Preparing For Your African Safari

Jul 22, 2015 Safari Prep
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Seasoned field guide and author Peter Allison delineates the ultimate safari check list…

Preparing For Your Safari

Packing lists are all fine and well, but after many years of leading safaris there are certain things I see people bringing or forgetting on a regular basis. When planning a trip there are times you should have your wallet at the ready and other times it should be well tucked away (and not in a fanny pack – there is never a reason for one of those and anyway, it promptly tells everyone you are from far away). Below is a list that I hope is helpful in telling you when to splurge and when to hold back.

Preparing For Your Safari

Splurge – Binoculars, a pair each. Imagine how frustrating it would be travelling with only one set of eyes between you? While most animals will be breath-holdingly close to you, sometimes they are high in a tree, across a body of water, or one of those things with feathers that flies off. Having your own binos leads to better sightings and longer marriages.

Walking safari, Ruckomechi - Mana Pools

Don’t splurge – fancy safari clothes. Animals are colour blind so you could technically wear a shirt that Liberace would find over the top and not attract undue attention (from the wildlife), but do be aware that flies are attracted to dark blues and black, and so are Goths. Most important about what you wear is how little it matters to animals. If you’re coming on safari to impress people you meet along the way by all means stock up on every desert coloured item that Ralph Lauren (a regular safari-goer himself) has, but I promise you that the lions won’t pose more nicely for you than the guy wearing a comfy TJ Max t-shirt.

Discerning lion in Hwange National Park © Ed Hetherington Photography

Splurge – a decent camera with a good zoom (at least 300mm). Yes, phones these days are taking better pictures than ever before, but nothing comes close to a proper SLR camera. Don’t be intimidated, even the heaviest models have some simple automatic settings if you aren’t already a pro.

A great guide is a critical factor for a great safari

Don’t splurge – on a place that brags about its furnishings, food and finery but never mentions its guides. No matter where you are in the world a great guide takes your trip to a different level.

Splurge – on a bit of education. Yes, you will learn a lot from your guides but can get even more if you’ve taken the time to learn something about their country. The history of Africa is as complex as any other continent, and you might just be surprised at how many success stories there are.

Most important of all is nothing you can buy. And that is simply enjoying what you get to see – who knows how many more generations will have the opportunity to observe so many animals in the wild? Have a wishlist by all means, but don’t let it get in the way of enjoying simpler sights like a baboon troop going about their daily doings or smaller creatures like mongoose, who are far more active than most lions you will ever see.

Splurge away, you’ll never regret it if you do it well.


See the full sequence of Ed Hetherington's 'lion with camera' from Davison's Camp in Hwange National Park here or follow him on Facebook here.

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By Peter Allison

Peter Allison has led safaris in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. It was his love of animals that first led Peter to Africa at the age of 19, and by the late 1990s he'd graduated from being a safari guide himself to leading the training of guides for Wilderness. Peter has written a number of humorous books based on his safaris experiences.

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Deborah Buckley  Jul 25, 2015

Is your insect repellent just as effective as the us, or should I bringmy own.

Cayley Christos  Jul 23, 2015

What a DIVINE article! And it couldn't be more true.