Alan Murphy
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

Categories: African Wildlife, Animals on Safari, From the team, Safe on Safari, Travel Tips

Animals on Safari

Staying safe near animals on safari is of paramount importance. There's one question that has vexed this blog writer for years in southern Africa. And that is: how close you can, and should, get to the animals when on safari. Is there any hard-fast rule?

Well, no, actually there isn’t – no hard-fast rule. I have, over the years, been charged by elephants, a hippo, and black rhino while wildlife-watching. Sometimes through inexperience, and foolhardiness, and sometime bad luck. Just how close to the animals should you get?

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Well, the first rule is: try not to disturb the wildlife. If your position is agitating the animal – withdraw (especially if it’s an elephant!). Secondly, all animals are different. Each elephant, for example, has its own personality. So...while it is possible to generalize, be alert in every situation.

Generally, be wary of mothers (and other females in the family) wanting to be all motherly, and protect their young. Lone males (i.e. elephants) can often be full of testosterone and quite skittish. Lone animals that normally cruise in a herd (such as buffalo) are probably old or sick and should be given a wide berth.

Don’t be fooled by guides who get their safari vehicles very close to animals. They know the herds, and even individuals in the area, and are used to interacting with them. They also will be attuned to early warning signs much better than the average safari-goer.

Some Guidelines to Keep in Mind

When it comes to animals on safari, my advice is:

-          Never sleep out in the open if you’re camping – go the tent option.
-          Aways be careful around riverbanks or watercourses. Crocs and hippos are potentially dangerous animals. Never, ever, get between a hippo and its water source.
-          If on foot, stick close to your guide and follow instructions. If challenged by a predator such as a lion do not mirror a prey-response. Ie do not run (yes, yes easier said than done I know!)
-          Elephants can be quite docile and tolerant but beware females around calves and lone males. If they get agitated, back off slowly.
-          Buffalo charge together. So if you attract the ire of a bad-tempered buffalo, you’ll probably get the whole herd bearing down on you.
-          Assess each situation individually, don’t go in with blanket rules. Stay alert and prepare to withdraw.

Don't let this put you off, though! Indeed, some of my best wildlife experiences have been on foot. Sure you are more vulnerable, but an experienced guide and ranger mean that you are in good hands.

And don’t be shy about asking for advice. The great thing about guided walks and drives is that you can acquire so much info from the experts. If you get a chatty guide, definitely worth their weight in gold.

Take a walk on the wild side

If you want to experience some amazing wildlife encounters, consider booking a safari tour to your African destination of choice. Contact us at SafariBookings and we'll be happy to help you get there.

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