Game Warden

First time Safari advice.

98 posts in this topic

@@Gilgamesh Tipping is optional & has always been optional, I see you're from America where it seems to be considered mandatory for good service, don't take that preconceived notion with you to Africa. It is an American custom.

 

I suggest you tip as to what you can afford to pay. No one will refuse a tip because it is was only $2 per day rather than $10 per day

 

There have been times when I have not tipped at all. Other times I have tipped handsomely due to what I thought was extraordinary service where the guides/camp staff have gone beyond what I have expected of them.

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  • always give your shoes/boots a little knock out to ensure that there are no insects inside them
  • never leave your shoes/boots outside your tent or room

 

this site is probably the best place for safari advice, I have found that trip advisor tends to treat the food, rooms and general amenity of the camp as the main event .

 

here the emphasis is on the guide not the chef

Edited by COSMIC RHINO
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Once again thanks to everyone for the excellent advice!

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Here's a tip I wish I would remember to follow through on for myself. Set your camera time to local time so when you are reviewing your photos back home they are the correct time for what you saw when you saw it. I know you can always do a mental math correction, but it can get confusing. If you take 2 cameras and they are both off by different factors and not local time, it can get even more confusing. Knowing when you saw things makes the sequencing of a trip report easier.

 

Something else that is good to follow through on away or at home: At the first sign of sniffles, sore throat, fever, or similar gargle with salt water. I bring a couple little salt packets that you can get restaurants before you leave. But most places have salt if you don't BYO. Salt water does wonders. I also drink Emergen-C (orange flavor) at the first sign of problems--home and away. Between the salt gargling and Emergen-C, I bet I wipe out 75% of colds or similar before they catch hold.

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@@Atravelynn SUCH good advice. I also always forget about the time issue on my camera - and then as you say, it gets confusing to convert and yes, especially if you have two cameras on different times - or a camera and phone for instance! Good thoughts about avoiding illness too.

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I also carry a very small notebook and pen in my day bag, and if there's a story behind a particular sighting or animal, or the guide shares the name that folks on the forum might recognize the animal by, or a particular location, I note it in the notebook with the image number of the photo. You'd think you could keep stories straight, but I'm surprised how much I forget on the journey back to reality. I also keep daily lists (new day, new page) of what I see, particularly birds which I can never seem to remember the names of. This is the same notebook I write the emails or contact info of people I meet along the way, etc. I suppose the "Notes" app in an iPhone would work just as well.

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@@amybatt I was about to say I do the same thing in my Notes app in my iphone and then you mentioned it at the end of your post!

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I suppose the "Notes" app in an iPhone would work just as well

 

loins neatr titaljke river watsdggn a gerasip oig topais cress - maiewkfh mohaoncw styre... Nasjkjew saysd one of there prisdere masles

 

Worlks just as well for me, for sure!

 

 

Seriously, agree that taking notes is really good, espeially if you don;t photograph everything. Memory is fickle and you can see so much.

Edited by pault
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  • if you are going on a trip involving light plane flights you are required to keep all your luggage under 15 kg and pack your checked items into a small sports bag

you can either take just the sports bag, or take a suitcase also and leave that in hotel storage

spray your sports bag and suade shoes with water resistant spray

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I think for a first time safari there is absolutely no point in bringing loads of field guide type books. Decent lodges will usually have a few lying around anyway and your guide (should) will have ones to show you more details or help ID if required. But saying that I think that the book that had a huge impact on me - and which I took on my first guided safari - was "The Behaviour Guide to African Mammals" by Richard Estes. You will probably read it every night! It is fascinating to read after say a game drive and find out all the behaviour which guides inevitably cannot go into on each and every sighting.

 

It's a bug bear of mine, I know I mentioned it elsewhere, but also try and get some local currency from an airport ATM before heading out to camps. Please also bear in mind small bills (I am thinking of dollars here) or old ones might not even be changeable by staff... It helps people a LOT. The nearest bank to change money for my staff is a 80km bike ride, and our place is far, far more accessible for our staff than many other places. 5 mins at an ATM won't cost you much. I don't expect to tip a waiter in Germany in Kwacha when we go to Europe.

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I think for a first time safari there is absolutely no point in bringing loads of field guide type books. Decent lodges will usually have a few lying around anyway and your guide (should) will have ones to show you more details or help ID if required. But saying that I think that the book that had a huge impact on me - and which I took on my first guided safari - was "The Behaviour Guide to African Mammals" by Richard Estes. You will probably read it every night! It is fascinating to read after say a game drive and find out all the behaviour which guides inevitably cannot go into on each and every sighting.

 

It's a bug bear of mine, I know I mentioned it elsewhere, but also try and get some local currency from an airport ATM before heading out to camps. Please also bear in mind small bills (I am thinking of dollars here) or old ones might not even be changeable by staff... It helps people a LOT. The nearest bank to change money for my staff is a 80km bike ride, and our place is far, far more accessible for our staff than many other places. 5 mins at an ATM won't cost you much. I don't expect to tip a waiter in Germany in Kwacha when we go to Europe.

 

I now just take US Dollars, but you have to make sure that your bills were printed after 1996. 2013 is preferable. I have had older dated bills rejected in Nairobi and Tanzania.

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Posted (edited)

1) A kind of FAQ for first-timers

 

Do your best to optimise your kit - I take photos with big lenses and 3 cameras.

 

My first trip to Kenya and Tanzania was 25 days and I had 90kg of gear -- I did not use 30kg of it and my travel tripod was used all of once.

 

My last trip (earlier in March 2017) - I went for 16 days and the weight of my trip was down to 60kg. I wore only 50% of the cloths I took and did not need much of the extra batteries, cards, cleaning gear I took this time as well - but I still took 3 camera bodies, 600, 400, 70-200, 24-70 and a 20mm lenses, 2 Teleconverters and a laptop with 2 external drives and a bunch of extension cables and chargers. I have 2 sets of batteries - one on charge and one in the cameras during the day.

 

My photo guide carries 2 camera bodies and the same mix of lenses, except no-600mm, as a carry-on and a small duffel bag of clothes and wash gear. I still have a long way to go to match that.

 

Next trip I will probably take the same weight of gear, but even less clothing. Entim Camp and the lodges I have stayed in washes everything the same day -- except underwear, which you have to wash yourself. I would take at least 7 pairs of underwear.

2) A series of recollections of how we planned our first safaris?

Find an organiser that is very good at what you are seeking to do AND has a lot of good testimonials from people you trust. Do not use a man with a White Bus, who offers you accommodation outside the parks/reserves, unless you absolutely have to. I use Wild 4 Photo Safaris for my first 2 trips and arranged my 3rd through the Entim Camp, where I had stayed before.

3) A place where people can ask questions like "Should I go to South Africa or Kenya?"

 

Both - it depends on the time of year-- avoid Kenya/Tanzania in the rainy season April-June - so head to South Africa/Botswana/Zimbabwe/Zambia then. Go to Ndutu in the last weeks of February when the Wildebeest are giving birth AND August-September when the river crossings are their heaviest in the Masai Mara.

 

4) A combination of the above

 

You absolutely have to get up early and go to bed early - normal my day on Safari starts at 05:00, coffee and biscuits at 05:30, out at the vehicles by 06:00, aim to depart on game drive by 06:15. Sunrise 06:45. If I am forced to stay outside the park or as I did last year, was staying in the Triangle, when I needed to be in the Masai Mara NR, get up even earlier -- you have to be 1st at the gates/bridge when they open. WHY -- its all about being on your first subject by sunrise.

We have a picnic breakfast on the game drive for about 15 minutes at a time between 08:00-09:30 depending on the action.

And, if it is hot, are back at the camp by 10:30am - to process images, have lunch and an early afternoon sleep in the heat of the day, before heading out at between 5-5:30 pm for an evening drive that tends to have us back in camp by latest 7-7:15pm, for dinner at 7:30pm and bed before 9pm.

Please understand that if you want to see or take pictures of big cats, hippos on land and rhinos these are only active in the early morning and late evening. The one exception is around the migration when cats, particularly Cheetah, are seen through more of the day. Absolutely nothing (that I am normally interested in) is normally visible between 10:30-16:00. The only reason I would leave the camp before 5pm in the heat of the dry season would be travel to an earlier sighting if it was a distance away OR if I had to abide by really dumb rules, like those in Etosha, where the gate closes at 18:30 and you simply cannot have a decent evening game drive if you are staying outside the park unless you leave earlier.

Do not expect good internet connections or 24 hour power -- I stayed at the Entim Camp on the Mara River for my 3rd time in March of this year and they had recently upgraded the Satellite Internet Service, so it was much better; but like all the other camps I have stayed in the power is turned off twice a day - once in the afternoon and between 11pm-4am - so there is no internet during these periods as well; AND there is no internet if there is heavy cloud cover. Some of the lodges appear to offer better cover -- but often only in some areas, there are many more users and their connectivity can also be impacted by the weather. So - bring spare external hard rives for local back-ups and only seek to upload your very few best shots of the day.

Take Malarone (Atovaquone 250mg / Proguanil hydrochloride 100mg) or your prescribed anti-Malaria treatment, at least one course of Ciprofloxacin (an antibiotic belong to a group of drugs called fluoroquinolones) to treat gastric infections; and Non Drowsy Antihistamines (If you buy locally you will more than likely get the best knock out pills ever); together with good sun lotion; very very strong anti-fly/bug spray you can coat your hands, feet and head with -- particularly if you are in an area with Tsetse flies, whose bite is a bugger. I use a DEEPWOODs product imported from the US and had had my clothing coated in the wash-in product. You may also want to take a diarrhea treatment with you if you are prone to this. Also take a wash line and travel wash/soap so you can wash your smalls if you need to.

Edited by ajm057
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Hi AJM057

 

I'm sorry but I can't follow your advice at all. To me it sounds a bit like you are the only one who know how to have an perfect safari.

 

We are always traveling in Africa for 30 to 35 days. Our luggage for me and my husband together is 2 times max 20 kg. That's fine for us because we have all what we need. Ok I'm not a professional photographer. My FZ1000 is able to take nice pics for me. I don't need to earn my money with my pics.

 

For the planning of a Safari as first you have to read a lot by your own. Than you have to search for a company who is willing to plan a trip that meet your needs. My experience is that with the start of planning and the first suggestions you get you learn immediately what they like to sell you.

 

And so on ...

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Hi AJM057

 

I'm sorry but I can't follow your advice at all. To me it sounds a bit like you are the only one who know how to have an perfect safari.

 

 

What on earth are you smoking?

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I take US dollars and change it to local currency when I land. The people getting the tips or payment from me should not also have to bear the hassle (in many cases it's a long time and/or distance until they can't get to a bank to change it) or the cost of converting. I'm paying a lot for my safari, the minimal additional cost to me to change it is worth the convenience and courtesy to them.

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Please don't drink too much tea,coffee or alcohol because the are diuretics. I got terribly sick recently due to the fact that I drank far too much coffee. I had to medically evacuated to Nairobi. I had dysentery. I wouldn't drink more than 2 cups of coffee or tea in the morning and maybe one cup at teatime.

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I have a question. I'm not planning on any safaris... yet, but I was wondering and no one's talked about this yet. Say for instance you're interested in going on a safari end of 2018 or early 2019, but because of how you budget you can't afford to do a lump sum up front. Are you able to pay the total off in monthly payments either with a deposit or the rest of your payment due before you leave, or is it more pay all at once? Just an inquiry for a budget strapped wanna be safari-goer :D.

 

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@Lyss I think for all the safaris I've been on, the typical routine is to ask for a deposit at the time of booking to hold your reservation - I think it's usually about 30% - and then the rest is due all at once about 60 days before the trip begins.  So if you are planning a year in advance, if you can come up with the 30% at that time then you could save monthly until the 60 days prior comes and have saved enough to then pay the balance at that time.  Some travel agents or safari operators will also allow you to use a credit card, but typically they will then charge a certain percentage extra for that service, maybe 4-5%.  Otherwise, if you can wire the money i cash, then you save that cost.

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Great topic! Enjoyed reading everything!

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On 6/23/2017 at 3:03 PM, Lyss said:

I have a question. I'm not planning on any safaris... yet, but I was wondering and no one's talked about this yet. Say for instance you're interested in going on a safari end of 2018 or early 2019, but because of how you budget you can't afford to do a lump sum up front. Are you able to pay the total off in monthly payments either with a deposit or the rest of your payment due before you leave, or is it more pay all at once? Just an inquiry for a budget strapped wanna be safari-goer :D.

 

As @SafariChick states, usually you need about 30%, though I've often done 20% or 25% up front.   But you can always ask if you could alter the terms.  Maybe ask for a 10% deposit now, especially if you are booking something the end of 2018 or in 2019 when it is only mid-2017, then another 10% or 20% in 3 months to suffice for the deposit.

 

Usually, there are just 2 payments--initial deposit and final payment 30-90 days before departure.  I am sure you could pay a little at a time prior to the final payment, so it was not such a big sum.   In fact I did that once with Natural Habitat so I could play different credit card games for points and stuff.  But if wiring money, those per transaction wire charges would really add up if you pay bit by bit.

 

We've had discussions on ways to save $$ while on safari and to keep up with safari costs.  Some innovative ideas were shared. The title of this thread is "Repeat" safari goers, how do you afford it?" But it is just as applicable to first time safari goers.

 

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On 6/24/2017 at 6:03 AM, Lyss said:

I have a question. I'm not planning on any safaris... yet, but I was wondering and no one's talked about this yet. Say for instance you're interested in going on a safari end of 2018 or early 2019, but because of how you budget you can't afford to do a lump sum up front. Are you able to pay the total off in monthly payments either with a deposit or the rest of your payment due before you leave, or is it more pay all at once? Just an inquiry for a budget strapped wanna be safari-goer :D.

 

 

@Lyss  If you're dealing directly with a safari company on the invoice or reservation summary it will state what their terms and payment procedure are for deposit, balance payment and cancellations.  

 

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On ‎6‎/‎24‎/‎2017 at 3:03 AM, Lyss said:

I have a question. I'm not planning on any safaris... yet, but I was wondering and no one's talked about this yet. Say for instance you're interested in going on a safari end of 2018 or early 2019, but because of how you budget you can't afford to do a lump sum up front. Are you able to pay the total off in monthly payments either with a deposit or the rest of your payment due before you leave, or is it more pay all at once? Just an inquiry for a budget strapped wanna be safari-goer :D.

 

And another thing to note, further to what @Geoff noted is that the terms can vary quite a lot. Sometimes I have to pay the balance 60 days upfroint, sometimes 30 days and sometimes I pay the balance when I actually arrive in the country. I am not personally keen on the latter method but it is certainly an option with many African-based operators. For some it is a policy to reassure people who aren't happy making bank transfers to Africa (there are some horror stories out there unfortunately) and for some the opportunity to avoid some tax may be a factor.  Of course it all depends on what the lodges or camps you want to stay at will accept too.Just thought it worth mentioning.

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The best bit of advice that i can give you is to leave the animal check list at home. Theres no guarantee that you will see anything, and its better to enjoy each sighting for what it is then fell like you waiting for something better. enjoy the birds, plants, insects, reptiles and animals... as well as everything else. a safari is more than just seeing the animals. Go with no expectation and you will not be disappointed.

 

 

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