While in Africa on our honeymoon, Drew and I spent four days on safari in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe–and it was the highlight of our trip! We stayed at Little Makalolo and went on morning and evening game drives every single day.
We absolutely loved the adventure and already can’t wait to go on another safari in a few years (once our bank accounts recover from our first one!) Seeing African animals in the wild for the very first time is an unforgettable experience.
Here’s a few helpful tips to ensure you make the most of your African safari:
Pack light. It’s easy to overpack–don’t. To get to your safari, you will likely have to take a small passenger plane to a remote area and they have very strict weight restrictions and small compartments for your luggage. The less you pack, the better off you’ll be! Dragging heavy luggage around camp won’t be fun for anyone. Plus, most camps offer free laundry services, so you can wash and rewear clothes throughout your stay. Lastly, a soft-body duffel bag is probably your best choice for luggage. Hard-body bags and bags with wheels add extra weight. Plus, a lot of the small passenger planes require flexible bags (e.g. soft bags without wheels) as they’ll need to be able to cram them into tight spaces.
Wear layers. In our experience, mornings and nights were cool and during the daytime it got super warm. Since game drives are very long (e.g. 6 a.m. – 1 p.m. and again from 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.), we found that wearing layers allowed us to keep warm and then we could shed layers depending on the time of day. My typical outfit consisted of a tank top, a button up shirt (that I could roll the sleeves up on), and a fleece jacket. I also wore a hat and alternated between flip flops and sneakers depending on the weather.
Not every moment is exciting. Getting to see wild animals in their natural habitat is exciting. However, there’s a lot of driving and nothingness in between your animal encounters. There were game drives where we would drive for an hour or two and see next to nothing and then there were periods of time where we’d have numerous animal sightings. Be patient and enjoy the journey.
Keep your eyes peeled. Your guide will definitely be able to lead you to animals, but be sure to keep your eyes peeled during all drives–you never know what you may see! I was proud to spot giraffes and elephants before our guide. Plus, it’s helpful to have everyone in the car scanning the trees and plains as you drive so there’s a better chance of an animal sighting.
Ask questions. Our guides were a fantastic resource to learn more about the animals, plants, and surrounding area. It was incredible how much they knew about each specific animal and every little plant, bush, or tree. During quiet moments on our drive, we would ask our driver about animals we’d encountered, traditions in his culture, and how plants were used in this area. We learned so much and I definitely encourage you to tap into their wealth of knowledge and information. Makes the rides more fun!
Sleep when you can. Days are long on safari. We awoke every morning at 5 a.m., went on a game drive from 6 a.m. – 12 or 1 p.m., ate lunch and grabbed a quick nap before reconvening at 3 p.m. for an afternoon tea. At 4 p.m. we would head back out on a game drive and wouldn’t return to camp until after 8 p.m. We’d eat dinner and head to bed around 10 p.m. to do it all again! Searching for animals and staying alert is a lot more tiring than you realize. Catch those zzz’s when you can!
Most of all, just enjoy the experience. It truly is a once in a lifetime adventure and you will be sharing these stories for years to come. Any questions? Leave a comment and I’m happy to help!