Five Misconceptions About Safari
Researching safaris leaves you with lots of expectations: buy expensive khaki safari gear, the animals will try to attack you, it will be difficult to get close to the animals, you may not see many animals. The list goes on and on. Now that we have researched AND gone on safari, we thought we would break down a few of those misconceptions for you. These are five misconceptions that we had going into safari that were quickly erased:
You Have to Wear Khaki Safari Gear
When we planned our safari honeymoon two years ago (that was ultimately cancelled) we stocked up on obnoxious khaki colored garb, including shirts with a million pockets, zip off pants, and hats with flaps to cover our necks. Despite our feeling that we were embodying the bush, had we gone on this safari we would have stuck out like a sore thumb. When on safari, you don’t need khaki everything. Our game drives were full of people in all types of outfits: flip flops, tank tops of all colors, colorful baseball caps, and jeans. Basically, anything goes—except neon. The only time we were asked to avoid wearing certain colors was when we went out on a bushwalk (i.e. on foot). Your safari clothes just need to be comfortable and include lots of layers.
Seeing Animals is All About Luck
People love to say, “I hope you’re lucky enough to see the Big 5!” Turns out, seeing an animal isn’t about luck. It’s all about tracking, communication, and relationships. Watching the trackers and rangers do their thing is fascinating. The trackers carefully track specific animals based on footprints, habits, and listening to sounds around them. Then, all of the rangers from the various lodges in the area communicate their findings/sightings through a radio system. Finally, if you’re ranger has good relationships with other drivers they will get the scoop on where to find the best animals.
Our tracker and ranger worked their asses off to make sure we got to see lions and their cubs, rhinos walking through the bush, elephants playfully eating trees, hyenas and vultures eating a dead giraffe, and leopards stalking and mating.
You Don’t Get to Get Close to Big Animals
The biggest shock on our first game drive was how close we got to go to big animals such as elephants, lions, and leopards, oh my! The animals have been conditioned to ignore our huge safari vehicles. When parked within feet of these animals the lions will lazily glance at you during breaks in their naps, leopards will use your vehicle for cover as they hunt for dinner, and elephants will come face to face with you to show off their mad skills with their trunks. The wild animals in the bush have much bigger fish to fry than some humans in a truck. While we did make good use of our binoculars sitting poolside gazing out at the watering hole near our lodge, we never even took them out of our bag while actually out on a game drive.
Guides and Lodge Staff Need Guns at all Times
Before heading to safari we read all about how the animals on safari are SO dangerous that rangers and staff have guns at all times. This was far from true. With their huge knowledge base and experience, our rangers took us out sans guns twice a day for our game drives. Turns out, the animals view the safari vehicle as one big unit that they don’t want to mess with. In our favorite ranger’s words, “you have to be really dumb to have a problem.” The animals could care less about us as they go about their daily business.
The one exception to this rule is when you’re doing a bush walk. During these walks, you are completely exposed to the wild world of the bush, which is what makes the experience so amazing. With this exposure come serious rules: no talking, stay in a single file line, and do everything the ranger says. During these walks, your ranger will carry a large gun as a last resort should an animal decide to charge.
During our walk we got to see a herd of thirty elephants trotting to a watering hole, zebras and wildebeest snacking on grass, and lion tracks near our lodge.
You can’t Talk During a Game Drive
We loaded onto our first game drive ready to stay laser focused on our mission: SEE ALL THE ANIMALS. We were careful to whisper and worried about our noisy cameras. Turns out, the game drives are a real easygoing place. We were encouraged to talk freely with our rangers and each other, quickly focusing on creating safari themed jokes and telling stories in between each sighting. We were shocked to find out that we could even talk and snap away on our cameras within feet of the animals. Like these mating leopards who could have cared less that we were talking about how good lunch was. Our only restriction was to make small movements when elephants decided to come within inches of our vehicle.