What happens on a safari?

Here’s an idea of what to expect…

Every safari we design is created just for you, but there is a rhythm to the days.What happens on a safari is always a surprise.  

Be it Kenya or Tanzania, Malawi or Mozambique, each carries its own unique mix of safari magic. So if you have visited this region before, chances are, you’ll encounter several differences the next time you go.  

Should you want an idea of what a ‘typical’ day might look like, here are all the ins, outs, and in-betweens of what happens on a safari.

6:00 am: Early morning wake-up call

When on safari anywhere in Africa, always expect an early wake-up call. Sunrise morning game drives top the agenda, so if you love a good lie-in, this part might be a little rough.  

That said, the promise of wildlife sightings paired with a steaming cup of Joe should provide enough motivation to get you moving. As most die-hard safari-goers will tell you, game viewing is best before dawn when all the nocturnal beasts of the bush are still moseying about. Once that African sun bursts over the horizon, the landscape begins to sizzle and most animals head for shelter.

6:30 - 7:00 am: Sunrise guided game drive

Get ready to clamber aboard your trusty safari vehicle. With expert tracker guides at your side, expect to tick off more than a few beasts of the bush. 

It can get pretty chilly in the mornings here in Africa, so layer up. A scarf will keep your neck warm, while a beanie can help protect your ears from the wind as you whizz through the wilderness. Most lodges will supply blankets and hot bevies with a cheeky dash of Amarula to keep you extra toasty.   

Once you witness that burning ball of fire that is the African sun, you’ll instantly know that getting up early was all worth it… And then begins the process of spying nyala’s skirting into the undergrowth, zebras munching on fresh shoots, and ellies on dawn patrol. Morning game drives generally last around three hours, depending on what’s out there. If you stumble upon a leopard, breakfast will wait.

9:00 – 10:00 am: Breakfast back at camp

After your morning game drive, it’s back to camp for a well-earned breakfast with your fellow safari-goers, allowing you to regroup, discuss sightings, and share safari footage. 

Breakfast offers a prime opportunity to plan out your free time, but most of all, fuel up on hearty fare ranging from muesli bowls to full English breakfasts whipped up by the chef.

Now we can’t tell you exactly what happens on a safari when it comes to the cuisine, but what you’ll find on your plate depends on how rustic or ritzy your accommodation is. We promise it is always tasty. 

10:00am – 1:00pm: Free time

A safari in Africa can involve long days, but you’ll still be rewarded with free time to rest or add in a few additional activities (which we can help arrange for you!). 

During this time of the day, you can do as little or as much as you please. Sneak off to indulge in a siesta, make a beeline for the spa, or better yet, lace up your hiking boots and embark on a bush walk. During these excursions, your guide will teach you tracking skills as you take note of scat, spoor, and other hidden clues letting you know what animals could be nearby. 

The slow and natural pace of bush walks allows you to fully ground yourself and connect with your surroundings. It’s also an opportunity to appreciate the smaller critters on safari – dung beetles happily rolling their haul, or African weavers making a fuss in a nearby Jackalberry tree.  

1:00 pm: Lunch is served!

By the time lunchtime rolls around, your stomach will likely be rumbling like Victoria Falls – trust us when we say that it’s easy to work up an appetite on safari! If you can, snap up a seat on the viewing deck to continue wildlife watching. You might be lucky enough to have a waterhole on your doorstep brimming with snuffling hippos, sunbathing crocs, and moody Marabou storks.

1:00 pm – 4:00 pm: More free time

Being the hottest time of the day, this is the perfect opportunity to grab your book and stake your claim on the sun lounger. You never know what or who you might see, even if it’s just a curious little vervet monkey dropping in to inspect the situation. 

This timeslot is oh-so-perfect for a good snooze while the bush orchestra plays on around you. If you’re the overachieving type (we get a few of those!), you might be able to squeeze in another activity here. 

4:00 pm – 7:00 pm: Late afternoon game drive

Gear up for your late afternoon guided game drive when the setting sun bids a fiery farewell and the temperature begins to drop. 

During this adventure led by expert guides, expect to be rewarded with a bounty of sightings, sundowners and light snacks (hmm, biltong!). If you do want to pack extra tipple for the road, be prepared to answer the call of nature behind a bush or tree. 

During the golden hour, most animals emerge from their hiding spots to graze, drink and go about their business oblivious to your presence. This is also go-time for those skulking predators. By way of a spotlight, your guide will unveil several pairs of glistening eyes belonging to anything from hyena, lion, leopard, or even wild dogs if luck is on your side.

We can’t say exactly what happens on a safari night drive, but there is always something, somewhere hunting or being hunted under the cover of darkness. As the sun sets, listen for the calls of the African scops-owl, Pearl-spotted owlet, or the Fiery-necked nightjar (depending on which reserve you’re in). 

8:00 pm: Dinner and a nightcap

Upon returning to camp, it’ll be time for dinner served under a blanket of stars. In most instances, this consists of African-inspired dishes prepared on a traditional bush braai (BBQ). But again, this all depends on where you’re staying. Some will lean into hearty Italian fare, while others might whip up anything from Asian to French and everything in between.

Once you’ve had your fill, move in closer to the glow of the campfire with your drink of choice. Now is the time for guests and guides to share stories and thrilling anecdotes of their time in the bush. 

While staying up late and enjoying an extra nip of whisky is tempting, don’t forget that the next day entails another early morning wake-up. When you do finally make it to bed, take a moment to simply listen. You’ll be amazed at what you hear – lions calling out in the distance or bushbabies scritching in a nearby tree.  

Remember, this guide maps out a general flow of a safari in Africa. The truth is, that your day depends on the lodge or camp you’re staying at, but it also depends on you

What else? Honestly, the possibilities are endless.

Game drives are the most common safari activity, however, there are plenty of other activities and excursions to engage in, depending on where you go. We’ve listed some of our favorites below: 

Hot air balloon excursion

Take to the skies on a hot air balloon safari. Should you want to add this to your itinerary, the launch time is at the crack of dawn, depending on the weather. Expect to be in the air for around two to three hours, with a champagne breakfast to reward you back on the ground – yes, please!

Best place to try it: Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Horseback safari

If you’re wanting a completely unique experience, saddle up on your trusty steed and gently traverse the African plains alongside zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, and other big game. A horseback safari offers a completely different way to wildlife-watch, without the disruptive hum of the Landy. 

Best place to try it: Waterberg, South Africa

Safari cruise

Aside from game drives and bush walks, there is another way to experience the wilds of Africa, and that’s by water. Head to any camp or lodge close to a lake or river, and chances are you’ll have the opportunity to board a barge, boat, or mokoro (in the Okavango Delta) to engage in ample birdwatching and game viewing.   

Best place to try it: Zambezi River in Zambia or Zimbabwe

Photography safari

Avid shutterbug? Here in Africa, you can also dabble in a more specialized safari experience focusing on wildlife and landscape photography. Enhance your skills with an expert who can help you better understand light, composition, and animal behavior to capture that perfect shot. 

Best place to try it: Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Birding safari

Twitchers, assemble! If birds are more of your thing, why not add a bespoke birding tour to your trip? Southern Africa’s endless assortment of bird species has long delighted safari-goers for centuries. 

Best place to try it: iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa

Big Journeys Start With Small Steps

~ African Proverb

Let's take the first steps together...

Karen Cockburn - Namibia
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