people wanting to visit and be a part of the volunteer programs and get first-hand experience of the wild with more
knowledge and insight.

What’s it like to live and work in Africa and be a part of tourism there?

Africa is a beautiful continent with abundant beauty, scenery, and potential. Being a part of the tourism industry not only gives us the opportunity to discover what the land has to offer but also gives us the opportunity to hand this knowledge to people in other parts of the world and show off
our natural and cultural heritage.

Living in Africa is quite amazing as we have the perfect climate along with multiple destinations in close proximity to visit.

Can you share any unique and/or fun stories of going on safari, either yourself or with the groups you host?

As harsh as it sounds, seeing a kill or birth are the most exciting experiences on safari. If you see both in one instance that’s by luck. We encountered an impala giving birth and the next minute had a lioness rip the newborn to pieces. This is something most people only see on National Geographics, but seeing it first hand was quite an experience. Just seeing how the wild works and lives opens up your perspective on life.

This month’s Active World Journeys travel blog: “Thinking of going on an Africa Safari? Helpful insights from the experts.”

Any special advice for first-timers heading out on safari?

GO ON EVERY GAME DRIVE POSSIBLE. Most safari vehicles are either open 4×4 or open-top land cruisers, You will be accompanied by a driver and/or tracker. The tracker sits on a special seat that juts out from the very front of the vehicle, affording them clear views of any animal tracks. They’ll raise their hand when they spot anything interesting and sometimes jump off their seat to take a closer look or even a bit of a stroll (do NOT join them!)

You might drive up very close to the animals on a game drive, but don’t be alarmed. If this is your first-time safari, be prepared to get up very early for game drives – the animals are at their most active in the mornings before it gets too hot, so you need to be on the move bright and early to ensure the best sightings. It is totally worth sacrificing a sleep-in! The other time that animals are active is in the late afternoon, so there are usually two game drives each day: early morning and then another one from about 3pm.

Regardless of the time of year, when you’re on a game drive you’ll need sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. Morning game drives start while it’s still dark, and evening game drives will bring you back once the sun’s gone down, you’ll need to wear layers and take some warm clothes. Be warned: when the sun’s not in the sky it can get really chilly, and in the winter it’s positively freezing.

Any common misconceptions about safaris or the animals on a safari in Africa?

Africa is not safe – This is one of the most common misconceptions, while it may be true that the past has not favored Africa’s image, the majority of countries on the continent are safe to visit today, especially safari destinations. In areas where safety may be an issue, simply apply common sense and take precautions. For instance, don’t travel at night, carry valuables, walk through dark alleys, etc.

Going on a safari is dangerous – This is another common misconception. Sure, there are dangerous animals in Africa and deadly incidents have occurred, but these are extremely rare. Most fatalities and injuries have happened because individuals got out of their safari vehicles on game drives to harass wild animals. If you follow the game park’s rules, along with the instructions of your safari driver/guide, then you and your companions will be safe.

Africa is always hot – Yet another of the common African safari myths in circulation. The truth is that the heat very much depends on where you go in Africa. Some countries on the continent, like South Africa, have temperate climates with warm sunny days and cool mornings and evenings, even in the hotter summer months. The game reserves and parks in these countries are preferred African safari destinations.

Regarding snakes and insects, certainly Africa is home to a wide variety of creatures of all shapes and sizes. There aren’t any more of them than one would find in other world continents, though. In very hot climates and in certain bushveld areas, safari-goers do need to be a bit more careful. However, it is easy to get by safely and comfortably with common sense, the right attire, a mosquito net, and some bug repellent.

Thanks so much for all of this great insight and I am excited to announce to everyone I’ll be partnering with you again for another South Africa Safari Adventure, November 3-14, 2023. The small-group tour will have us experiencing the best of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and “Big 5” Game Drives in Botswana, one of the premiere wildlife destinations in the world where famous wild animals roam thrilling landscapes and play out nature’s greatest script.  Registration is now open, can’t wait to see you again then!

South Africa Safari Adventure with Active World Journeys.
South Africa Safari Adventure with Active World Journeys.