I went on safaris to Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Parks earlier this year. Truly some of the greatest experiences and memories in my life so far! I got amazingly close to the animals and marveled at the beauty that is Mother Nature like never before. But I honestly wish I had done more research about what going on a safari actually means. “Going on safari” sounds glamorous, when really you can ride around hot and sometimes dirty for hours at a time searching for animals you haven’t seen already. Not to mention the extreme heat and annoying insects! But don’t fret. Here’s how you can prepare for your safari adventure:
1) Bring mosquito repellant
This is obvious but it needs to be said…over and over again. Make sure your bug repellant contains DEET and includes biting flies on the label. Apply any time you feel like it…seriously. Tsetse flies thoroughly enjoyed biting me through my blue jeans and black t-shirt! I wish I would have known they were attracted to dark colors. Which brings me to my next point…
2) Wear neutral & comfortable clothes
Wearing colors is a no-no. I wore jeans and military-fatigued cargo pants and they proved to be plenty comfortable and stylish, but the bugs had a field day! Neutral colors are the way to go.
3) Pay the extra money for lodges
A couple of colleagues went on safaris a few weeks before me and chose the camping option. I’m not a campy/outdoorsy type of girl but it was almost $800 cheaper than staying in lodges, so I considered roughing it for the weekend. I’m glad that was a fleeting thought. Those same colleagues came back after their long weekend and said if they could do it again, they’d opt for lodges. They were faced with animals roaming through their camps and uncomfortable sleeping arrangements. Call me crazy but the extra $800 was worth a working bathroom and peace of mind. But hey, if you enjoy camping, go for it and save money.
4) Pack only what you need
Because you’ll be going from lodge to lodge or camp to camp, it can be annoying to pack up your bag every night. You won’t want to lug around your whole wardrobe all weekend.
5) Bring toilet paper/wipes
…All I’m saying is that you just never know when you’ll have to use the bathroom…and there’s no bathroom around to use. Bring toilet paper.
6) Bring sunscreen, hat, binoculars, and sunglasses
You may not think these things are really necessary because you’re in a safari jeep most of the time, but the African sun is brutal. You’ll also be standing to see the animals and taking pictures. We didn’t buy our own binoculars and luckily our guide had some, but don’t risk it. Sometimes the animals are a mile away and your binoculars will be your best friend.
7) There aren’t many souvenir shops
There are only a few places to buy souvenirs along the way. If you’ve been in-country for a while, you’ve probably seen most of what they sell already. But if you see something you want, get it. There won’t be many more places to buy gifts. I sent my family post cards just because I was in the Serengeti. (How often does that happen?!) Note: Be prepared to bargain! Don’t just accept the first price given to you.
8) Tip your guide
The tour guides are knowledgeable and are passionate about what they do. I was told a good tip is about $5-10 a day per person. So if there are 3 people on a 4 day safari, that’s about $120 for the weekend. Not bad, right? This isn’t the time to be cheap, especially if he was nice and you enjoyed your tours!