What to Expect on an African Safari – 4 Things You Should Know

What to expect on an African safari

For aspiring travelers the world over, experiencing a genuine African safari is one of those bucket list items that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Aside from the unique wildlife, endless miles of unspoiled wilderness, fresh air and sunshine; the sheer diversity of peoples and cultures who call this continent home makes spending time here an unforgettable adventure. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting for the first time, then here are a few of the highlights you can expect from your African safari!

All creatures great…

You can’t talk about an African safari without mentioning the iconic Big Five – the elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo. All over Africa and most notably in the famous Kruger Park, visitors can experience a diverse range of safari experiences – driving in open vehicles, big game encounters on foot, birding trips and photographic safaris. All whilst being protected by experienced, professional guides who are very knowledgeable about the local fauna and flora. All the safaris are conducted in an environmentally sensitive fashion with the guiding idea of conservation being always in the forefront.

The same ethos is espoused by the many game reserves and lodges in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Accommodation ranges from the most luxurious of hotels, to lodges with spa facilities, and wonderful tented camps that allow the visitors to truly immerse themselves in the up-close and personal experience of nature.

And small …

And if you are one of the many people who love the Big Five, but are thoroughly intrigued by the myriad of smaller creatures that surround them, there are the so-called Little Five or Small Five, chosen with a whimsical nod to their more famous ‘big cousins’. In focusing on these amazing creatures, conservationists hope to draw attention to the wonderful variety of other wildlife that abounds in the varied natural habitats in Africa.

The Little Five include the leopard tortoise, the rhinoceros beetle, the elephant shrew, the ant lion and the buffalo weaver. A walking safari with a knowledgeable guide is probably your best bet at really immersing yourself in the absorbing details of these, and the many, many other equally fascinating creatures that thrive in Africa’s unparalleled natural environment.

And if photography is your passion…

Africa provides untold riches for the photographer, whether you are professional (in which case you know this already, most likely) or an enthusiastic amateur. Whether you capture the vivid colors of the lilac-breasted roller on a game reserve KZN, or capture the heart-stopping moment as the huge black-maned lion rises from his lazy posture under the sickle bush and fixes his inscrutable golden gaze on the occupants of the game drive vehicle – if you are a photographer, Africa will do it for you! Even the most blasé relative cannot fail to be impressed when you show them the video of the precise moment when the huge elephant bull right next to the safari vehicle raised his trunk and brought his massive ears forward!

And for the avid birder…

Of the estimated 10,000 bird species thought to exist in the world, no fewer than 2,500 have been seen in Africa. South Africa alone boasts 850 species, of which more than 60 are found nowhere else in the world. It is therefore no wonder that there is a thriving avi-tourism industry here, offering birdwatchers from around the globe an unforgettable birding experience.

This diversity of birdlife lends a wonderful dimension to any African safari, and will really gladden the heart of any ‘twitcher’; whether it is seeing the incredible sheen of a plum-colored starling feeding in a Waterberry tree, or focusing your binoculars on the giant pied kingfisher hovering as he scans the water of the St Lucia estuary below for his fish dinner. Follow the soaring flight of the southern banded snake eagle, or explore the indigenous Dlinza forest along the boardwalk (established as part of the Zululand birding route), that will take you right into the canopy; possibly to meet a bright-eyed and vividly colored turaco.

And if there are little ones in your party…

The old idea that children and safaris don’t go together is no longer true. Many lodges go out of their way to welcome children on safari by providing experienced child-minders, and activities like catch and release experiences to teach kids about local insects, butterflies and fish. At Victoria Falls, a junior explorers program teaches children about the fascinating plant and animal life in their wild surroundings. Private reserves like Thanda Safari offer a ‘Bucks and Bugs’ club for kids, as well as a Junior Rangers Course (duly certificated at the end of their stay!

Whatever it is that draws you to Africa – be it the photographic opportunities, the chance to meet some of her legendary animals, or the perfect way to instill a love of nature in your children – it’s an experience you’ll never forget!

About Marina Villatoro

Marina Kuperman Villatoro CEO of TravelExperta.com, a travel resource site to inspire families to travel with kids of all ages. Marina has been an expat 20+ years in Central America raising 2 boys in a multicultural, trilingual household. She travels all over the world with her family to give first hand experiences of where to eat, stay and play with kids. Needless to say, it’s never boring! Join Marina on Facebook and Twitter for more unique and boutique family travel!

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