Safari Like an Old Hat
01 November 2022
Bjorn is one of our most experienced Africa specialists. Having lived in Malaysia, Germany, Australia, Vietnam and Fiji, Bjorn moved to Zambia after finishing university in the UK. Bjorn has traveled to Africa every year since he was five years old, but living in Africa gave him an in-depth understanding of the culture, the way of life, and enforced his already strong connection to the continent. Whilst his early travels across Africa were often done in a Land Rover and a tent, he has explored the luxuries of camps and lodges with Scott Dunn since 2012. Here are his insider tips to having the best safaris.
Bjorn's 5 unwritten rules of a safari:
- Do not over-dress: Wherever you're staying and however elegant or rugged your camp is, the safari look is all about cool, casual comfort. Shorts and a tee shirt/shirt are all you need, and don’t wear anything too bright and flashy so you blend in with the surroundings. To avoid pesky tsetse flies, stay away from wearing dark blues or black.
- Bring your own binoculars: Your camps and guides can supply binoculars to pass around your group, but having a good pair around your neck to grab at a moment’s notice makes all the difference. I would even go so far as to say they’re more important than a good camera.
- Speaking of which, as tempting as it is to chase the perfect shot, don't spend your whole safari looking through a lens. Take in the moments in real time. Embrace the absence of Wi-Fi to unplug – you can go online at home. Let Africa reset you, and tune into the nature around you.
- Ask lots of questions - the guides love it! They are a wealth of knowledge, and they would much rather share their passion for the local wildlife with you than drive in silence. The more you ask, the more depth you will add to your experience.
- Of course, be quiet and respectful of the wildlife on game drives! You are a guest in these animals’ home. Don’t ruin their (or your fellow safari-goers) day by frightening them away. Much like with animals at home, the calmer you are, the calmer they will be.
Morning vs afternoon game drives
Most game drives begin at the crack of dawn, while the animals are up and about as they start their day before the heat kicks in. This is an exciting, charged atmosphere, even for those who aren't morning people. You and your group huddle around the campfire with coffee and a light breakfast, warming up in the brisk, fresh morning air, before heading out as the sun rises.
However, I prefer afternoon game drives - they are an incredibly fun event. You head out around 4 PM and don’t get back until after dark, when you chat about all your sightings over candle lit dinner then wander off to bed. Typically, you meet up with your group for late afternoon tea and cake, then head out into the park. In a private vehicle, you can have great fun bringing along a mix of drinks to enjoy on the drive. Animals come out as the sun starts to go down, making for great sightings and gorgeous champagne or sunset-red lit photos. Your guide will stop to set up a sundowner, often at a spot with a magnificent view before driving back to dinner in your camp in the dark, watching for nocturnal wildlife. Note that the ability to stay out past dark depends on the rules of your location: Private reserves and some select countries allow for night drives, so be sure you know the rules ahead of time. In Zambia you are free to stay out past dark, while in Kenya most parks require you return by 6 PM for example.
If you’re playing species bingo…
For seeing as many species as possible on your trip, my top two recommendations are South Africa and Kenya. In South Africa, the Greater Kruger area guarantees excellent viewing. In exceptional private parks like Sabi Sands, you will almost certainly see the Big 5 during your stay. South Africa has a wealth of luxurious lodges, professional guides, and offers great value. It is especially great for East Coast travelers, with direct flights to Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Kenya is also convenient for East Coast guests, who can fly directly to Nairobi. Kenya offers the classic safari experience you imagine - think Robert Redford in Out of Africa - with Maasai tribes, tented camps on wide open plains, and great game density in The Mara. If you time your trip with the wildebeest migration, you will see more wildlife than you can fathom. Seeing the Big 5 in Kenya requires more mobility than in South Africa, visiting different reserves and taking short flights around the country (flying in Africa an amazing experience in itself). Kenya’s expansive reserves give it a wilder, more natural feel.
“Even after 30+ years of Africa travel, I’m the same excited small boy whenever I go, and love to explore the never-ending new areas to visit.” - Bjorn Behlert
Book your 2023 safari with Bjorn or one of our other experienced Africa Travel Specialists today.