Imagine the scene…
The morning starts as the sun slowly rises, the golden light casting itself across the savannah. As the day awakens, the earth begins to warm up and you can see a faint mist rising up from the horizon.
In the distance, you hear birds greeting the morning, the sounds of their dawn chorus filling the air. The day has begun, and you are there to experience it firsthand.
Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it?
When you think of an African safari holiday, you probably consider watching and seeing the wildlife one of the main attractions. After all, there isn’t much that compares to watching a herd of wildebeest thunder across the plains, leaving clouds of dust in their wake, or hearing the roar of a lion in the middle of the night.
But in order to make the most of your trip, and increase your chances of spotting some amazing wildlife, it’s important to go prepared.
Whilst on safari, there are a few things that you should be careful to avoid. Here are seven wildlife watching mistakes that you’ll want to watch out for…
Before you book a safari, it’s important to be clear on your expectations to avoid disappointment. The ideal location and time of year for your journey will depend largely upon what you hope to see and experience on your safari. During the wet season there’s an increase in vegetation and water, which means that wildlife will be scattered all over in search of food and it will be more difficult to spot them.
During the dry season though, there’s less water, and animals will be congregating at water holes, making them easier to spot. From July to September are the great river crossings, where herds of wildebeest and zebra gather at the Mara River to brave their way past ferocious crocodiles waiting in the shallows.
If there’s a particular animal that you want to see, you’ll want to plan your trip around the times and locations where they are most likely to be found.
Animals have a very keen sense of hearing, and are able to hear things approaching from afar. This helps keep them safe from predators. For this reason, it’s important to be as quiet as possible when you’re on walking safaris.
Talking loudly or making unusually loud noises can give your position away and cause the animals to move away before you get a chance to see them. If you are on a walking tour, do everyone in your group a favour and try to stay as quiet as possible.
As gentle as some of the animals might appear to be, remember: these creatures are wild and getting too close can cause the animals to switch into defense mode. They are much stronger and quicker than you, and getting too close, even just for a moment for a better picture is irresponsible and should be avoided.
Instead of trying to get closer to the animals or encouraging them to come closer to you, consider investing in binoculars or a telephoto lens for your camera before you go so you can photograph wildlife from a distance. Keep in mind that the goal of a safari is to observe the animals interacting in their own natural environments, not to interact with them yourself.
This may sound obvious, but it’s important to be responsible when you are out on the trails. This means no littering and taking everything out that you brought into the campsites. It also means no feeding the animals, being respectful to their habitat, and not destroying things unnecessarily.
Be responsible. It will help you, and everyone else to have a more enjoyable time, and will help to keep the environment pristine for future generations.
While viewing wildlife is a thrilling adventure, there will be periods where you won’t see any wildlife at all. To get the most out of your safari, try to bring your patience. Make sure you set realistic expectations about what you hope to see, and try to remember that there’s more to a safari then checking the big five off your list.
Enjoy the scenery and the smaller, unexpected animals as well. Meerkats, gazelle, hyenas, and jackals can be fascinating to watch, as can insects like termites and dung beetles. African birds are also often overlooked, yet fascinating. It’s important to remember that a safari isn’t a zoo where you can expect the same animals to be in the same locations.
These animals are wild, and often don’t hold to the same schedules as we do. So try to be patient and enjoy the journey!
The guides are there for a reason. Not listening to them can be dangerous for you and the animals as well. The rules that your guides put into place aren’t there to spoil your trip, they’re meant to keep everyone safe, and often to protect the animals and their environment.
There are often rules and regulations that must be followed as well. At the very least, try to remember that your guides are there to help you have the most enjoyable experience possible whilst keeping everyone safe. No small task!
One of the benefits of booking a guided tour is that the guide should have extensive knowledge on local wildlife, and familiar with their usual schedules, behaviour, and habits. With a guided safari there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to spot more animals than you would had you gone on your own.
For instance, lions often like to sleep on the road at night to soak in the heat from earlier in the day. If you leave early enough in the morning, you might be able to catch a few of them still waking up. Familiarity with the wildlife and their patterns increases your chances of seeing them.
Finally, one of the most devastating mistakes that you could make is to not have a good time! An African safari for many is the trip of a lifetime, and watching the African wildlife is an exciting experience that you’ll remember for years to come. You’ll want to make the most of it by preparing before you go.
Before you leave, take some time to educate yourself on what you can expect, and make sure you go prepared and ready to have a good time. Avoiding common mistakes can help to elevate your experience and ensure that its every bit as spectacular is it could possibly be.
Armed with all this advice, are you ready to take your own exciting African safari? If you still want to do more research around safari holidays in Africa, your next step should be to download a free copy of the African Safari Field Guide – a 37-page guide written by our expert team here at Safari Drive HQ, which includes on all sorts of safari advice on camping in the bush and spotting wildlife.
Or, if you’re ready to take action towards organising a trip, get a free safari consultation with one of our team and start planning the trip to Africa that will best fit your needs. Good luck!