LODGE TRACKERS FIRST TIME SAFARI: THE FULL STORY
Planning your first great South African Safari?
Imagining the beauty of the wilderness but not quite sure what to expect?
Read on for all the advice, tips & information we have collected to help you live your Safari experience to its fullest!!
1. When should I come?!
Planning the time you come to South Africa depends on what you would like to get out of it. For wildlife watching, the South African winter (June – September) is undoubtedly the best, as the green and dense shrubbery has all disappeared, making it much easier to spot animals. Because there is less food & water, the animals are more likely to gather at water holes, forage in the open, or hunt more often. The temperatures are not too bad either, ranging between 19-25 degrees Celsius in the Kruger and surrounding reserves. However, it is usually very chilly in the mornings until around 10, then again at around 4pm. Coming in the South African Summer (December – February) does not mean you will miss out on wildlife at all. They are still there, you may just have to look harder! The temperatures of our summer are ones to dream about, ranging between 25 – 37 degrees Celsius! Because of the rains, the land is lush and beautiful, providing breath-taking landscapes. Whichever season you choose to come, South Africa will not disappoint.
2. Where should I go?!
South Africa is famous for its wide range of landscapes, and the even wider range of animals that reside inside. The main areas for wildlife viewing are conveniently placed in different places within the country, so wherever you are, you can experience the amazing wildlife. Starting in the utmost heart of famous Zululand, lies the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi National Park. Covering a massive 96,000 hectares, the Umfolozi is famous for the magnificent rushing rivers and green landscape that calls it home, along with the Big 5. Next on the line is the Pilanesberg National Park, covering 55,000 hectares of magnificent bush. What makes this park unique is it’s setting – an extinct volcanic crater! Also home to the Big 5, Pilanesberg is known for its unique scenery carved by ancient winds & water. Now, we come to what is undoubtedly THE national park of Southern Africa – The Kruger. The area which needs no introduction, it is famous for the massive and endless variety of mammals, reptiles, rodents, snakes, and MORE that call the Kruger home. Spread over what is an astonishing nearly 2 million hectares of land (That is the size of Wales, or even Israel!), the Kruger National Park is soaked with history, stories, and the birth of a passion for the bush for all who step foot within the reserve. King of the Big 5 holders, the Kruger Park & its surrounding reserves are the ones which we at Lodge Trackers enjoy the most. Kruger is world famous for a reason, and now it’s time to experience it for yourself!
3. Private reserve, or the Kruger?
Private reserves are equally fantastic as the Kruger, and are often more sought after as they are far less crowded than the national park. They provide the utmost escape in nature, with accommodation ranging from rustic to full luxury, and encompass everything an African safari is about; Open safari vehicles, night drives, dinners around roaring fires hearing the lions call… Pure bliss. Many of these reserves actually border the Kruger, and are known as ‘Greater Kruger’, as the animals can walk in and out as they please (no fences!), giving you the Kruger Experience without the rush!
4. Where should I stay?
This is where all the fun starts – planning your safari accommodation. You need to decide what exactly it is that you want, as there are literally hundreds of options. At Lodge Trackers, we offer everything from lodges to tented camps, both which include options for every budget. There are so many different choices, it can sometimes be tough to decide where you want to create your temporary home. Do you want drinks included? Do you want laundry? Are you looking for a relaxed and easy going place, or are you after more of a luxury feel? What about solar powered? We often suggest that when planning your accommodation, think of 2 or 3 'non negotiables' and we will cater around your preferences. Continue reading for more information.
• A ‘LODGE’
A Lodge usually means that the accommodation is in chalet style, each one (usually) with their own en-suite bathroom that should include the usual toilet & vanities. Some lodges keep their showers inside; others create outdoor showers (private, of course) or even luxurious outdoor baths. Common areas such as the lounge, pool and dining room are shared. Each lodge is unique, offering their own flavour of South African accommodation. Some are fenced, to keep safety up, whilst other are unfenced to allow the animals to do what they please. Talk to us to find your perfect one.
• ‘TENTED’ CAMPS Tented camps are popular for the more adventurous, as they often invite wildlife of all shapes and sizes to use the camp too! This is due to the usual lack of fences, as it is preferred to allow the animals to move freely without humans affecting their movements. They are warm and comfortable, and most contain an en-suite bathroom too. Nothing beats falling asleep and hearing (or sometimes watching from an open window!) the nocturnal wildlife roam around your temporary home. Whether you are a couple looking for a romantic getaway, a group of friends seeking an adventure, or a family searching to create long lasting memories, we can find the perfect option to meet every one of your needs.
5. What should I pack?
When on safari, comfort is the most important thing. You want to enjoy your safari experience, without any hassles. The most common question we get asked is, “Is khaki really necessary?”, and in all honesty, no it is not. The most important thing is that you are comfortable, and pack both for warm and cooler weather. Bright colours are not recommended, especially if you are planning to go on a walking safari. The best way to dress while here is like an onion – In layers! This way, when you are chilly on the morning game drive, you can dress nice and warm, and peel off the layers as the sun comes out. We’ve compiled a list of some of the key items that we think are necessary for your wilderness adventure.
• Long sleeve shirts (especially in the winter months of April – August)
• Warmer outer layers
• A jacket in case of rain (especially in the summer months of December –February)
• Long pants
• Comfortable closed shoes
• Comfortable open shoes for around camp
• Warm socks
• Sunscreen (even in the winter months, our temperatures can reach 30 degrees Celsius)
• A hat
Please note that while it is not essential, it is recommended that all clothing items be in a neutral colour. This helps to blend in with the surroundings in the bush, giving you a greater chance of good animal sightings.
Further items of interest:
• Mosquito repellent
• Guide books – optional (some guests like to further their knowledge about the animals that were seen during a game drive or around cap)
6. What about Malaria?
The Kruger National Park, and all surrounding areas, are in a malaria zone. Whilst the risk is relatively low, we always advise to consult with your doctor before you leave, as each country may have different requirements.
7. What can I expect?
Now that you have chosen which area you would like to visit, which lodge or tented camp you would like to stay in, and you have your suitcase all ready to go, you are wondering, 'But what will it be like!?', right? Well, here is an example of what you can begin to look forward to.
5:30am: Wake up call. Your ranger or guide will usually give you a few polite knocks and a 'good morning', allowing you to wake up on time for the morning game drive. Once dressed and ready, you are invited to enjoy tea, coffee and rusks with the ranger and fellow guests.
6:00am: Morning safari
7:30am: Coffee stop/refreshment break
9:00am: Back at camp for a hearty breakfast
2:00pm: Lunch time
3:00pm: Afternoon/evening safari departs
5:00pm: Sun downers/refreshment break
6:00pm: Back at the lodge for dinner.
The hours between breakfast and lunch are usually yours to enjoy in whichever way you may please. Take a dip in the pool, read a good book, have a nap, or even partake in a bush walk.
Now all you need to do is sit back, and enjoy the journey of a lifetime.