Activities While on Safari
So what are the types of available activities while on safari? Each of the activities listed below should go a long way to enhancing your safari experience. Grab the opportunity with both hands. Take a look:
1. Game drives and guided walks
Nothing new here….but I couldn’t leave out either of these now could I? After all, this is how most of you will experience your safari. It will be either from the back of a game drive vehicle or, where available, on a walk with a qualified guide.
Game drives, in either open or closed (with pop-top) 4x4 vehicles are pretty much standard fare on all safaris – either as a shared experience with other camp guests or with your own driver/guide in a private vehicle.
They say that going on a game drive is like going to see the movie, but that taking a guided walk is like reading the book. Actually, I don’t know if anyone ever said that, but I think you get the idea. Walking is more about the smaller things (and the big things look even bigger on foot!).
Guided walks are generally also available from most camps and lodges where walking is allowed. Here I am specifically excluding walking trails which I will deal with in a separate post – 10 top walking destinations in Africa.
Most walking on safari is done in the mornings with an armed (and licensed) guide, and generally for only a couple of hours as an activity option. Be warned: some walks offered are really only nature walks and are conducted in close proximity to camp or within. There are also walking trails and trails camps. In recent times the true walking trail, where you walk from camp to camp, has been dumbed-down somewhat. Now it mostly consists of a walking camp, from where the main focus of the safari is on walking (although game drives are also offered). Very few true walking trails remain. A slight variation is the fabulously down-to-earth walking safaris in Laikipia and Loita Hills in Kenya. Here, they will transport all your overnight camping gear by a string of camels (or mules) and local Maasai guides escort you across the open savannah. Very cool.
Speak with an Africa travel specialist about the type of walking safari you are looking for.
2. Canoeing / Kayaking / Rafting / Mokoros
The more adventurous amonst you should definitely consider any of these options. Each offers a totally unique wildlife experience. Imagine gliding silently downstream, navigating the channels and open water in search of wildlife, great birding, open skies and stunning sunsets. What’s not to like?
There are canoe safaris on the Zambezi River, above the Victoria Falls. But it is the Lower Zambezi (below Kariba dam) that is the home of the most exhilarating multi-day canoe safaris. From participatory (putting up your own tent, with food preparation) through to luxury camping (large tents and serviced – waiter/cook and camp staff). This is an exciting adventure activity that I highly recommend, although you will need to overcome any apprehension about crocodiles and hippos beforehand! All canoe safaris have experienced river guides and incidents are few and far between.
Kayaking and Rafting
Kayaking and rafting are not your standard safari activity, but you can kayak down the Orange River in South Africa or raft the Kunene River in Namibia. If you are visiting the Victoria Falls, the white-water rafting there is some of the best in the world.
If it’s a mokoro (dugout canoe) we must be talking the Okavango Delta. It's the only place that uses these traditional dugout canoes (although you might see something similar in Chobe and possibly in parts of Zambia or along the Zambezi). The mokoro is usually ‘poled’ along by an experienced ‘poler’ who needs to know his way around the maze of channels. Don’t miss out.
3. Boating (including Houseboats)
Wherever you find water you will find motor boats and boating activities on offer. Whilst boats are sometimes only used to transport guests to/from camp, many safari operators offer game viewing by boat. These are Okavango Delta, Selous GR, Lake Kariba, and the Zambezi River – to name a few. It offers a whole new perspective and will often allow you to get a lot closer to the wildlife than in a vehicle or on foot.
I will also include houseboats here too. They're a fabulous alternative accommodation option that allows you to live on the water and find overnight locations well tucked away. A couple of the best locations are Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe and on the Chobe River in the far north of Botswana (and Namibia).
4. Balloon Safaris
In my humble opinion, some of the VERY best locations to enjoy a balloon ride are on safari. It's one of the best activities while on safari. Balloon over the open grass plains of the Masai Mara or Serengeti, or above the stunning sand dunes of the Namib Desert in Namibia. And soon over the lush waters of the Okavango Delta!
5. Horse Riding
If you are an avid horseback rider, or even a competent weekender, to be able to get up close to some of Africa’s wildlife on horseback is possibly the ultimate thrill. If this is your fancy, you will need to seek out an established horseback safari operator with well-schooled horses and experienced guides. Good locations include the Okavango in Botswana, Laikipia, Chyulu Hills & Masai Mara in Kenya, in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Kruger and the Cape region in South Africa. Also, a number of lodges in Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Zambia & Zimbabwe.
6. Microlight and Helicopter Flights
Whilst on safari you may transfer between camps by small charter planes (e.g. Okavango Delta) or between game reserves (e.g. Samburu to Masai Mara in Kenya). These flights offer a wonderful view of these regions from the air and you should always have your camera at the ready. Fast shutter speed, min 1/500, and a polarising filter - if you have one. But if the opportunity arises, I strongly recommend a microlight flight (available at Tafika Camp in South Luangwa, Zambia). Or a flip in a helicopter (available by prior arrangement throughout the Okavango Delta in Botswana)…or arrange a complete helicopter itinerary along the Great Rift valley in Kenya. Some truly stunning photographic opportunities and an exhilarating experience.
7. Quad bikes & Mountain biking
You might think there would not be place for either of these on safari. Wrong! They're great activities while on safari! In certain locations quad bikes come into their own and are a wonderful experience. For example, on the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana quad bikes are the best way to get right out onto the pans and experience complete openness and isolation. Some of the Kalahari game reserves in Namibia also offer quad bike trails as a game drive. And in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, you can arrange for quad biking adventures in the nearby dunes.
Only a few game reserves offer mountain biking, usually with an armed ranger/guide. These include Remote Africa Safaris in South Luangwa, Zambia, Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana, Mihingo Lodge at Lake Mburo in Uganda, and on a number of private reserves in the Eastern Cape in South Africa.
8. Field Guide & Wildlife Courses
If you are passionate about Africa’s wilderness and wildlife, you may want to consider undertaking a field guide’s course. A number of training organisations in South Africa have started courses of various lengths – for both trainee guides and overseas visitors. Learn about the vast biodiversity to be found in the African bush. And the elements that make up the ecology and varying ecosystems, and how they affect and interrelate with each other. Through a series of daily lectures and practical activities in the field you will built up your knowledge and experience. And you can even work towards an industry qualification (FGSA-accredited courses). Courses range from 2 to 6 months for field guide courses and 7 to 14 days for a general bush skills course. These are great activities while on safari.
In addition, some safari operators encourage their regular clients to join their own annual ‘guide training exercises’ conducted at their respective camp/lodge. For example, Chiawa Camp in Zambia and Alex Walker in Kenya & Tanzania. Ask your Africa Travel Specialist.
9. Sound Safaris
I’m just going to put this out there. This is something rather unique,but I only know one person who has ever offered this. Take note, safari operators! That person is Derek Solomon at Kuyimba Trading in South Africa.
It is what it sounds like (pun intended). Everyone in the vehicle gets to put on a set of headphones and Derek uses a parabolic microphone to capture, and explain, the different sounds of the bush around you. Can you imagine…your guide picks up a call, swings the microphone in that direction. It’s a leopard’s rasping cough. You listen through your headphones to the amplified sound as clear as if it were sitting next to you! Wow. Or picture yourself, sitting quietly after dark, listening to the eerie night sounds all around you. You try to work out which nightjar it might be, which are crickets and which frogs…and then, wait, what was that? Brilliant and, by far, one of the best activities while on safari.
10. Photo Workshops
We all love to take photos on safari, whether it be with our phones or using the latest high tech DSLR. And we all need a bit of help, if truth be told (not you, of course!). So if getting better wildlife photos on safari is something you want to focus on, then a photo workshop is the answer. Generally, they range from 4 days to 2 weeks (photographic tour). They are accompanied by a professional photographer. These workshops offer practical photographic advice and an opportunity to review and improve your skills, whilst enjoying all the attractions of being on safari.
You will notice that I have not included "activities while on safari", such as elephant-back riding or walking-with-lions. There are good reasons for this. Simply, it is wrong (on so many levels). I do understand that people have a strong urge to get up close and personal (touch and feel) with large, dangerous animals. However, it is, in my opinion, disrespectful, demeaning and misguided. The animals may appear well cared for, in good health and treated well but you have to ask yourself: should they be in captivity at all? Where do they come from? Where are they sent once they get too big or too difficult to handle? Wouldn’t they be better off in the wild?
Don’t forget, that it is your dollars that are creating this ‘tourist attraction’. And once such attractions are created, and patrons pay a fee to experience them, the whole thing becomes a money-making enterprise. And ethics often take a back seat.
This is a pet issue of mine…but I will leave it there for now! Sorry.
There's So Much More
Whilst there are a good many available options for activities while on safari, not many safari camps/lodges can offer more than one or two. Mostly due to location. If you like the idea of any of these, you need to raise this with your Africa travel specialist in the planning stages.
In this post, I only mention the available activities while on safari. I did not include scenic flights over the Victoria Falls or show cruises off the islands in Mozambique or Zanzibar. Nor did I include ‘birding’ which should be on everyone’s activity list on safari, and can usually be done whether walking, on game drive or ANY of the other activities. And yes, I am unrepentant in encouraging all of you going to Africa to take up birding – and the pursuit of our amazing feathered friends.
The Safari Experience
These are just 10 of the top activities while on safari. There are many more. So much to see. Why not start planning your safari adventure now! SafariBookings is here to help. Contact us and we'll get you on your way.
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