Top Tips: What Not to Do on an African Safari

The word ‘safari’ brings to mind the wilderness of Africa together with images of seeing amazing wildlife such as elephants, buffalo, antelope, lions and much more as well as diverse birdlife. Africa allows you to experience adventures to the fullest, but remember that when on safari there are rules that you have to follow. Often, when you make an arrangement with a safari tour provider, they’ll send you guidelines of what to do and what not to do on a safari, which you need to make sure you respect. If you follow the rules, you should have a truly fantastic and memorable safari experience!

We have created this quick African safari guide with our 10 top tips of what to avoid doing on an African safari. This information comes from valid sources and our extensive experience which will prepare you for your safari trip in the best possible way, so read on and start getting ready for your safari….

1. Do not feed the animals

There was once a time many moons ago when feeding animals was encouraged, but now the detrimental effects this has on an ecological scale has been realised. Feeding wild animals, as well as zoo animals, disrupts their natural food gathering or hunting behavior. It does not contribute to their health and may harm them in the long run. Furthermore, some animals are skittish and can easily cause harm to anyone trying to feed them.

2. Do not sleep in, you’ll regret it!

After a long adventurous day on a safari, your body might long for a rest and it’s tempting to opt for a lie-in the next day instead of going on a game drive. This might not be a big deal if you are on a long safari, but if you’re only on a  3-4 days safari tour package, it’s well worth making the most of every moment. Getting up early for a game activity can seem tiring at the time, but it’s the best time to head out on the search for wildlife. And you have a chance to rest later in the day when you come back from the activity.

If you do sleep in, you might miss the game drive and therefore the chance of spotting wildlife, or another thrilling safari activity such as a balloon safari, canoeing, walking safari or biking. These activities differ from camp-to-camp and safari destinations. So, to avoid any regrets about your safari experience, think twice before turning off the alarm and going back to sleep!

3. At night, do not step outside your lodge, camp or hotel

Night time is when animals are on the prowl, especially predators, not always seen in the light of the day. If you aren’t on a night game drive inside a game vehicle equipped with a spotlight, or safely in the environs of the camp, you should not be wandering around outside at night. Most safari camps or lodges have been strategically placed in the middle of national parks or game reserves so that you can enjoy the wildlife experience, although the area is usually secure, there is no point in taking unnecessary risks.

Some safari camps are unfenced and therefore animals can wander through, so in this instance, you should always carry a torch and take an escort with you when you need to walk between your room and the main areas. If you do come across an animal, there is no need to panic, chances are they haven’t seen you so slowly move towards a secure shelter or go back to your room, whichever is closest. Certainly don’t try to chase it away by throwing something at it and do not shout or scream out in panic. All you have to do is be still and as slowly as possible move back to your room or other safe area.

4. Do not disrespect the local people or their culture

With such beautiful aesthetics surrounding you, it’s hard not to turn into a shutterbug and want to photograph everything. The African culture with its colourful locals and fascinating lifestyle is often very appealing to a keen photographer, but while you may be visiting Africa for the first time, the locals are no strangers to visitors. They’ll often welcome you with open arms, but remember to be mindful of their privacy as well. Taking a few pictures (with permission) is one thing, but following them around with your camera trying to capture every aspect of their life can be intrusive and disrespectful.

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Whenever you visit a new place, try to adapt by learning a few phrases in the local language, which can make things easier. During your research, also find out about the culture. Guides often tell stories about the people and places you are visiting, which can be really interesting and give you an insight into the local way of life, so listen to their account of things to learn more about African culture and history.

5. Do not purchase illegal or wildlife crime products

Poaching and wildlife crime has a significant and severe impact on wildlife species and is the largest direct threat to the future of many of the world’s most threatened species. Never buy products fashioned from animal skin or ivory, some of which are illegal, as this can fuel wildlife crime and poaching. Overall, be informed of what you should and shouldn’t purchase as a tourist.

6. Do not ignore your guide’s advice

This is a golden rule that you should never break. It’s your guide’s job to guide you through your safari and keep you safe. When your guide tells you to do something, don’t hesitate to do it. They might tell you to lower your voice while viewing game, which might be because they have heard or seen something you haven’t and consequently don’t want anyone to alarm the animal. They will also tell you to stay inside the vehicle on a game drive for safety reasons, while on a walking safari you might encounter predators or skittish animals, your guide will probably tell you to stop moving or avoid eye-contact with them and you must follow their instructions.

7. Do not use your electronic devices on game activities

The whole point of a safari is to leave behind artificial clutter and immerse yourself in nature. You can either choose to turn off your phone or put it on silent (you obviously need to keep it on if you are using the camera). Imagine you haven’t had any wildlife sightings, but when your guide informs you about an animal afoot, your phone starts ringing. In the open space, this sound can be quite loud, scattering the animals away, very frustrating! Don’t forget if you are carrying a professional camera to turn off the beeping sound.

8. Do not dehydrate and make sure you are vaccinated

The temperatures in Africa can get very hot, particularly in the summer months. If you aren’t someone who keeps up with their water intake, you run the risk of dehydration. You should drink plenty of fluids, carry a flask of water with you when out on an activity, and take sips periodically. In addition, make sure you have the necessary vaccinations before you travel and don’t forget to pack a basic first-aid kit.

9. Do not pack too much

For safari packing, follow the rule: less is more. Remember you have to drag your luggage through airports and vehicles until you reach your hotel, lodge or camp. So pack wisely with this checklist of must-have items on your first safari. Stick to easy-to-wear, lightweight clothes you can layer up, and remember that many accommodation places offer a laundry service, often with same-day service, so you don’t need a huge amount of different clothes.

Most of the charter flights in Africa have certain restrictions in place for luggage in terms of weight and squashy bags which fit in small planes; your safari operator will give you more details when you book.

10. Don’t forget to tip

Remember to tip all the staff who have helped make your safari experience memorable. This includes the guides, the camp staff, and the drivers, who have all contributed to your safari days in one way or another, so tip them to let them know that they are appreciated. Safari operators often give tipping guidelines so you know how much tip to give which helps you plan in advance.

Some of these do’s and don’ts may seem quite obvious, but even the best of us forget to drink the right amount of water daily! It’s a good idea to have reminders and always better to be prepared so you can enjoy your safari to the full.

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About author

MD and Co-Founder. Born in Zimbabwe, Robin has a long history in Africa, and safaris in general, from running lodges to marketing. He is always on the look out for new ideas and products from around the safari world.

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