If you dream of seeing animals in the wild, uninhibited and free, basking in all their glory as majestic creatures, then this blog post is for you! After going on my 3rd safari to Kruger National Park in South Africa (1st time was Kruger as well and 2nd to Maasai Mara in Kenya), I feel that I can give a tip or two about planning and preparing for this wonderful adventure. I have been to 35 countries so far, and I still say that going on a safari is one of the most exciting excursions that you can do. On this trip, I was able to observe hyena cubs nursing from their mother, elephants taking down branches for dinner, and lions resting after mating. If the opportunity presents itself, I highly recommend venturing on a safari to see these authentic moments in real time. I’m going to discuss my personal experience, including what company I booked with, as well as what you should pack, precautions to take, and outfit ideas with links!
How do I set it up?
There are people who rent their own cars and go on a self-guided tour through the reserve. I do not recommend this for various reasons:
· I haven’t personally done it, so cannot offer thoughts on how to accomplish this
· It does not appear safe, unless you have been trained on how to deal with wild animals. When you book with a tour company, the guide is trained and knows the proper precautions to take. Remember, you car is not going to protect you from an elephant’s stomp or a rhino’s horn.
· Unless you do them all the time, your eyes may not be as accustomed to spotting animals as a guide. Since these animals are in the wild, anything you see is completely unpredictable. You can even miss animals as they tend to blend in with their surroundings. There were numerous times when the guide saw animals that I would have driven by. Also, I often thought I was seeing an animal when it was really a tree stump lol. There is so much land to cover, so it’s helpful to have someone who knows where they are going and can communicate with other guides who have spotted something cool. We ended up seeing lions on our last day because their location was shared amongst the guides.
I do recommend booking with a tour company, and there are plenty offering various levels of accommodation from camping to luxury. For this trip, we booked with Nhongo Safaris for a 2-Day Bushveld tour. Here is what was included:
· Pick up from Johannesburg and transportation to the park. Most tours for Kruger pick up from here, so if you were in Cape Town, you would need to first fly to Johannesburg. At the end of the tour, drop off to Johannesburg is provided. The drive is approximately 6 hours.
· All game drives, to include a sunset drive on arrival, a night drive, and a sunrise drive. It’s important to do multiple drives throughout the day as different animals are active at various times. The drives are with a trained guide in a traditional safari jeep (no windows!). The night drives are usually with a larger group for safety.
· Accommodation during the duration of the tour. We stayed in round rooms that included two twin size beds, a fridge, a private bathroom with shower, AC, and a seating area on the patio. The campsite was located right inside of Kruger National Park (with security), and we actually stayed at the oldest site, Pretoriuskop. This video offers a tour of our room. Personally, these accommodations were a bit too rustic for me. We encountered insects and our driver had a large spider crawling on him! Next time, we would opt for a more luxury experience, but it was definitely an upgrade from my first safari where I was sleeping in an actual tent.
· Breakfast and dinner was included, with us only having to purchase lunch. This campsite had a Wimpy restaurant on site, which is sort of like an IHOP. There were multiple options, which was convenient.
· Blankets (it gets cold at night and early in the morning, especially with the wind since there are no windows) and bottled water.
Our guide, Shannon, was hilarious and truly passionate about the animals. She made our trip extremely fun. However, I don’t think I can personally do those particular accommodations again, definitely not for longer than 1 night lol.
What do I pack?
Well, let’s discuss clothes first. ASOS truly came through for what I needed for my safari adventure. Click on the pictures below for links to the various items I wore. You definitely want to stay away from bright colors, as these are apparent to the animals and can cause them to go away. Black and dark blue can also attract bugs. It’s best to stick to neutral colors, such as khaki, olive, tan, and brown. Long sleeve and pants is best due to the weather and for mosquito protection. I would pack a light sweater for sure and boots.
Other items to pack:
· Bug spray
· Travel adapter plug
· Flashlight (no light at night on the campsite)
· Binoculars (although the guide will have one)
· Malaria medication if you choose. I personally do not take anti-malaria pills, but that’s up to you and your doctor. It’s always best to consult with a travel clinic, such as Passport Health before a trip.
Bonus Q&A for the questions I received on Instagram
How were the animal’s temperaments towards humans?
Some animals did stare at us, but most ignored us. At this point, they are used to tourists driving throughout the park. According to our guide, when we are in the truck, they just see us as a huge blob. If we step outside of the truck, stand up, or stick a body part out of the truck, that’s when they see us as prey.
Was it cold? Did you get muddy?
It was freezing for the night drive! And cold for the sunrise drive. We went early November, which is springtime. Definitely bring a sweater or jacket, and our tour company provided blankets. We didn’t get muddy, but it also didn’t rain. I’m sure if it did, you would.
Which parks do you recommend? I’ve always wanted to go!
We went to Kruger National Park, which I recommend if you are in South Africa. It’s the biggest reserve. In Kenya, we did Maasai Mara, which was also awesome. So it depends on which country you go to, but I would stay away from the little private reserves. They tend to have less regulations, which means less safety measures.
It really is not as difficult as you may think to plan a safari. Once you choose a tour company, they pretty much handle all the logistics. It’s best to read reviews when deciding which tour to book and to get recommendations from those who have actually been on one. We received our tour recommendation from my sister in law, and we ended up having an amazing time! Alright loves, you know what to do, book the trip!
xoxo, Global Midwife