TIPS FOR A FIRST SAFARI
What to expect and experience during your sojourn in Africa
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