How to get the most out of a safari trip
~ Shared Bucket List is proud to be supported by its readers. We do not accept money for any of our reviews and only recommend services/products we have used personally. If a purchase is made through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. ~
by Chloe Green (@SharedBucketList)
A safari is an unforgettable bucket list experience - a holiday like no other! Forget sunbathing on the beach; these unique expeditions offer adrenaline, adventure and, most importantly, thrilling wildlife sightings. We highly recommend going for an African safari for the best chances of seeing the'Big Five' (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard - traditionally, those animals who pose the greatest danger to their hunters). South Africa is often the first country of choice for new safari goers as it is considered 'safer' but we visited the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and were blown away. Watch our safari reel here!
If you're undecided about where to choose, here are the most positively-reviewed African safari countries, along with their ratings:
1 Botswana 4.61/5 (Experts: 4.42/5 - Users: 4.80/5)
2 Tanzania 4.55/5 (Experts: 4.41/5 - Users: 4.69/5)
3 Zambia 4.46/5 (Experts: 4.23/5 - Users: 4.68/5)
4 Zimbabwe 4.38/5 (Experts: 3.92/5 - Users: 4.83/5)
5 Kenya 4.36/5 (Experts: 4.06/5 - Users: 4.66/5)
6 South Africa 4.34/5 (Experts: 3.96/5 - Users: 4.72/5)
7 Namibia 4.27/5 (Experts: 3.95/5 - Users: 4.59/5)
8 Uganda 4.22/5 (Experts: 3.95/5 - Users: 4.65/5)
9 Rwanda 4.07/5 (Experts: 3.97/5 - Users: 4.17/5)
10 Swaziland 4.03/5 (Experts: 3.38/5 - Users: 4.68/5)
Wherever you pick, because it is such a different holiday to the usual, you might want to take extra consideration when packing your suitcase and/or hand luggage. For instance, you're going to need a lot more than a few bikinis and swimming trunks to get by. In fact, leave those out completely. Unless you fancy a leisurely dip with some crocs...
Few things would be worse than arriving to a remote national park on distant lands without the things you need. So, here is our list of tips to enhance your trip and get the very best out of your safari:
#1 Take some binoculars
Relying on your vision alone means you might not see an awful lot. Some of the first animals we spotted on our safari were a pride of lions which sounds like we hit the jackpot but they were sleeping on a high rock in the distance and we really couldn't observe much at all from down below. Thankfully, I had my camera and long lens with me and Connor was able to borrow the guide's binoculars.
This was the case on several occasions throughout our game drives.
You certainly don't need to rush out and buy the most expensive ones you can find but we strongly advise taking some with you. (Even more so if you are in a shared safari truck as we doubt there'll be enough to go around.)
#2 If you're into photography, an iPhone isn't going to cut it
Having a keen interest in photography and a personal desire to improve my snapping skills this year, I asked my brother (an experienced wedding videographer) whether I could borrow one of his cameras for our safari trip, in order to make the memories from our bucket list holiday even more special. The day before our trip, the camera batteries were playing up and I very nearly left it behind, thinking I wouldn't really need it. How wrong I was! Returning to the previous point about poor visibility, without it, we'd have been pretty stuffed.
I appreciate that camera quality on iPhones has improved dramatically over the years and it is possible to take some amazing photos with just a smartphone however the zooming function is below par. We recorded a few videos and took several action shots with my iPhone 11 but I'm so glad I had a proper camera to capture the animals we were lucky to see. Our safari album is insane! You can see a sample of our gallery below. For more, click here.
Alternatively, a fairly new product which has been whipping up a storm in the photography market is the attachable phone camera lens. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it but here is one with great reviews for a reasonable price.
#3 Insect repellant is a must
Don't get me wrong, we were expecting there to be bugs in Africa. We were fully stocked with our antimalaria tablets (see our article: 'Need-to-knows before visiting Tanzania') and ensured that the accommodation we were sleeping in had mosquito nets to prevent us from being bitten. But we didn't realise that the flies would be constantly buzzing around us during each of the drives around the plains. Of course, this probably depends on which type of safari truck you are in - ours had an open top which was great for sight-seeing but inevitably let unwanted insects in too. In any case, you might not know this before you arrive so pack the bug spray. Make it a strong one.
#4 Tip your safari guide
If you're a decent human being, you can probably skip past this tip as it will be something you do naturally anyway... Safari guides are excellent and work incredibly long hours, day and night, to provide the best service they possibly can. Ours were super friendly, very knowledgeable about the animals and went out of their way to make our experience the best it could be. Even when our game drives were over and we were just being driven from one place to another, the guides were still so eager to point out various animals they spotted throughout the journey and pull over if it was something remarkable. We're not saying that you should tip in advance in the hope that it will result in special treatment (we would tip anyway because we really appreciated the time and effort they put in) but being generous is rewarding in itself and the recipient will be always be grateful.
#5 Pick your clothes wisely but don't stress
I feel like many of the posts we read before going on our safari trip were a little over the top with advice on what you should wear for a safari - especially when targeting women. Of course, it is important that you're not overly-exposed to the elements, for there is a risk of insect bites, sunburn and offending religious beliefs. But our honest tip would be to just dress comfortably and wear something you don't mind sweating in! For shoes, trainers (an old pair) would be a good shout; avoid open toes. You might wish to take a sun hat or cap but, for most part, you'll be in the safari truck which is likely to be shaded. We took our sunglasses but didn't need them. We also chose to dress in neutral/earthy colours as we learnt that bright, vivid colours would be more attractive to insects. That's also the case for strong perfume or aftershave (trust us - you won't need it).
So, there you have our top five tips for getting the most out of your bucket list safari trip! We hope you found them useful. If there's anything we've missed that you are still left wondering, don't hesitate to comment below, get in touch with us on Instagram or via our contact page!
We hope you have the best time ever. It's honestly out of this world! (We're already thinking about planning our next one!)