- The weather is extreme in Africa and changes very quickly. Not infrequently have I started an afternoon drive in 36 degrees Celsius and come home in 16 degrees Celsius and visa versa in the morning. Always take warm clothes. A hat and a scarf can make all the difference. Remember the ambient temperature may be pleasant but once you are on the open vehicle with a wind chill of up to 40km/h and the thermometer dropping as fast as the sun, things can get uncomfortable without the right attire.
- Layers of clothing are the best as they can be shed off on a morning drive or piled on in the evening as required. It is similar to your ranger taking his/her rifle, rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
- A hat can often mean the difference between sitting comfortably in the sun and feeling like your head is cooking, it also helps keep the glare out of your eyes when watching animals with the sun behind them.
- The drying effect of wind in often over looked, take sunglasses and some type of lip balm, it will make a difference by the end of your trip.
- Take shoes you can walk in. even if it is really hot, you don’t have to wear them on the vehicle but should have them with you. On occasion it is possible to approach certain animals on foot, this is a rare privilege and should not be passed up just because you didn’t know what to bring.
- Always take your best camera with your biggest lens, you may see things that have never been seen before and you will kick yourself if you enjoy photography and have only brought the little point and shoot.
- Everybody goes on safari for different reasons, but in my experience the best sightings are had when you are patient, slow down to the rhythm of the bush; good things come to those who wait.
- It is two very different things to “see” animals and tick them off (which you can do at a zoo), and to spend time with an animal, which allows you to experience the animal for what it is. The more time you spend close to a wild animal the more comfortable it becomes with your presence until it forgets you are even there and that’s when you will see things like hunting, fighting or mating.
- On most safaris the ranger or guide will carry a rifle at the front of the vehicle and when walking in the bush. These are not tranquilliser darts, as a drug would not act quickly enough in the event that an animal was to attack. The accepted rifles for operating in a big five area are either a .375 or a .458. These defences are hardly ever used and if they are it is as a last line of defence having given the animal the benefit of the doubt that it will stop and only firing at the last possible moment. Most rangers or guides have an in-depth knowledge of animal behaviour and it is this knowledge that enables them to avoid confrontational situations rather than relying on a rifle to get them out of it.
Written by Game Ranger Jamie Keenan