TIPS FOR A FIRST SAFARI

What to ex­pect and ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing your so­journ in Africa

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

When I was a child grow­ing up in a small, ru­ral town in Ge­or­gia, I was an ad­dict of Edgar Rice Bur­roughs’ “Tarzan of the Apes” se­ries of books in that they opened the door to my love af­fair with Africa.

On the rare oc­ca­sion that we would jour­ney from my home­town to the Ge­or­gia coast for a day at the beach, I would sit in the sand and stare wist­fully across the At­lantic. Africa lay on the other side of that great ex­panse of ocean, and my heart and soul longed to ex­plore it.

Decades would pass be­fore I first jour­neyed to the Dark Con­ti­nent, which I would find in­ex­pli­ca­bly nick­named since the African sun blazes in­ces­santly. For that ini­tial so­journ, I trav­eled to Kenya. No one had fore­warned me about the bazil­lion bugs I would have to side­step, that dust is om­nipresent and the in­cred­i­ble heat of the day quickly dis­si­pates as sun­down brings bone-chill­ing cold.

And no one told me that time, nor­mally mea­sured in min­utes and hours, does not ex­ist in Africa. Al­most the en­tire con­ti­nent moves at its own pace, where punc­tu­al­ity is not a con­cern.

Most of all, no one told me that I would come to love Africa so much — its wildlife, its peo­ple, and its col­ors and aro­mas — that I long to re­turn to it ev­ery sin­gle day of my life and dream of it al­most as of­ten.

Since that first trip, I’ve trav­eled to Africa sev­eral times and have been on dozens of game drives in Zim­babwe, Kenya, Tan­za­nia, Uganda and South Africa. I’ve learned a trick or two about go­ing on safari, things that I wish some­one had told me be­fore I ever set foot in Nairobi on that first so­journ there so many years ago.

My ad­vice: Take the time to im­merse your­self in one coun­try in­stead of try­ing to cram in two, three or more coun­tries into one trip sim­ply to get a pass­port stamp. For cul­ture and wildlife, for ex­am­ple, South Africa and Kenya may be the bet­ter choices, while Uganda and Rwanda and their golden op­por­tu­ni­ties for go­rilla trekking may ap­peal to the more ad­ven­ture-minded trav­eler.

Even if you’re in Africa for a month, let one bag, a small col­lapsi­ble duf­fel, do it all. You can al­ways wash out clothes and wear them again. The first trip to Kenya, I took the big­gest suit­case I had, only to learn the bush planes al­low only 33 pounds of lug­gage. Bags are weighed, so don’t think you can get away with more than the al­lowance.

The sun is bru­tal, and a good wide-brimmed hat and sun­screen are es­sen­tial for pro­tec­tion. No one wears a pith hel­met, and nei­ther should you.

Game drives are nearly al­ways dusty, so leave the good clothes, par­tic­u­larly the white ones, at home. No need to dress for din­ner, even in high­end camps. Com­fort is key, as you’ll be climb­ing in and out of safari ve­hi­cles many times over. Ev­ery­thing will get dirty and wrin­kled, but no one cares.

Morn­ings and early evenings are cool to downSee SAFARI, page 4

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