11 Things I Learned The Hard Way On A Safari In African Countries

Although you can have a picnic, going on a safari in Africa isn’t always a picnic, as a matter of speaking, and you still need to be aware of a number of things that can happen to you when you travel to the beautiful continent.

But don’t let that stop you! Just take care of yourself and yours and think about some safety measures and precautions 🙂

Here is a list of 11 things that I wish I had known before going on an African safari:

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1. It can get bloody hot!

African safaris can be like stepping into a furnace, especially if you find yourself in desert locales like Namibia.

Now, I don’t want to scare you off and no, it is not always that hot everywhere in Africa, we didn’t have a heatwave on our trip to South Africa, for example. But do consider a few things:

  • The first lesson I learned is to never underestimate the importance of hydration: Bring more water than you think you’ll need.
  • Plus, consider your outfits – light-colored, breathable fabrics are your allies in battling the heat. Don’t just throw on a tank top and shorts, though. You’ll want full coverage during the peak sun hours to protect against sunburn.
  • A large hat that covers your neck as well and sunscreen are your best friends in Africa
  • Get high-tech equipment! I remember that some years ago all of this cooling-down stuff didn’t exist yet, but now there are scarfs, towels, and more that will cool you down during a heatwave!

2. Protect yourself from all kinds of tiny creepers!

Yeah, so, we all know that mosquitoes are something to be aware of, as they are not only dangerous for diseases like malaria.

That’s why I’m a huge proponent of wearing long trousers and shirts with long sleeves in the evening. It’s your first line of defense against bites, together with DEET, an oil that gives you protection against mosquitoes, flies, ticks, fleas, and other peskers.

BUT, did you ever think about Schistosoma Mansoni? Trust me, these invisible parasites (they enter through your skin), can cause some serious damage to your health! (and I even had kidney damage, go figure, but I’m better now!).

Lakes and rivers may seem inviting for a dip after a hot day, but trust me, you do NOT want these guys as souvenirs.

==> DO NOT GO SWIMMING IN FRESH WATER IN LAKE MALAWI (or elsewhere where these parasites are)

3. Talk about pesky pests: better close your (glamping) tent at night.

When you leave your tent or glamping tent after a day of adventures, make sure it’s closed tight because snakes and monkeys have a curious nature.

They might seem cute or fascinating from a distance, but find one in your tent and the situation changes quite fast haha! So, remember to zip up – consider it your fortress against the wild.

I learned this the hard way when a monkey ransacked my snacks! Don’t make the same snack-snatching mistake 🙂

If you can put your hand through a hole, any monkey can get in as well!

what is glamping camping

4. Beyond the Wildlife: let’s not talk politics or religion.

Better not to talk everywhere about politics or religion. Lots of countries or cultures don’t appreciate it, and it’s a quick way to sour relationships or find yourself in an uncomfortable situation.

Just find out beforehand if it would be advised to talk about those things, depending on the country you go to.

If you are an atheïst, for example, you’d better not get into discussions about Islam in Saudi Arabia, that won’t end well.

The same goes for Christians by the way, I don’t really start to discuss religion when someone preaches to me about Jeezes, I just let them be and agree with everything, you never know if I would offend someone :-). Adjust to the local culture.

5. Do NOT run from predators!

Now, if you should come across a lion, the last thing you want to do is run. I’m here to help you understand why that’s critical.

Lions are instinctual creatures, and running triggers their predator response. It’s not a game of tag you want to be part of.

Rangers on a safari are your lifeline out there; they’ve got the experience and expertise you should rely on. If they say ‘Don’t run,’ take that advice like it’s etched in stone!

(there could be animals where you better DO RUN FROM though, talk to the rangers!)

6. Better get a 4×4 drive, if you do a self-drive safari

Speaking of getting around, in most African countries, you’re going to need a 4×4 drive. This isn’t just about comfort; it’s about being able to navigate the terrain effectively.

Those picturesque savannahs and rugged landscapes that make for stunning photos can be treacherous to travel through.

Your regular city car just won’t cut it against the backdrop of rural Africa, so gear up appropriately for those bumpy roads ahead.

We found out that even a 2×4 wheel drive isn’t always good enough, as I was afraid to get a flat tire in Swaziland.

7. Embracing the Safari Lifestyle: going to the toilet in the bush

Let’s get real here: when nature calls and you’re miles from the nearest restroom, the savannah becomes your open-air bathroom.

That’s right, it’s time for a crash course on safari etiquette.

You’ll need to learn how to dig a hole in the ground, do “your business” (try to aim in the hole), and then play archaeologist by covering up your tracks. No porcelain thrones out here, folks.

There’s something about seeing an African elephant passing by behind a bush when you are doing your thing. Boy, do I have stories to tell haha!

If you’re lucky, you will get a bush toilet, if not, dig a hole!

8. Sadly, Africa is not always suitable for vegetarians.

I had a period in my life when I was only eating vegetarian food, but at my first overland trip through Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and others, there was no other choice than eating meat if you didn’t want to lack nutrients.

So be prepared that when travelling through pour African countries, you will need to drop the lifestyle for a bit!

Now, I’m all for plant-based diets, but in Africa, the experience might just turn you into a temporary omnivore, just be aware of that.

By the way, you will gain weight, don’t even try to stop it haha! The food is way too tasty!

I have eaten gemsbok in Namibia

9. Safaris are not for dust and dirt haters!

If you’re the type of person who cringes at the sight of dust on your patio furniture, brace yourself. Safaris are dusty, dirty, and downright sweaty. That’s part of the charm!

It’s not as glamorous as in the movies, it’s messy, but it sure beats sitting in an office. Embrace it, as those dusty hiking boots have walked the wilds of Africa!

10. Can you really not see beyond the big five?

On my journeys to the African continent and safari, at the start, I really wanted to see the big five. Now, this is still the case, but there are so many more interesting creatures, from small to big, that roam the African planes.

There are tropical, colorful birds, impressive species of impalas, and even interesting ‘ugly five‘ and the ‘smallest five’. Nature in Africa is way too overwhelming to just stick to the big five only. Once you ‘see’ it, the abundance of animal and plant species in Africa will make you look out for them more!

hyena and young
The hyena belongs to the “ugly five”

11. Don’t camp and sleep in the African jungle, if you are afraid of its sounds! 😉

When you are staying overnight in the African jungle, savannah or swamps, or even near a lake or river, be prepared that there will be lots of sounds at night that might scare you or keep you awake 🙂

Bring your earplugs or just listen to the astonishing sounds of the wild; have you ever heard the lions and hyenas at night near your tent? You will feel alive!

At Pongola game reserve, the frogs were overwhelming in numbers!

My Final Conclusion.

I hope that you found my tips and points of view helpful, but if you disagree or would like to add something, you can always do that in the comment section below!

Don’t forget to also join my social media channels below for more pictures, videos and stories of my adventures in Africa!

I wish you happy travels!

Kind regards


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