A safari's success is usually measured by the number of animals you've seen along the way. We're not talking zebra and various antelope, but the big 5, the spectacular lion kill, a baby giraffe -- something that makes you feel you have witnessed something truly special. Here are some tips that will help you maximize your wildlife viewing successes.
Pick the right season. The dry season is the most optimal season to see animals. The water holes attract a large concentration and a wide variety of animals. This makes it easy for you to view wildlife because many game parks have small shelters that overlook the water holes, or you can simply drive by.
The dry season also means the vegetation has thinned out. I've been on safaris in smaller game parks where you could literally see nothing beyond the road because the grass was so tall. You would be amazed at how well camouflaged even a large group of elephants can be when the vegetation is nice and lush after some good rains.
In East Africa the dry seasons are from January through March and July through October. In Southern Africa the dry season runs from May through October. If you are interested in the annual migration of wildebeest and zebra then you also need to time your trip with the weather in mind. In the Masai Mara they usually arrive between August and September, stay through October and head back over to the Serengeti in Tanzania between December and January.
Pick the right time of day. The best time to spot game is at dawn and dusk. At midday the sun is hot and most animals prefer to siesta under the shade of a tree, usually far from the roads you're driving on.
Go with a guide. Guides will often be in radio contact with each other, so if one spots a great lion kill they can let your party know so you get to see it too. A guide is also useful in identifying species. Even if you carry a nice guide book, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a female sable and an impala when they are running.
Know where to look. Look up in the trees if you want to spot a leopard, look in rivers if you want to see crocodiles (especially in patches of reeds) and watch out for steaming dung heaps to give you a good indication how close you might be to an elephant. Take a wildlife distribution map with you so you know what you are looking for at various points in the park.
- Bring binoculars. Game parks are often bigger than some small European countries and the animals are wearing camouflage.
If you have questions about planning your safari, you can see all my safari articles here. If you are interested in booking a bespoke luxury safari in Africa you can also contact me to discuss your options.