Have you ever dreamed of taking a safari holiday? Of course you have. Who ever saw a photograph of an elephant or a lion and didn’t want to see one up close? For the over-50’s generation, the possibility of taking that life-long safari is a very real likelihood. Now might be the time to head into the Africa plains. If you need any encouragement, read Dominique Callimanopulos’ article in the Huffington Post about her time in Africa - post-50, expounding the value of travel and exploration in the birthplace of civilization.
But remember, you don’t you have to spend big to see BIG.
Here are our top tips for going on an African safari and one or two for stretching your money that bit further.
Safari travel insurance is on most occasions an addition to your existing or new policy, but as medical care in Africa can be very expensive and any and all activities on safari can be hazardous, Safari medical travel insurance is essential. As with every holiday you take, it is worth checking with the Foreign Office travel advice website before travelling. If you have taken-out travel insurance with the foreknowledge that there is civil unrest or any other serious complication in your destination country, your insurer will not cover you.
We recommend going on safari between the months of June and October. This is the dry season across most of Africa and as such, you will not only stay warmer, you will have a many opportunities to view the wildlife.
Overland tours take in more of the country and wildlife than if you were to stay in one spot. It entails often bumpy roads and dated buses, camping in tents and a dabble with the chores but the benefits of seeing more, greatly outweigh the discomfort.
Also, be sure which park is best for you. Not all of Africa has Lions, some parts don’t have Elephants. If you’re going with the intention of seeing a specific creature, don’t be disappointed. You’ve waited until your 50’s, don’t miss-out.
Private tours, while tailored specifically to your needs can be cost prohibitive. Research where you want to go and what you want to see.
When you have decided on your operator, check to see which of their tours offer the majority of your needs. There are lots of options out there.
Aim for a small sized group - 15 people maximum. The fewer the people, the easier it is to change the itinerary. It also means you’ll have to spend quite a lot less time waiting on stragglers.
Where you stay on safari is your choice. Your accommodation can either be rustic – tent, tea on a roaring fire and singing songs to keep the evil spirits away – I jest, or, lodges and hotels. The latter option clearly has a few more amenities to hand but may lack in the kind of comradery you will doubtless experience in the bush. However, chances of a furry friend with teeth pawing at your flimsy tent in the middle of the night are substantially reduced if your stay indoors.
Sounds obvious, but avoiding dehydration can be key to having a great safari. Take a two-litre bottle for your water. Your guide will tell you where to fill-it-up and what water is drinkable. You can buy bottles that come with filters attached and can be folded-up to a small size to minimize carry-on weight.
Wear a sun hat. You’re on safari – dress the part. You’ll look good in the photos and be safe from the sun. Dehydration is serious - don’t end your holiday early and disrupt others’.
Depending on how high you go, altitude sickness is a potential threat. It’s very difficult to tell who’s susceptible to altitude sickness and the most severe cases come over 12,000 feet. If you are hiking/climbing on your safari, look out for symptoms such as swelling of the hands and feet, vomiting and becoming a touch wobbly. If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, inform your travel guide and they will likely move you to a lower altitude until you acclimatise. If relocation to a lower height doesn’t help, chances are you’ll have to be taken to a hospital. That’s where your medical travel insurance can be immensely valuable.
Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours. Whether it’s a style thing or they’re pre-disposed, who knows. Either way, wear light, light and pastel colours as much as you can to stave-off unwanted attention.
Don’t wear perfumes, lotions and potions. They’re good for attracting the fellas, but even better at attracting the Mosquitoes.
It also appears that mosquitoes have a preference for Type-O blood, nibbling Type-A people around half as much. If you’re the unfortunate ‘Type’, calamine lotion, a mild steroid cream or oral antihistamines can come-in useful.
For those of you that didn’t know, you can fly overland and take your safari photos from the air. Africa Expedition Support allow for aerial tours and can be adapted to your requirements. If you have a pilot’s licence, you could hire your own airplane or you can be flown. Easier to take photos two-handed we think.
We also have a few tips for taking your photos.
Take lots of memory cards. The quick click option on your digital camera allows you to take hundreds of shots in quick succession. It’s ideal for that moment when the lion strikes or a buffalo herd runs. Likewise – batteries. Lots of them too.
Take a long lens. You can take close-up shots without needing to be up close, with a predator. Worthwhile we feel.
It’s not all about the animals. Remember, you might be there with family. A few group shots and you’ll have memories for a lifetime.
Late night shots on a slower speed setting allow for more light to enter the camera and you can catch some striking images after dark.
A mono-pod - like a tripod but singular, helps to steady your arm and avoids blurred images.
And, keep your elbows in! It’s a natural position to have your arms out to stabilise yourself, but everyone wants ‘that shot’ and chances are they’re going to accidentally bump into you just as your taking it.
If you find yourself touring the great plains of Africa, tell us, we’d love to hear your stories.