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Many of us dream of going on safari at least once in our lives. To see the exotic landscape and get up close and personal with beautiful and majestic animals really is the experience of a lifetime.

South Africa is a great destination to choose for all of this, and if you want to make the most of it, these tips will help you to maximise the magic.

Things to Keep in Mind for a South African Safari

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Take a Good Camera

You’ll always want to look back on the memories of your South African safari. And this means taking a good camera with you, so you can get high quality shots of all of the wildlife that you see on your trip!

If you only have a camera phone with you, it may not be worthwhile to try to take pictures – the zoom won’t be good enough and you may miss everything happening in front of you because you are too busy trying to line up the photograph.

Try to strike a balance: take a couple of photographs, then put the camera down and admire what is in front of your eyes. Or you can take this a step further and invest in an action camera such as a GoPro which you can attach to your head and let it film everything you see without missing a thing.

Be Safe

The number one thing on safari is to always follow the advice and instructions of your guide. If they say it isn’t safe to do something, then it isn’t – don’t disregard them, because they are the experts on what can happen out in the wild.

You’re not in a zoo, you’re in the wild. You should also follow basic travel safety tips, such as leaving money and jewellery behind in the safe in your hotel room before venturing out. Just bring with you as much as you need for the day, and leave other valuables behind. And never turn your back on a wild animal to take a selfie.

African Elephants

Mind the Weather

Make sure that you pay attention to the weather forecast each day! It can be very hot in South Africa, and very dusty at times too, so be sure to prepare accordingly.

Dress according to the predicted temperatures and always bring hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect you. If you wear contact lenses, bring eye drops to clear away the dust!

You don’t want to spoil your day on safari by not having the right protections to deal with the day’s weather. Bring bottled water too so that you can stay hydrated.

Know the Culture

There are lots of cultural things to watch out for, so be aware! For example, you should know that tipping is not essential, but it is customary.

You can tip your guide personally, and most lodges will have a tip box which allows you to reward the cleaners and other staff that you do not personally meet during your stay. You should only leave a tip if you are satisfied with the service, and the more satisfied you are, the larger the tip should be.

Give Generously

Finally, you may visit smaller villages or see areas where the less fortunate live, and this is a great opportunity to really give something back.

Many people think about bringing gifts from home, but these may not be appropriate. Instead, wait until you are on site, and bring a little extra money with you to cover donations to charities in the area. You can then see your donations being put to use right in front of you, which is much more satisfying.

These tips will help with the practical side of things, but the magic of the safari happens all by itself. When that first exotic animal appears right in front of you, you won’t believe how lucky you are.

ESSENTIAL ITEMS YOU NEED FOR SAFARI: CLICK PHOTO ↓

Salewa Mountain Trainer

Compact First Aid Medical Kit

LE Rechargeable LED Flashlight

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

    27 Comments

    • Thanks Karlee … you’ll love South Africa, I hope you have the chance to visit soon! Feel free to hit us up for any tips when you start planning a trip :)

  1. Visiting South Africa (and other countries in Southern Africa) has given me some of my most cherished travel experiences, we are real safari lovers in my house! Often, our camera gear weighs more than the rest of what we take, as it’s the only type of holiday where we pack those long lenses and all the extra paraphernalia. I agree with your advice to listen to your guide on safety aspects, especially as we usually go on safari to places where they use the open vehicles for game drives, the ones with no sides or roofs. That feels exposed but if you follow the advice, it’s perfectly safe. I also want to remind people not to treat the animals as though the are in a zoo – no calling out or making noise to make one of them face your camera for a better photo – I’ve seen both of these and has made my blood boil. Aah, I think it’s time for another safari!

    • So glad to hear that South African safari is one of your most cherished memories too! When I met Mike we were actually on a safari in Tanzania haha and his biggest bag was the one with the camera gear, clothes stuffed into a small backpack. Though we’ve managed to cut down on a lot of the extra camera weight over the years … as tempting as it is to haul everything with us! Trying to find that balance between traveling with a great camera and not having to waste too much time changing lenses, setting up tripods etc out in the field :)

      Right there with you about promoting not to treat the animals like their in a zoo … this makes my blood boil too. Half the time attacks on humans are due to their own irresponsible behavior, and then the sad thing is that the animal has to be put down or shot. But if we as travelers can remain respectful and listen to the safety instructions of guides it can be a magical experience :)

  2. Fantastic tips on here Meg. Never done a Safari but am thinking about it in the future. The camera for me is the top tip. If I brought home rubbish photos from a trip like that, I would be rather upset :(

    • Thanks Danik … absolutely, one of the best parts of a travel experience is re-living it all over again through your photos once you’re back. Photos for us are our biggest priority on these kind of once in a lifetime trips :)

  3. Thank you for some great advice. An African Safari is on the cards for me in the future so this will certainly help. I am a big supporter of supporting the locals and glad to see that you too mention that in your post. Another important point as you rightly mentioned is knowing the culture. The idea of travel is to learn and experience different cultures, but sometimes a lot of us try and impose our culture on host nations. Thanks

    • You’re welcome Ticker :) I’m glad to hear you’re also an advocate for supporting local communities and immersing and respecting the local culture – this for us is incredibly important, and we thought to highlight it in a post about safari as people are more commonly focused on the wildlife aspect, so forget about the rest.

  4. I’ve wanted to go to South Africa for the longest time. The tipping advice is especially helpful. Tipping varies so much from place to place that it’s hard to keep track!

    • We struggle with tipping culture quite often too – and always feel awkward trying to ask once we’re there, so we make an attempt to research in advance of each trip :)

  5. Beautifully written. I would love to take a safari one day. Great reminder about giving back. Pinned this for later.

    • Thankyou :) And we appreciate the pin. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions in the lead up to your trip :)

  6. An African safari is one of my favourite holidays. You have some useful tips here Meg. I haven’t been on safari to South Africa and so far my favourite safari spot is the Maasai Mara in Kenya. I wear contact lenses and alway get a ton of dust in my eyes. I’d suggest wearing BIG sunglasses or even goggles.

    • Thanks Christina :) The Maasai Mara in Kenya is another incredible location for safari – great tip on wearing large sunglasses, those eye drops do help a lot too!

  7. These are real pearls of wisdom for someone embarking on a South African Safari. It is so important to be aware of where you are. You are infringing on the territory of the animals and hence need to respect their rights. I especially liked your last advice about doing ones’ mite to help the surrounding regions.

    • Absolutely Sandy & Vyjay – the animals own this world – we’re just visiting it. Therefore we should act with respect and respectfully observe as opposed to becoming an obstacle or interference to their daily lives.

      I’m so glad that there seems to be an increase in the awareness around responsible travel – it’s of such importance if we want to preserve local communities and environments :)

  8. Great tips Megan! I would love to go on a safari one day. It’s been a childhood dream of mine, probably like many others. The only thing that scares me is getting so close to the animals if they walk up to the truck! I bet it’s an experience that will never be forgotten.

    • Thankyou Anita :) Even though it may feel like you’re quite exposed in the safari truck, especially if you have one with open windows and roof, it’s very safe so long as you listen to the experience of your guides :)

      I hope you do have the chance to visit one day, it truly is an experience you remember for the rest of your life!

  9. Going on a safari is my absolute dream! These are all great tips. I didn’t even think about the dust so thanks for sharing that. Bookmarking for the future :)

    • Hope you have the chance to take the dream trip soon! Yes, definitely pack with the dust in mind, such a small thing but it can really impact your comfort and vision on the trip.

  10. Nice Article Megan, you have Awesome blog and your posts are so interesting. Every time when i visit your blog i learn a new thing.

    • Thanks Abhishek, glad to hear you’re a fan of the blog :)

  11. Great tips, Megan! Do you have some advice on how to best shoot animals during a safari? I meant, shoot photos of animals, of course :)
    Cheers, N.

    • Thanks! Haha all good I got you! Getting as close as possible (while maintaining a safe distance) is one of the best ways to get great photos, though this isn’t going to happen sometimes, and a good zoom means you can catch the wildlife which is a little further away.

      My biggest tip is to have your camera set to a fast shutter speed, because you never know when you’re going to see your next animal, and you never know how they’re going to behave. Sometimes you only have a few seconds to get the shot, so might have to snap a couple quickly.

      Take a LOT of memory cards, especially if you’re taking photos on a fast shutter, because you’ll take plenty and then go through to see which ones turned out later on.

      Try and focus on the eyes of the animal you’re shooting, as wildlife are like people in the sense that we connect with them through their eyes.

      Hope those help! Have an amazing safari :)

  12. I have wanted to visit South Africa for a long time, these tips will be super useful!

    • Glad we could help Sherianne! Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions as you make your plans :)

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