1. It’s dusty everywhere.
Cover up when you can, seal away valuables in bags, but otherwise accept that everything will get dusty no matter what. Whatever has been exposed will need to be washed and wiped later. Regularly clean up – especially yourself and camera gear!
2. The ride is bumpy.
This is the wild, after all. Oftentimes there are no real roads, and you’ll actually be surprised how the vehicle hasn’t fallen apart already. Wear a sports bra for girls, strap into your seat, and hold on. You’ll probably get a few bruises but they’ll be worth it!
3. Bring a good camera with zoom-in lens.
iPhone photos will probably disappoint you. Bring as nice of a camera and as large of a telephoto lens as you can manage. Safari is all about those close up shots! The only way to get rhino photos like the above for us was with our 600mm telephoto lens. When it comes to telephoto lenses, size matters.
4. Bring binoculars.
We were on the fence about binoculars but very glad we had them! You don’t need a fancy one – 10x will do, any more you’ll have to be extra steady. Do practice how to use beforehand. The only exception is if you have a telephoto lens at which point you’ll look through that instead.
5. Get up and leave early!
The early bird gets the worm! Early morning (pre-sunrise) game drives are the best – animals hunt in the dark and sleep during the day. It’s also not so crowded, and the sunrises are really spectacular. A headlamp is helpful for those early starts.
6. Eat when you can or bring snacks.
With the early start to the day, there will be long stretches between meals – i.e. breakfast around 6am, lunchbox around 1pm, dinner around 7:30pm. Also sitting in the car is more tiring than you’d imagine. Eat up when you can! Snacks are good, but beware of dusty note above.
7. Protect yourself from the sun and mosquitoes.
Sunscreen is essential; hat is super useful. You don’t want to be the person in the group that’s all red and sunburned that everyone else secretly laughs at. Depending on your accommodations, insect spray will prevent you from being woken up by bugs buzzing in your ear. Spray liberally. You may also want to take anti-malarials to ease your malaria worries.
8. Hydrate, but not too much.
We went in the winter season when it’s very dry. Sooo dry. Water and lotion and lip balm and all the moisture was appreciated. But beware of over-hydrating – there are no places for bathroom once you’re on a game drive. Hold it in or get out of the van into lion territory? Tough choice.
9. Go with the flow.
The itinerary will probably not be exactly what was described. You may shift vehicles between days. The vehicle could break down and you may have to push it (speaking from personal experience). It’s impossible to predict and prepare everything, but you’ll solve problems as you encounter them.
10. Pack your sense of humour.
The most important tip and lesson – remember it’s an adventure and what you’ve been dreaming of. Seeing the positives will make everything easier. Finding the silver lining will be so much more enjoyable. Smiles are free.