You’d be hard pressed to find anyone more passionate about safaris than our very own YPA founder, Ashley Bay. That’s why she’s the best when it comes to telling travelers what they can expect from a typical day out on safari…
Rise and shine
Safaris come with an early wake up (5/6am) for a reason, because there’s nothing quite like sipping your first cup of coffee in the dark before you excitedly jump onto a game vehicle and witness Africa’s first colorful rays of sun pierce the horizon.
Even though middays can be hot, early mornings on the back of an open-top game vehicle can be very chilly, which is why many game vehicles will put hot water bottles and blankets on the seats to help buffer against those early morning winds.
Top tip #1: Pack a day bag, making sure to include:
- Puffer jacket (for warmth and to act as a windbreaker)
- Beanie (winter months)
- Gloves (winter months)
- Hat (baseball or wide brim)
- Power bank/charging pack
- Chap stick
- Reusable water bottle
There’s almost always a coffee stop on the morning game drive, unless there is a captivating sighting that takes priority.
Top tip #2: A snack will generally be offered on the morning game drive, but you can request more food if needed, especially if you have kids who are likely to get hungry along the way.
On average, game drives are a couple of hours in South Africa, and even longer in Botswana or East Africa, depending on where you need to drive to. That means that you’ll likely either have a packed breakfast in the bush or a brunch/lunch waiting at the lodge when you return to camp. As far as snacking goes, many of our clients traveling with young children say that packing in a few favorite snacks from home is always a good idea.
If you have a private game vehicle you can stay out longer, which is something photographers and birders really appreciate. In this instance, they’ll take packed meals with them on the vehicle. But generally speaking, most of our clients go back and have lunch at their lodge.
After lunch you’re at leisure to do whatever your heart desires, using the downtime to catch up on some sleep, have a swim, read a book, enjoy a massage, or choose a treatment at the spa. (Lodge facilities and spa offerings vary by property.)
Top tip #3: Tell us what kind of facilities you expect from your lodge so that we can make the perfect recommendation:
Depending on how active you want to be, and whether or not you’ll need to check a few emails during the day, we’ll advise you on the ideal lodge for what you have in mind. Trust us, if you can dream it, we can deliver it, including on-site yoga classes, bushveld boardrooms and private gyms. Also, if you have kids and want to find a lodge that has kid-friendly activities on the go during the day, we’ve got a range of options that we’ve tried and tested ourselves.
If you’ve have a walk or boat trip planned, it will generally be in the afternoon. Or if you’re planning to join the afternoon-into-evening game drive, you’ll generally head out at 3.30/4pm and have sundowners (drinks) in the bush and beautiful sunsets to look forward to.
Day versus night game drives present very different experiences, which is something that often surprises first-time safari goers. As it turns from dusk to dark, you can expect to see different sightings and an exciting array of night life coming out to play.
In many ways, a day on safari perfectly mimics the pace that the animals around you are living at, which is why experiencing the full circle of both a morning and evening game drive will really help you connect with the bush and invigorate your senses.
Top tip #4: Invest in a decent pair of binoculars for the day (and evening) game drives your trip. We advise at least one pair of binocs for every two people, or if you are a family of five, for example, round down and pack at least two pairs. A good size to buy is an 8×42 or a 10X42.
There’s nothing like a welcoming warm fire and a hearty dinner waiting for you when you arrive back at the lodge or camp after your evening game drive. If you’re planning on joining the following day’s game drive, you’ll probably head for bed at 9/10 pm, but for the night owls who aren’t quite ready to sleep, some lodges organize games, telescopes for star gazing, bushveld sleep outs, and share stories around the fire with cigars and brandies doing the rounds.
A last tip from Ashley…
“When we’re on safari, it always feels like we get three days in one because the drives and itineraries are so full of excitement and every minute is optimized to make the most of your experience. Make sure to take advantage of the quiet moments as well, however, even if that means skipping the odd activity at some point. You never know what animals you might find right around camp as you’re enjoying a leisurely few hours, and sometimes the slower pace is just what you need to relax and unwind.