Visiting Africa

 
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It may be on everyone’s bucket list, that once in a lifetime trip to Africa. To go on a safari and experience the incredible wildlife that call this beautiful continent home. My love for Africa extends far beyond the parameters of a single blog and I assure you that traveling to Africa will become a defining moment in your life, it will redefine what you once believed to be beautiful, it will raise the bar by which all of your travels are judged, and it will surely spur a romance between you and the continent that I call home.

So instead of dedicating a blog to the obvious beauty of this land and all the beings that inhabit it, I want to start by focusing on two fundamental aspects of going on Safari… what to expect and how to prepare.

Now while a Safari to any of the reserves throughout this stunning continent will take your breath away and leave you with a lifetime of memories, is it important to remember that Africa is a land of dynamic contrasts, with no two regions being the same. It is a land of striking cultures, varied weather patterns, and diverse wildlife. Therefore, it cannot be pooled into a single expectation.

When we as wildlife photographers capture beautiful images that showcase our Planet’s incredible wild spaces and the unique creatures that call it home, we are usually lauded with praise and accolades. However, in all honestly, capturing these images would not even be possible without the hard work and humbling skills of the trackers that accompany us on our quest for the shot. These men and woman who have grown up in the bush, have an intimate connection and knowledge of the Natural world that would humble any university professor or “wildlife expert”. There would be no photographs and no documentaries without these unsung heroes. With that said, I would like to introduce you to Lucky, an incredible man with a knowledge and connection to the bush that was in itself as beautiful as the animals we were tracking. A man I am fortunate to call my tracker and honored to call a friend.

When we as wildlife photographers capture beautiful images that showcase our Planet’s incredible wild spaces and the unique creatures that call it home, we are usually lauded with praise and accolades. However, in all honestly, capturing these images would not even be possible without the hard work and humbling skills of the trackers that accompany us on our quest for the shot. These men and woman who have grown up in the bush, have an intimate connection and knowledge of the Natural world that would humble any university professor or “wildlife expert”. There would be no photographs and no documentaries without these unsung heroes. With that said, I would like to introduce you to Lucky, an incredible man with a knowledge and connection to the bush that was in itself as beautiful as the animals we were tracking. A man I am fortunate to call my tracker and honored to call a friend.

There are two types of travelers that go on a Safari, those looking to take incredible photographs of Africa’s exquisite wildlife and those looking to simply be immersed in a wildlife and cultural experience where just the memories of this trip would suffice… There is nothing wrong with either one of these safari goals.

For the sake of this blog though, lets discuss these as separate topics, those who wish to photograph and those who simply want to go on a safari and experience Africa. It is always important to do some research and get some information about the reserve or region of Africa you plan to visit. This is however, especially vital if one of the main goals of your Safari is to photograph certain types of wildlife or if you have preconceived idea of the African landscapes that you wish to photograph wildlife in. Let me elaborate on this, if you are looking to photograph wildlife in huge open savannahs, then the Mara might be your best bet. Now if your goal is to capture incredible images of lions swimming or hunting in rivers or floodplains then Botswana’s Okavango Delta may be where you want to visit. On the other hand, if you are looking to get extremely up close and personal with Africa’s large predators in a private setting or if your goal is to photograph Africa’s most elusive predator, the Leopard, then the world famous Sabi Sands in South Africa may be the destination for you. The point being that the key to having a successful Photographic Safari, is giving some thought to the type of photographs you want to capture. If you want to see or photograph something in particular then you greatly increase your chances by doing some research and choosing a location that is best suited to that type of sighting.

When people think about Africa’s great rivers, the Nile, Congo and Zambezi often come to mind, but there is a river Southern Africa that may very well be more magical than all of the afore mentioned… The Sand River, magisterial in the sheer size of its surroundings, beautiful beyond belief and mythical when it comes to the incredible wildlife sightings along its banks. When I came across this elephant feeding on grass shoots within its dried sandy bed (the Sand river ebbs and flows depending on the season) I knew it was the perfect opportunity to capture the sheer size of the astonishing Sand and the monumental surroundings that make up its shores.

When people think about Africa’s great rivers, the Nile, Congo and Zambezi often come to mind, but there is a river Southern Africa that may very well be more magical than all of the afore mentioned… The Sand River, magisterial in the sheer size of its surroundings, beautiful beyond belief and mythical when it comes to the incredible wildlife sightings along its banks. When I came across this elephant feeding on grass shoots within its dried sandy bed (the Sand river ebbs and flows depending on the season) I knew it was the perfect opportunity to capture the sheer size of the astonishing Sand and the monumental surroundings that make up its shores.

Now if you are not an avid wildlife photographer, and simply want to visit this incredible continent, to take in its beautiful cultures, experience its magnificent wildlife and meet its unique people, then you have a plethora of options. With many world class locations, Africa boasts an incredible number of Safari experiences, from the tented camps in the Mara to the luxury lodges within South Africa’s incredible reserves. Each lodge or reserve accommodates guests with its own charm. They each offer guests a unique experience while delivering the most memorable and spectacular wildlife encounters on the planet. Every safari goer is different, some may prefer staying at a luxury lodge when on safari, while others prefer a more rustic approach of a tented camp, there are so many options available to the modern safari traveler. That is why, once again, it’s vital to do your homework with regard to the type of safari you would like to experience, it will not only help you prepare for this incredible adventure but will also help you mitigate any unpleasant surprises with regard to type accommodation you should expect. It would be a startling reality check driving up to a tented camp (by the way, tented camps are incredible but not for everybody) when you expected a five-star lodge. When planning a trip with Enzuri Safaris (or any other outfitter), it’s important to discuss these expectations with us so that we can help design a safari for you that meets all of your expectations and leaves you with an incredible love for Africa.

Sunsets in Africa flirt with the line that separates spectacular from unreal.

Sunsets in Africa flirt with the line that separates spectacular from unreal.

When on Safari, remember, it’s important to enjoy and take in the entire experience. Going on Safari is not just about seeing the Big Five and checking boxes. It is about reconnecting with nature, it is about adventure and discovery, it is about spending time out in the wild searching and exploring, it’s about finding yourself (cheesy, I know, but still so true). While on Safari it’s important to stop and enjoy time in the company of all of Africa’s creatures large and small. From the lions and leopards to the industrious dung beetle, all of these creatures make up Africa’s web of life and should equally play a role the memories that you carry with you for years to come about your time in Africa. Often times I see people on Safaris rushing from one sighting to another, chasing the Big five, this is such a shame, because I truly believe the magic of a Safari happens between the sightings of Africa’s iconic species.

Often overlooked in the search for the famous Big Five. Stopping and spending time in the company of a troop of Cape Baboons may very well be the highlight of your day out in the bushveld.

Often overlooked in the search for the famous Big Five. Stopping and spending time in the company of a troop of Cape Baboons may very well be the highlight of your day out in the bushveld.

When it comes to preparation, traveling to Africa isn’t dissimilar to traveling to many other countries. While I urge you not to over think your travels too much, there are a number of things you could do that will help you prepare for your trip to beautiful Africa.  

Ways to Prepare

  • Get in the right mindset Don’t be afraid, Africa is not this dark, scary place. It is beautiful, it is culturally diverse, and it is different. Not to mention Africa is extremely developed.

  • Read up on the area or country you are visiting, know the currency, exchange rate etc.

  • Changing some of your money to the local currency before you get to your destination will make things much easier for you.

  • Monitor the weather forecast, having the correct clothing is vital to enjoying your time on Safari

  • Pack some motion sickness tablets.

  • Always pack at least a light jacket. Often times game drives head out before sunrise, even if its summer, it can get cold sitting in an open top safari vehicle.

  • Be sure you know the visa requirements of the country you are visiting.

  • Pack light. Most Chartered planes to reserves don’t allow hard sided rolling bags. I always pack a duffel.

  • SUNSCREEN!

  • Have your credit card set up for international use, this helps if you are visiting a city while traveling to Africa.

  • Find out if there are any vaccinations you should get, again this depends on the region you are visiting.

  • Purchase a pocket guide before you leave. A Safari isn’t just an incredible experience, it is highly educational as well.

  • Pack a pair of binoculars; not a must, but using them while out on safari is adds to the experience.

  • Make sure the clothes you pack are comfortable.

  • Remember the animals on reserves are wild and free, it’s not a zoo, be respectful to them and their environment. Always listen to your tracker and guide.

  • Things in Africa sometimes run on “African Time” remember this when scheduling fights, connections and transfers. Give yourself enough time!

  • AND REMEMBER, Embrace the Culture, Enjoy the Wildlife, Revel in the Experience.

Ultimately however, there are a million ways you could prepare for a safari and I could write pages on what you should expect. So, I will just leave you with this, from the very first moment you set foot in incredible Africa, expect to be mesmerized, expect to be blown away by a diversity of cultures that will leave you awe struck, expect to be greeted with smiles by everyone you meet, and expect to change your perceptions. There surely must be some magic, some sort of hypnotic element in the dust that covers this great land, because from the very first time you meet her, Africa will capture your heart and never let go. I have often heard a common mantra from people, who upon visiting Africa for the first time said that they felt as if they were coming home… I can understand this feeling, and not because I am a South African but because Africa is after all the Cradle of Humankind, so ultimately on some level we are all African.

I always tell people that the biggest problem with visiting Africa, is that you will never want to leave. That’s because Africa becomes a part of you. It’s often the case when people visit Africa, they expect to find a “Third World Land” that lacks all the riches and fortunes of the “Developed World”. If this is the presumption that they arrive with, it is definitely not the mindset that they leave with… for once you experience even just a glimpse of what this beautiful land has to offer, you realize that Africa’s wealth and riches far supersede anything that money could buy. That is because her riches stem from her multitude of cultures, her people, and without a shadow of a doubt her wildlife. Many who come to Africa expect to feel pity, but are only left with a feeling of unconditional love and respect for this great land and all its inhabitants. This is what you should expect… expect Africa’s incomparable beauty to cast a spell on you that will, many a night, leave you dreaming of your return to this magnificent place I am proud to call home.

 
Faizel Ismail