If you've never been on an African safari before, you may be wondering what an 'average' day is like. Although every camp in every park is slightly different, there are some general themes that are consistent. Here is a rough idea of what one day on safari entails.
Morning game drive
The morning game drive is my favorite drive of the day. The air is fresh, the birds are vocal and it’s a great time for animal viewing.
Every lodge is different, but many will give you a wakeup call with coffee or tea. Some lodges try to keep all consumables out of the chalets or tents and will have all the fixings at the central dining area. Your call will almost always be before sunrise, as it should be, as you want to get out there before the day gets too hot.
Once you’ve filled your belly, you’ll slather some sunscreen on, grab your camera and/or binos, and head out for the first drive of the day. Depending on what was seen the night prior, you may head back to the site of a kill or near a den of animal who has cubs. Your guide will be on the pulse of the bush and will do their best to ensure you’re in the thick of the animal action.
By 9am, you’ll probably have been out for at least three hours. This is typically a time when you’ll stop for a coffee/tee/wee break. It also feels good to stretch the legs and arms. You’ll already notice the sun creeping higher in the sky, along with the temperatures. After your bush break, unless something’s been spotted or reported, you’ll normally start making your way back to camp, at a very leisurely pace to ensure nothing is missed.
Lunch time on safari
Lunch is typically served around noon in the bush and is my favorite meal of the day. I’ve not had a bad meal on safari and I find lunches tend to have loads of fresh fruits and veggies. Now is a good time to check your photos, charge your phone and drink loads of water. Some camps only have electricity during select hours of the day. Lunch is normally one of those times, so I try to be sure I’m charging everything I can.
Lunch is normally followed by a lovely siesta. Although I’ll often retire back to my cabin, I’ve never been able to sleep. During my most recent trip to South Luangwa, I was lounging in open chalet when a family of mongoose appeared. There must have been 20 of them and they weren’t more than five meters from me. I sat and listened to the little noises they made. They’re very social creatures. While I was doing this, I heard a loud crash from my bathroom. I turned my head to see an elephant trunk leaning through to grab a branch on the other side (the walls didn’t go up to the ceiling, and some branches went through my tent). I was so close to the elephant that my lens could not focus! I had my own private safari right in my tent.
Evening game drive
Around mid-afternoon, you’ll be summoned for your second drive of the day. Some lodges serve a lovely tea and cake before you head out, some don’t. All of them will pack sundowners for you. The afternoon drive starts off more slowly than the morning drive. The air is heavy and hot and the animal activity is minimal. If you’ve birders in your group, you may stop and check them out as you slowly move through the bush.
About an hour before sunset, the animals start to stir. Your guide may spot a white stick poking out of the tall grass. As your vehicle approaches this stick, you notice is a lion paw sticking straight up in the air and she’s recumbent, belly exposed, happily stretching. The air becomes noticeably cooler the closer the sun gets to the horizon. The light is perfect for photos and, if you’re lucky, your guide will be providing you with many great opportunities.
Around sunset you’ll stop for your sundowners. Whether you do this before, after or during sunset depends on your group and your situation. You’ll enjoy a nice beverage and munchies while taking in the last light of the day. You’ll then slowly make your way back to camp, but your guide will have a night light should you come across anything of interest.
Dinner time on safari
Dinner is normally between 7 and 8pm. Guests excitedly share photos from the day’s drives and recount any good sightings. Discussions on the next day’s drive are had and those who are keen to set off early normally head to bed. Some don’t, though. Some will have a few drinks and sit and socialize. Either way, it’s a nice way to end the day and I am keen to start the process all over again the next day.