Safaris are often one of those bucket list holidays for people. And with good reason. You’ll undoubtedly create memories that will last you a lifetime. But that’s only if you don’t put pressure on yourself to have the best time of your life.
That kind of attitude will always lead to disappointment. You’ll end up scrutinizing everything that happens during your time away, if you don’t see a specific animal, crushed. Don’t quite reach an Attenborough-level experience? Failure.
Instead, learn to balance your expectations before you go. Know what may go ‘wrong’, and how things may not quite be like the documentaries you see on Netflix. Once you manage this, you’ll have an amazing experience you’ll never forget.
Early, Hot (or Super Cold), Long Drives
This is one that tends to shock first-time safari-goers most. If you want to see animals, you’re going to have to get up before first light. You want to be up and running right before the sun is up, giving your group the best chance to see a wide range of species.
Unfortunately, animals tend to be active super early. This isn’t going to be your lazy beach vacation, where you can recharge your batteries and relax on a lounger. You’ll most likely be getting up earlier than you usually do!
Also, it may be very, very hot. And dusty. Pack a good hat, sunblock, and light clothing. Expect it to be uncomfortable at times. Alternatively, if you go in winter (June-August), it’s going to be near freezing at times. We’re talking gloves, winter jacket, scarf, hat, the works. Be prepared for the weather.
Drives will also be quite long. We’re talking several hours at a time, with bumpy and bouncy conditions as standard. Of course, the views will give you a lifetime’s worth of photos for your Instagram account.
Prepare for Downtime
Commercials for safaris feature beautiful animals, stunning scenery, and adventure abound. And while these promises aren’t exaggerations, they don’t really prepare you for this: there will be a lot of downtime.
Remember, wildlife will not operate on your schedule. Just because you’re ready to see them, doesn’t mean they’re going to put on a show for you. Be prepared to relax and slow life down a little bit, waiting for the highlights to come.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Grab that novel you’ve been meaning to read the past few years. Enjoy being disconnected from the rapid pace of daily life. Or, if you can’t quite pull yourself away from your smartphone, distract yourself with some games online.
You also might be surprised to learn, but you can still get your safari kick, thanks to safari-themed slots that are available at some of the best South African casinos such as Springbok casino. Not only do they have a huge selection of quality games to choose from, but they have also committed themselves to the preservation and protection of animals.
The most recent drive focuses on the plight of whales, amusingly called Whalentine’s Day.
With a Springbok Casino bonus code, players can enjoy getting rewarded for playing their favorite games, but also be part of a worthwhile cause.
Amenities Will Be Limited
Unless you’re staying in a luxury lodge, expect amenities to be limited. That’s especially true once you’re out on the road. There won’t be a flushing toilet once you’ve left your lodge (and you may not even have one if you’re in a camp!), so make sure you’re comfortable with your travel partner(s)!
You’ll be running behind a bush on a regular basis for comfort breaks. Once nature calls, it calls. Depending on your tour, you may be set up with a resting camp in the middle of the day. This works particularly well during the summer, as the midday heat can be dangerous.
Just don’t expect what you’re used to at four or five-star hotels. Even the expensive solutions can be basic. Not all, but do your research first. But remember, the main thing is the safari!
There Will Always Be Trade-offs
The ‘best’ time to go on safari is probably the dry season. That’s May to October. You’ll get low grass, meaning that visibility is far better. There’s nothing more irritating than trying to look ‘through’ vegetation to see an animal. Different species will also congregate around watering holes (the locations of which will be known to your guides) due to the dry conditions.
Summer, on the other hand, offers cheaper prices. It isn’t as popular as weather conditions can be a little uncomfortable for people not used to it (we’re talking about that sticky kind of heat!). On the other hand, you will get spectacular vegetation, meaning the vistas can be far more impressive. Not only that, babies will usually be more common during summer.
In short, be prepared for trade-offs. There’s always an opportunity cost. You choose one thing, miss another. That’s just how it works. Don’t beat yourself up about it and just try and soak up the beautiful moments without thinking about what you may be missing.
This is our ‘send-off’ message to you: don’t put pressure on your safari vacation. Don’t stress about your choices. You’ll have a great time no matter the time of year, and you’ll always come across a wide range of species and beautiful landscapes.
South Africa is a unique country, with so much to offer. Do your research, don’t fret, and balance your expectations. Get ready for the holiday of a lifetime.