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9 things to expect on a luxury safari

An African safari may well be the epitome of adventure and is an experience many people have dreamt of all their life. There are many ways to “do a safari”, but ultimately, you get what you pay for. A luxury safari, is a once-in-a-lifetime holiday where you’ll enjoy the very best service, facilities, accommodations, meals, guides, and camp location. But what about the day-to-day details? Here’s what to expect. Out in the bush 1. Off-roading is key On self-drive safaris or in public areas of national parks, driving off-road is prohibited. But animals don’t care about roads, which means the ability to drive through the bush in any direction can be the difference between spotting a cheetah and her cubs or knowing they were just out of view. This is possible only on private reserves. 2. A good guide is invaluable to a fulfilling experience Not only do guides have eagle eyes—spotting hidden animals like a leopard in a tree 1,000 feet away—but they are a wealth of information. The best and most experienced guides have earned employment at the higher-end lodges and camps. They see things untrained eyes will definitely miss and have tons of animal facts rattling around in their brains. 3. Not every moment is jaw-dropping, but there are plenty of jaw-dropping moments Sometimes it’s about enjoying the landscape, conversation, and stories from your guide. Remember, these are wild animals in their natural environment, they won’t just run up to the vehicle. Part of the fun is that you never know what will appear behind the next termite mound—maybe a hyena…maybe next time. You might drive for an hour and only see a giraffe, or you might drive for five minutes and see a lion stalking an impala. Speaking of lions, you’ll be quite lucky to see predators hunt, and it is rather fascinating. But for some, the event is sad and gruesome. Just keep in mind that it’s the circle of life. 4. Your guide is not lost The roads and tracks have names, and guides know the natural landmarks just like you know the convenience store on the corner. Don’t worry. In addition, the vehicle radios are crucial for guides to keep in touch with each other, even with those from neighboring camps. If one comes across a pack of wild dogs dozing in the shade, that location is shared with other guides in the area. 5. Photos will never do your experience justice… …but a really good camera will come close. In fact, our partners at Wilderness Safari have teamed up with Olympus cameras and are now providing some of the most advanced cameras on the market at their camps for guests to borrow! You don’t have to carry any equipment with you, and you’ll return home with a flash drive of your images. Back at camp 6. Prepare to be pampered but not to catch up on sleep Enjoy downright luxurious rooms, attendant camp staff who is there for you in every way, and even spa services in some places! However, this isn’t a sleep-in kind of experience. Wake up is between 5 and 5:30 am as the animals are most active in the cooler parts of the day (although you can choose to skip a morning game drive). Dinners can last well into the evening when wine and conversation are flowing. The midday siesta from about 11:30-3:30 is when you might catch a nap. 7. Wildlife is all around you This means that bugs will come into your room. It’s the bush, remember? Just remember that they don’t want to touch you just as much as you don’t want to touch them and will mostly stay near the ceiling. There is bug spray in your room to kill anything that makes you uncomfortable. That being said, the big spiders may look scary, but they eat flies and mosquitoes, so try to leave them be. Moreover, it can be loud at night with buffalo snorting, elephants rumbling, hyenas whooping. The noises are both thrilling (a reminder that you are in the wild) and bothersome when you’re trying to get some sleep. Bring earplugs. 8. You will not be hungry On safari, there are five meals a day—light breakfast at wake up, heartier brunch at 11, high tea at 3:30, sundowner at 6, dinner at 8. It’s quite impressive what the chefs in these remote places create. They can procure just about anything on their weekly fresh food deliveries. You’ll find quiches, salads, pastas, soups, meat, vegetables, salads, sandwiches, homemade pastries, and an assortment of cocktails, wine, and beer. 9. It takes a village, literally. Camps that may only host 12-20 guests have 40-50 staff on duty on any given day—larger lodges equals even more staff. Due to the remote locations, staff live full time for several months in the “staff village,” with their own rooms, eating area and cook, facilities, and recreation area. And it’s not just the guides, camp management, and dining attendants. So much goes on behind the scenes to ensure guests have an extraordinary experience—vehicle mechanics, building maintenance teams, night watchmen, laundry staff, cleaners, cooks, and dishwashers, just to name a few. It’s incredible how many jobs are created for locals by just one camp cropping up in the bush. So, when are you going on safari? Matt Holmes is the Founder & President of Boundless Journeys. Boundless Journeys is an award-winning tour operator that goes off the beaten path for immersive and authentic travel experiences. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Matt Holmes

Matt Holmes is the President and Founder of Boundless Journeys, an award-winning, adventure tour operator that goes off the beaten path for immersive travel experiences. Long distance hiking in the Alps, snorkeling around remote Pacific islands, and chatting with Buddhist monks at hilltop monasteries are some of the experiences Boundless Journeys offers on over 35 small-group itineraries. Their journeys bring active, culturally curious travelers together to share authentic experiences away from tourist crowds. Prior to starting Boundless Journeys, Matt worked as a tour manager for many years and a rafting guide before that.

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  1. Your guide may occasionally get lost. One guide admitted to me that after a decade of guiding in South Africa’s vast Kalahari he once got lost for 40 minutes. Though he said that it hasn’t happened since.

    1. Of course, it’s possible, but highly unlikely unless the guide is relatively new to the camp and just doesn’t yet know the terrain very well.

  2. From my experience the standards on safaris keep on improving. Every safari that I’ve ever done has been a step-up on the last one. Noticeably, the food is way better than it used to be and it must be hard to achieve that when everything has to be brought in from so far away. Of course this all means that the travellers’ expectations keep rising too.

    1. For high-end safaris and luxury camps, yes, they continue to try to outdo themselves, be it in the wines they offer at dinner, the extra padding in the safari vehicles, or even the remoteness of the camp. Of course, expectations shouldn’t be too high for budget safaris – except for maybe the wildlife!

  3. Agreed that you are not going to get loads of sleep. For me a cat-nap early afternoon helps a lot. Besides a change is as good as a rest and the whole safari experience is so exciting that I come back invigorated.

    1. Exactly! Many people think a safari is going to be a relaxing vacation like sitting on a beach for a week, but it’s not…it’s so much better :)

  4. Hahah I love number 4 – your guide is not lost! Sounds so simple yet that’s one of the biggest advantages in my mind, to have that reassurance that you’re in good hands, they know what they’re doing, and all will be safe and well. Of course there’s always the chance something random will happen, but at least they’ll be well equipped to deal with it. I usually penny pinch but that’s one thing I wouldn’t skimp on when it comes to a reliable safari company to arrange it and a great guide.

    1. You hit the nail on the head. There are a lot of travel experiences that one can do on a shoestring budget and still have a good experience, but in our experience, safaris really aren’t one of them. If you’re only going to do it once, do it right!

  5. No bad thing that it takes a village. Safaris are creating much needed employment to a continent that is desperately crying out for more jobs and wealth. It’s a good idea to tip generously too for a bit of trickle down wealth for the local communities.

    1. 100% it’s a good thing. Many staff that start off in lower positions work their way up through the ranks and become camp managers or guides. They learn new skills that they wouldn’t otherwise learn in their village schools.

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