Suzy’s Africa Travel Tips
(2024) “The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa. For he has so much to look forward to.”
“Africa changes you forever, like nowhere else. How can you describe its magic? How can you explain the fascination of the past and noble dusty continent, whose oldest roads are elephant paths? How are experiences here in a way no other place can? Maybe it’s because Africa is the place of all our beginnings, the cradle of mankind. The happiest years of my life were spent here.” Paul Theroux
Studies reveal the most meaningful and memorable journeys always end in the same place – Africa! You go for the animals but you remember the people most. Our AFS “Afriholics” get hooked for life. Some travelers who’ve never been to Africa think a safari is non-stop action. Behold the stunning boredom! The fact is there’s a lot of glorious downtime between early morning and evening game drives. Time in the bush is like entering a remnant of an earlier era. Everything slows down. Shade seeking lions flop over like house cats, zebras stand still as statues, leopards drape over branches to sleep. All game rests. With them, we engage in a communion of laziness. We relax. We observe.
Wildlife Encounters – All animals are wild and you are prey. Respect proximity. Wild animals are totally unpredictable. If you ever encounter a predator in the bush-never run! You will always be the slowest. Animals may roam into lodge camp. Never deviate off path or walk alone at night. Guards will escort you. Never walk near a riverbank or swim in lakes. Hippos hide well.
Game Drives – You will be divided into groups of 4-6 per safari vehicle. Do not interfere with or direct your expert rangers – guide who lived there. He’s far more than a driver with years of experience and intense certifications. Your safety is their number one concern. They can spot everything from ground to sky. Suggested tip is $5 per game drive. If several days of drives, wait until the end. Give direct to your ranger in US dollars, newer bills not torn.
Animal sightings are not guaranteed. AFS past groups have been extremely successful on all. Over 3 decades, we never had a bad safari. Big cats are usually present, but leopards and cheetahs tend to hide. Don’t just search out the big mammals. You’ll miss the marvels of small creatures like badgers to bushbabies and spectacular birdlife.
Photography– Rather than hauling big lenses, small digital cameras get incredible shots nowadays. Edit/delete each night. On drives, keep camera in the bag to protect it from dust and sun. Don’t forget extra batteries! Best light on safaris is 6 to 10 AM and 4 to 6 PM. Rangers will assist with the best vantage points. There is usually a pair of binoculars to share in jeep. Always get consent before photographing local people. On return home, share your pics on AFS private Facebook page. (I have over 8000 photos of elephants and lions. Please take human photos as well as wildlife. Better yet, take photos AFS humans with the wildlife.)
Expert Africa Packing: Suitcases are stowed in our 6 to 7 safari vehicles or jeeps. New hard cases don’t fit. Bring only soft-sided luggage or duffels are best. If we use small charter aircraft deep into bush like Botswana, I’ll advise strict weight restrictions for both bag and carry-on. Pack light and wear the same clothes more than once. Laundry is always available.
Neutral color clothing (no bright colors or fragrances to alarm animals.) Light cotton shorts and T-shirts by day. Jeans/pants with a long sleeve top at night. Early-morning drives always cold-bring warm jacket, fleece or sweater. Smart outfit for evening functions. Hat with a brim for sun protection and chinstrap for drives. Bring a simple light day pack on drives. Sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent with DEET, swimsuit, adapter plugs, mini flashlight, toiletries.
Lodges or Camps – All first-class properties or “glamping” style tents. All food and water is purified. Tap water – Cover bathroom sink with a washcloth as a reminder not to use. Bottled water in the rooms and always available daily. Hydrate! African air is dry and sun is strong. Know that massages at the lodges are usually subpar. Save your spa visits for Europe, Asia and cruises. Lodges have a staff tip box. $5 to $10 is generous to give and will be shared with all staff. Ask reception for charging station to plug-in phones, cameras and tablets.
THE BIG FIVE ANIMALS TO SEE ON SAFARI
Be mindful of everything around you, not just the Big 5. I’m a primate girl myself. In times gone by European hunters used to search out for the most difficult animals to hunt in Africa which led Safari club supreme a list of five key animals that were challenged to shoot. These were considered difficult for a number of reasons, including ferocity, visibility, and elusiveness.
Lions really are the kings of the savanna and are at the top of the food chain. As such, they need no introduction. Lions are widespread throughout southern and eastern Africa and you’ll have a good chance of seeing them in most safari locations.
Black Rhino now critically endangered, the black rhino is not actually black, but more off-white. Despite its huge bulk and dangerous reputation, rhinos are herbivores who would rather graze on some grass than attack a person. There are a few rhinos left in a wild due to large increase in poachers hunting them for their horns.
Leopards are nocturnal and secretive, making them the most difficult number of the Big 5 to actually spot. When you do see one, chances are it will be lounging in a tree at sunset having just eaten dinner.
African Elephants as most people know are large thick-skinned herbivores. Elephants are numerous in Africa but nevertheless can be hard to spot in some areas due to their ability to hide in the bush and long grasses. Despite being widespread, elephants face a growing threat from poachers who hunt them for their ivory.
Cape Buffalo considered by many to be the most dangerous of the big five, reportedly causing the most hunter deaths, with wounded animals reported to ambush and attack pursuers.
Meds – Since 1989, we never had travel diseases with our travelers. But we do advise you discuss your trip with your doctor or healthcare provider. After that, any specific questions you have, text your name to 770-432-8225 and we will call you back. Some clients go to CDC website which prepares all for the worst and creates unnecessary fear. We only stay in fine properties with clean food and water. We do not use needles, swim in rivers, work with the sick or have sex with locals. I don’t want you to over immunize yourself sick, spending hundreds for unnecessary dollars. Over 2 decades selling Africa and South America, no AFS client has ever contracted any disease. Ultimately, it’s your decision on what’s best for you.
About Anti-malaria drugs
This is a common question from our travelers to parts of Africa and So. America. It is a serious disease that can happen when being bitten by an infected female mosquito. However, it’s extremely rare. While locals, tourism staff and guides there do not take pills, many travelers prefer to play it safe with either weekly or daily pills which starts a week before your arrival. In the US, we are limited to only 3 choices; Malarone, Doxycycline or Atovaquone (Larium). Malarone can be costly, but now there’s a generic. Wal-Mart or Kroger have best prices. See your doctor for a prescription. Sometimes one only needs a strong DEET repellent (roll-on best) and wearing pants and long sleeves at dusk.
Yellow Fever – each country differs and rules change constantly. You may need to get a yellow fever shot if you are traveling from one African country to another. Check your rules. These vaccines found at local health departments are nearly impossible now to get in the USA. If you are over age 60, they won’t give you the shot. Get a doctor’s note. If you can obtain the yellow fever vaccine, bring the yellow card which is proof with you. A change made recently if you have an old yellow fever card it’s good forever.
Travelers’ diarrhea can happen anywhere outside USA. It can be caused from the stress of travel, different diets and water that is contaminated. However, all lodge meals are hygienic clean meals. (Cause of infection may be a virus, parasitic or bacterial, so don’t think Cipro is a cure-all.) You all know not to drink untreated tap water, use ice cubes, or brush your teeth with it. Guides will remind. you, though few get sick in Africa. If you get sick, rehydrate with oral rehydration salts, take Imodium or Lomatil. If it doesn’t pass in a week, see doctor. Don’t reach for ‘’stoppers’’ right away. Allow toxins to pass. Fluids are essential.
Things for Children – Bring anything as all we be used. Think Dollar Store or Target. Some stores will even donate. (Get creative. (I bring hair scrunchies and mirrors for girls and balloons for kids.). In poor places, school supplies can be useless with no paper to draw on. They need shoes, socks, clothes etc. They love caps, toys and inflatable balls. You can always donate cash to the headmaster or visit Packwithapurpose.com to see who needs what in each country.