What to expect on your first luxury safari November 22nd, 2018 • by Katya d'Angelo An African safari may well be the epitome of adventure and is an experience many people have dreamt of all their life. There are many ways to “do a safari,” but ultimately, you get what you pay for. A luxury safari, the kind that we offer, is a once-in-a-lifetime trip where you’ll enjoy the very best service, facilities, accommodations, meals, guides, and camp location. But what about the day-to-day details? As having just returned from my first safari in Botswana (a well-known safari destination) and Zimbabwe (an excellent, lesser-known option) it’s still very fresh in my memory…. OUT IN THE BUSH Off-roading is key. On self-drive safaris or in public areas of national parks, driving off-road is prohibited. Animals don’t care about roads. The ability to drive through the bush in any direction can be the difference between spotting a cheetah and her cubs or knowing they were just out of view. Your guide has eagle eyes. My guide, Joe, stopped the Land Rover. “Do you see the leopard?” I looked around. “It’s in a tree.” There was a twinkle in his eye. I stared hard at the trees and still saw nothing. “There. His tail dips below the low branch,” Joe handed me his binoculars and pointing to a tree 1000 feet away. I am still stunned that he spotted that while driving on a bumpy road and scanning the landscape as quickly as he did. Guides are invaluable to a fulfilling and successful safari. They see things untrained eyes will definitely miss. Not every moment is jaw-dropping, but there are plenty of jaw-dropping moments. Sometimes it’s about enjoying the landscape and conversation. Remember, these are wild animals in their natural environment, they won’t just run up to the vehicle. Part of the fun is that you never know what will appear behind the next termite mound—maybe a hyena…maybe next time. You might drive for an hour and only see a giraffe, or you might drive for five minutes and see a lion stalking an impala. There may be blood. Speaking of lions, you’ll be quite lucky to see predators hunt, and it is rather fascinating. But for some, the event is sad and gruesome. Just keep in mind that it’s the circle of life. Your guide isn’t lost. The roads have names, and guides know the natural landmarks just like you know the gas station on the corner near your house. Don’t worry. Guides communicate. The vehicle radios are crucial for guides to keep in touch with each other, even with those from neighboring camps. If one comes across a pack of wild dogs dozing in the shade, that location is shared with other guides in the area. Photos will never do your experience justice… …but a really good camera will come close. In fact, our partners at Wilderness Safari have teamed up with Olympus cameras and are now providing some of the most advanced cameras on the market at their camps for guests to borrow! BACK AT CAMP Prepare to be pampered. The camp staff is there for you in every way, to greet you, say farewell, take care of your bags, offer you food and drinks (constantly), leave notes with your turn down service, walk you to your tent, wake you up, and confirm all your travel info, so you needn’t think about anything. This is not a time to catch up on sleep. Wake up is between 5 and 5:30 am as the animals are most active in the cooler parts of the day. Dinners can last well into the evening when wine and conversation are flowing. The midday siesta from about 11:30-3:30 is when you might catch a nap. You can always choose to skip a morning game drive and sleep in. Bugs will come into your room. It’s the bush, remember? The reality is that they don’t want to touch you just as much as you don’t want to touch them and will mostly stay near the ceiling. There is bug spray in your room to kill anything that makes you uncomfortable. That being said, the big spiders may look scary, but they are very beneficial as they eat flies and mosquitoes, so try to leave them be. It is loud at night. Buffalo snorting, elephants rumbling, hyenas whooping. The noises are both thrilling (a reminder that you are in the wild) and bothersome when you’re trying to get some sleep. Bring earplugs. You will not be hungry. On safari, there are five meals a day—light breakfast at wake up, heartier brunch at 11, high tea at 3:30, sundowner at 6, dinner at 8. It’s quite impressive what the chefs in these remote places create. They can procure just about anything on their weekly fresh food deliveries. You’ll find quiches, salads, pastas, soups, meat, vegetables, salads, sandwiches, and homemade pastries. It takes a village, literally. The camps we use accommodate no more than 12-20 guests, but have 40-50 staff on duty on any given day! Due to the remote location, they live full time for several months in the “staff village,” with their own rooms, eating area and cook, facilities, and recreation area. And it’s not just the guides, camp management, and dining attendants. So much goes on behind the scenes to ensure guests have an extraordinary experience—there are vehicles mechanics, maintenance teams for the buildings, night patrol watchmen, laundry staff, cleaners, cooks, dishwashers, just to name a few. It’s incredible how many jobs are created for locals by just one camp cropping up in the bush. So, when are you going on safari?