Seven things to know before going on a Safari.

If a South African safari to Botswana or Zimbabwe is on your bucket-list or upcoming travels, here are seven things to know before you go on a safari.  I am in the planning stages and wanted to share what I have learned thus far.  

1.  Plan early, be prepared and know your budget.  A safari is trip of a lifetime and can be a very pricey vacation.  Many camps are booked several months in advance so you will need to plan early, use a reputable travel agent or an Africa safari specialist.  I have included links below to the top camps in Botswana and Zimbabwe.  When it comes to packing, be sensible.  Bring a hat and layers as its chilly in the morning and hot in the afternoon.  Finally, do your research, study up on the region, the culture, the animals and the people.  You will get more out of your trip by doing some prep work.

2.  Know the difference between Botswana's and Zimbabwe's Safari Guides and Camps. Wilderness Safaris - one of the oldest and most professional premier Safari Camp outfitters in Southern Africa - runs several levels of camps (rustic, upscale classic, and over-the-top luxury) in both countries. Guides in Botswana don't carry guns, so walking safaris there are rare.  But you can get out of your Land Rover and walk in Zimbabwe, where guides sport rifles and must go through rigorous training and certification to lead guests on the ground.

3. Be prepared for bugs, and mosquitoes.  Before departing you will be required to get appropriate vaccinations.  You should pack a DEET product, cover-ups and anti-malaria pills.  If possible, purchase clothing that has been treated with bug repellent. 

4. There is not a " bad time" of year to go on a safari.   April-October is the dry season and offers perfect weather for prime animal viewing time. Daytime temperatures average 70 degrees Fahrenheit but can get much hotter especially in the months of October and November, just before the rains arrive.  Summer months the temps are cooler.  November through early March is the rainy season and welcoming of babies.  All the animals, from giraffes to zebras to monkeys and wildebeest will have given birth.  A perfect time to go.

5. Remember you are in the wild, where the animals are hungry. It might seem obvious, but many people view the animals as a photo-op.  Most animals see the Land Rovers as one big "unit".  But, if you stand up, lean out, talk loudly - you risk becoming the lions next meal.  It might be the animal kingdom, but its not Disney.  Respect your surroundings and the wild nature of the animals.

6.  You wont go hungry.  Some of the more up-scale camps provide food, presentation and service which rival that of a five-star hotel in any top city. The tables are elegantly set under the stars, under thatch or even in a boma.  Breakfast, game drive snack, brunch, High Tea, afternoon snacks and dinner are served each day - with lovely regional wines. Not exactly roughing it.

7.   This is not an active trip and there is no guarantee you will see the Big Five.  Plan to spend hours in your jeep early morning and late afternoon watching the wildlife unfold while you snap away on your camera.  Mid-day is for siestas, relaxing and socializing.  There is no guarantee you will see all Big Five - lion, leopard, elephant, cape buffalo and especially the rhino which is becoming rare.  Whether you see one or all five, you will still have an amazing animal viewing experience.

For planning purposes, I recommend the following camps. 
Wilderness Safaris
Botswana Camps
Zimbabwe Camps

Have you been on a safari?  Welcome your tips and suggestions.


Credit.  Gatewaymavens.  James Weiss

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