Going on safari is guaranteed to be one of the best vacations you'll ever have. A safari is exciting, educational, adventurous, and unique. To make sure you get the most out of a safari, there are a few things you should NOT do. My list is based on personal experience, after having the good fortune of enjoying dozens of safaris throughout the continent. I do my best to adhere to every point on the list below, but I am guilty of forgetting #6.
I do apologize in advance if you ever find me in your safari vehicle, feel free to tell me to keep my mouth shut!
- Animal Spotting Etiquette: Don't expect to see the Big Five on your first game drive, you are not visiting a zoo. Your guides and drivers will do their utmost to find every animal you have on your wishlist, but there's no guarantee you'll see everything. Parks and reserves are vast, the animals are unpredictable, and they all wear camouflage. Make sure you communicate what you are interested in and what you may have seen on previous drives to better your chances. Respect your fellow passengers wishes to stop and spend time looking at animals they want to see. Likewise, don't make the driver stop for every single impala if your fellow passengers are not interested at all. For the rest, just sit back and enjoy all the bush has to offer, both big and small. More tips for spotting wildlife.
- Don't End Up as Lunch: Never get out of your car without asking your guide/driver if it is safe to do so. You don't want to end up as lunch. No matter how tempting it may be to get that perfect photo of you with a rhino ... don't do it. This is what happens when people fail to understand that the wildlife is wild. If you're dying for a pee, let your driver know and he'll find a safe spot to stop so you can run behind the vehicle and "check the tire pressure" as they say in the safari business. Needless to say, no toilet paper litter, please! More about Staying Safe on Safari.
- Their Night Vision Is Better Than Yours: Don't walk around camp at night on your own if it is unfenced and you've been asked not to by the management. You don't see nearly as well in the dark as the animals do, and they'll spot you a lot sooner than you will spot them. Tented camps generally provide a whistle or a flashlight with which to signal if you need a guard to come and escort you to and from the dining tent.
- Wean Off That Cell Phone: Don't bring your cell phone on a game drive. Fortunately, it's not that easy to get a decent connection, so there's less chance of it ringing during a game drive, but there's nothing more irritating than someone chatting to their friends or texting, while others are trying to immerse themselves in the African safari experience. More about: Staying in Touch While on Safari.
- Toddlers and Long Drives Are Not Friends: If you have younger children don't save money by sharing a game drive vehicle with other guests unless they belong to your party. Safaris are great for children, but the drives are long and can get quite boring for most youngsters under the age of 10. Get your own private vehicle, it will be better for everyone. For the best safari experience with small children, stay in a lodge that has a children's explorer program, or book a family safari. More about Family Safaris in Africa.
- The Know-It-All: If you've been on safari before, don't keep regaling others with your knowledge or supersede the guide when he is explaining animal behavior or what you're looking at. It can get annoying very quickly. Also, try not to boast too much about what you've seen when back at camp, or what you saw on your last safari. You can easily ruin the safari for other guests and make them feel like they've had a lesser experience.
- Mute the Camera!: Don't edit and delete photos from your camera to make room for more, while on a game drive. The constant digital beeping is really irritating to others, and totally ruins the natural sounds of the bush especially when you're taking a video. Edit and mess around with your photos back at camp. If you're running out of room and you have to get rid of some shots, mute the camera. In fact, always mute your digital camera if you can figure out how to. More Tips About Taking Photos on Safari...
- Your Voice is Not As Melodic as the Bush: A safari is a social activity, you'll likely be sharing a vehicle with others and many camps also encourage dining together. There's plenty to talk about and plenty of time to talk. But on a game drive or nature walk, try and keep in mind that animals will be distracted by your voices and will tend to move away when they hear them. If someone is shooting a video, don't start a conversation, keep quiet so they can get some decent footage without human noises interfering.
- The Art of Giving: Don't bring sweets for children or gifts for people (unless you know them personally). There are plenty of ways you can help, and a cash donation to the right place goes a lot further than anything else. Read more about: Giving Responsibly as a Visitor to Africa.
- Tipping: Don't forget to tip your guides, drivers and camp staff while on safari. Tips make up a big percentage of the staff's salary, ask your tour operator for guidelines on how much to tip before you go. More Tips on Tipping.
- How Many Pockets Do You Really Need?: Don't go crazy buying super expensive safari gear, but do wear comfortable cotton clothes that you don't mind getting dusty and that aren't too brightly colored. Layer up, the weather will quickly go from cold to hot and back again. Khaki is a good color, but not mandatory. More about: Packing for a Safari.
- Leave the Kitchen Sink at Home: Don't pack a lot of clothes, books, and toiletries, because many of the flights in and out of safari camps have very strict luggage weight limits. More about: Packing for a Safari.
- Avoid Malaria: Don't forget to take malaria prophylactics while on safari, there are only a few safari destinations (in South Africa) that are malaria-free. More about Avoiding Malaria.