I will never forget the first time I went on safari. The thrill of it all – waking up before the sun had risen, chugging back a dose of caffeine and boarding the land rover for a day of discovery. That was back in South Africa some six years ago and since I have been on safari in Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Botswana. Every safari is different to the next and brings a completely new experience. From the different wildlife to how days operate, each safari has its own characteristics. Here is what to expect for a safari in East Africa.
Wake Up in the Early Morning
As with all safari experiences, days start early. This is when the animals are most active so it is your best bet at spotting them in motion. Wake up calls will vary depending on the lodge and the season, however you can usually expect to be up and in the vehicle around 6:00am. A coffee is always offered before your departure and sometimes you might even choose to have a light breakfast before you leave. Somewhere on morning game drive you will be offered a coffee and light bite to keep the hunger at bay while you traverse the East African landscapes.
As is usually the case on any safari schedule, you will follow a long morning drive with a restful day back at camp. Lunch will be on the agenda as will time for a sleep before making your way out to your next game drive.
Days can be filled with lodge activities – enjoying the pool, reading a book, or if you have a library room you can even treat yourself to watching a film.
At around 4:00pm you will be invited for afternoon tea at the main area of the lodge. This will include tea and coffee, light bites and a generous selection of sweets.
Afternoon Game Drive
The precise times will vary per camp, however afternoon game drive in East Africa usually departs at 5:00pm and is a much shorter drive, until 7:00pm or 8:00pm. During this drive you will encounter one of the best traits of safaris as they are known today: sundowners! A sundowner is a drink to enjoy while the sun goes down, often accompanied by some savoury bites prepared by the kitchen.
Evenings Back at Camp
Soon after dark you will be returning to camp for dinner with your fellow safari goers. Dinner is often a communal affair and if you are travelling solo you will most likely be joined by your guide or the lodge manager. Sometimes the lodge will arrange special bush dinners and my favourite of all, boma nights!
One Day to the Next
There are a few ways you can do a safari in East Africa. If you choose a package deal you can travel by land from one camp to the next with the same driver who will take you around various parks in the country (offered in Kenya and Tanzania).
If you are visiting just one camp, you will likely arrive by bush flight and be collected by your lodge in a safari vehicle, returned to the airstrip at the end of your trip and fly back to the capital city. Your guide will stay the same throughout your trip and you will share the vehicle with other guests.
If you are visiting multiple camps and flying between them, you will embark on traditional safaris with each of your guides from each different camp. Your vehicles will be shared with other guests and each camp will offer different activities like walking safaris, hikes and Maasai village visits.