I have learned that there are plenty of things that we take for granted about going on safari. Little customs and unstated mutually understood tacit mannerisms that I never really think to mention until we climb into the safari jeep. Since blogging about our safari adventures, we've received a notable amount of emails requesting some more general tips so we thought that we would share some with you;
Let's start by stripping things right back! Safari is the Swahili word for "journey" so it is by definition far more than just about the animals. To us it is a pure form of escapism, and a discourse in anticipation, luck and trust.
Safari in Tanzania:
Most people prefer to book safaris as part of a package deal in their home country. I prefer to book everything separately and independently as I feel that I get better value for my money, and I feel that the money goes directly into Tanzania. If you are like mindedly independent, here are a few pointers that you may find useful:
Book your safari with an established Safari company. Ask for recommendations and if not, use the internet, read reviews do a bit of homework. Think about which National Park you would like to visit, what game you are hoping to see, also think of the lodge, campsite etc. Picking a local company will mean that you have access to a wealth of local information. We tend to email a few companies and then go with our gut instincts.
When you do find a company that suits you, book in advance. Keep all your emails, and print the important bits like confirmations, itineraries and contact numbers etc to take with you. Most companies will ask for a deposit to secure a booking. This is normal and will normally be about 20% of the total cost and payment can be made via bank transfer in USD. The deposit allows the safari company to book your accommodation etc. Some companies will request the balance of the cost before the safari date. I personally prefer to pay the balance in person on the day of safari. The reason why is two-fold. Firstly because I prefer to have the security of not parting with a high amount of money online to a stranger. Secondly, I get to meet the managers of the company (it's good to know people). Please note that people in Tanzania prefer to do business in US dollars.
Your bags will be chucked into the back of the vehicle but keep a few things with you such as a few packs of tissues (for bathroom stops), wipes (safari in the dry season is dusty business), your camera, sunscreen, bug spray, bottles of water, bags of patience and your sense of humour.
When you go on a game safari, it will involve entrusting yourselves into the hands and protection of a complete stranger. Yes, an experienced local with heaps of experience, but still a complete stranger and this can be for days. Your guide who will probably also be your driver, will make your safari and getting on with him (it usually is a man) will ensure that you get more out of your experience. Here are few things to keep in mind;
- Treat your driver as you would a friend who is showing you around his hometown. Talk to him, learn about him and in turn tell him a few things about you.Tanzanians love to laugh so friendly jokes are very welcome.
- Don't be shy too try and speak a little Swahili. Tanzanians and Kenyans love it when people make the effort.
- If you stop somewhere for a break and you decide to have a drink or snack, invite your driver to join you. Though such invitations are never expected, kindness goes a long way in Tanzania.
- Tell your guide what your favourite animals are and what you are hoping to see. The guides like to please and will do their very best to help you spot your favourite animals with their keen eye and years of experience.
- Don't be too shy to make a request. We've asked our guides to drive us to the best sunset and sunrise spots and it's never been too much trouble.
- Do not hassle your guide if the animals don't make an appearance. Safari is much to do with luck and the guides try their best. Game drives do not come with a guarantee, the animals are wild and this is their natural behaviour in their natural habitat. For instance, after an entire childhood of almost weekly game drives in Kenya, I have only seen leopard ONCE.
- Respect your guide's knowledge and cautions. His job is to keep you safe.
- Always leave a tip. It shows appreciation and it means a lot. Guides are not paid a huge amount and work is seasonal, a tip of about $10-$15 USD per person is fair.
If you are planning on embarking on a Safari and have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I have years of experience in overland safari in East Africa and access to expert knowledge on safaris in Zambia, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana.