GOING ON SAFARI
Top Game Drive Tips
Game drives are undoubtedly the highlight of going on safari. They are the moment you see an elephant for the first time, a pride of lions or a baby rhino with its mother. You will come face to face with the spectacular beauty of Africa’s landscapes and wildlife.
There are two types of game drives. There is a guided game drive where you go in a specialised game drive vehicle with a professional game ranger or guide who will explain the wildlife and surroundings to you. The second type is a self-guided game drive – where you drive yourself around a game reserve or national park in search of wildlife. For this blog, we will focus on the former.
Here are 5 tips for making the most of a guided game drive on safari.
1. Understand how a guided game drive works
If you are a seasoned safari goer then this will all be old news to you. If you have not been on safari before, it’s worth knowing how exactly game drives work.
Private game lodges offer open vehicle game drives with anything from 4 to 6 people (at the more exclusive lodges) to up 10 people on a game vehicle. This means that unless you book a private vehicle, you will be out on a game drive with other guests. Be mindful of talking too loudly or hogging your guide for questions.
Game drives tend to last 3 to 4 hours with a break for tea and coffee on morning game drives or evening sundowners and snacks on evening game drivers. A morning game drive will start around 6am in the morning, allowing you to watch the sunrise whilst out in the bush. An evening game drive will start late afternoon, around 4pm, so that you can catch the last of the diurnal animals and see the beginning of the nocturnal animals’ movements. It also means you get to watch the sunset with a drink in hand.
Your ranger will be in radio contact with the other vehicles traversing in your area. This is to the benefit of everyone – more eyes out in the bush communicate more sightings. However, some bush etiquette does come into play here! Not all vehicles can converge on a sighting at the same time – this disturbs the animals and tranquility of the bush. This means that you might have to wait a while before heading off the an incredible sighting. A good ranger will not make this obvious – they will keep you occupied with other sightings and interesting information.
The perfect game drive will have exiting sightings with lots of time to appreciate the animals, plenty of discussion with your ranger, and time to learn about the other intricacies of the bush, such as plants, birds and other smaller animals. It is best not to set your expectations too high though! Every day is not the best day of your life and the same applies to game drives – they cannot always be thrilling and epic. Some game drives are quiet, but that is the way of the African bush.
2. Get kitted out.
It is worth being prepared for a game drive, you are exposed to the elements after all. Make sure you have the following:
- A camera – to make sure you can immortalise every fantastic sighting
- Binoculars – you might not always be close enough to an animal to see it clearly.
- A wide-brimmed hat (summer) or a woolly beanie (winter).
- Layers of clothing for autumn and winter.
- For bush toilet stops – tissues, a bag for disposal and hand sanitiser.
- Insect repellent
- Water (your lodge is likely to provide this though)
• Simple animal check-list – for keeping the little ones involved and excited
• Access to photography whether it is a disposable camera or borrowing your camera phone
• Binoculars – ideally one for each family member
- Dried fruits if your kids are likely to get hungry (though snacks are provided at the break)
3. Ask Questions
The more you ask, the more you learn! Your game ranger will be equipped with extensive knowledge about the wildlife, bush, and everything in between. They love sharing this information so do not be afraid to ask questions.
4. Sit in the Middle of the Vehicle
If possible, sit in the middle of the game drive vehicle. This will give you the best of both worlds – you are high up enough to see animal sightings clearly but close enough to the front to easily ask your ranger questions.
If you cannot sit in the middle, do not worry, every seat spot has its pros and cons. The front is great if want to ask your game ranger a lot of questions and have an unobstructed view of the game drive. In winter, it is also the warmest spot to sit!
The back row is slightly bumpier and colder in winter. However, you do have the most height so you can see sightings easily. It also means you can turn around to see what is behind the vehicle – perhaps a herd of elephants has just appeared from a bush behind you!
5. Split the Photographic Duties
If you are travelling with family or friends, it is a good idea to share photographic duties (if you have access to two cameras). This is the best way to get the best shots of sightings. One person can have a camera with a good zoom lens and the other can have a camera set on a general or wide lens setting. This will prepare you for both up-close and wide angle shots without having to constantly change lens.