Having now adjusted back, sadly, to normal life, I thought I should probably start my next chapter of South Africa posts because there will be a lot, I had the absolute time of my life guys, it was a practically perfect trip including the life-changing moment of performing veterinary work on White Rhinos. While I was there I was fortunate to go on pretty much daily game drives, I was spoilt, but treasured everything single moment and now like to think of myself as a bit of a pro. I know, a game drive doesn’t exactly sound challenging, but I wanted to share with you a few necessities in order to fully enjoy it and have a comfortable journey.
- A decent guide and wildlife book
As always I packed a trust Marco Polo country guide, of course, this was aimed at the whole of Southern Africa but I was impressed by the number of National Parks and reserves it featured – including important information regarding where the gate entrances are for the National Parks as well as the ever useful pull-out map. I also ended up using the blank note pages at the back to write down all the different wildlife that I saw on drives, which I recommend everyone does, it will be perfect to look back on in a few years. You can then also use that list to refer back to a wildlife guide for further information on each species – I found this guide to be really informative as well as affordable if you feel it might not be something you use again.
Layers will be essential whatever time of year you visit.Most games drives are early morning or mid-late evening to ensure you spot the most wildlife and believe me, South Africa is cold at that time, especially during the winter months. Layers are your best friend, you can pile them on at the coldest times and then slowly adjust with the changes in temperature. The beautiful rhino scarf in the photo above was actually a gift from my friend while we were out there, but it came in so useful – thick enough to keep warm but light weight enough to chuck in my backpack when it warmed up, it was also perfect for keeping sand and grit out of my face on windier drives. My clothing essentials would be a lightweight scarf, a thick gilet and decent sunglasses.
- Sun Screen
No matter the time of year the sun takes no prisoners in South Africa, an average good game drive last 3-4 hours, a long time to be under U.V rays with no sunscreen even if it just your face on show. Leave your suncream next to your toothbrush the night before, to ensure you do not forget to apply even if you are up before the sun, then pack in your bag for top ups during the drive.
- Patience and a good sense of humour
Do not get me wrong, game drives are the best experiences, you will never forget the excitement when you spot your first lion sleeping behind a tree or find a herd of elephants making their way to the waterhole, but you also spend a lot of time simply driving to find those special moments, so have patience. Your game guides are experts in their field and want you to have an amazing experience, but they can’t make animals appear out of thin air, it’s the wild, not a zoo, please do not make their jobs harder by moaning or questioning where the animals are. Some of the guides we met became some of my best memories of my recent trip, talk to them, joke with them, learn from them, they are passionate about what they do, the more you give them, more you will get out of your game drive experience.
Oh, and be interested in more than just the big five, yes they are incredible but there is so much beautiful wildlife out there, the birds especially.
I toyed with putting this one in, but for me, it was an essential so I decided I had to, I document everything with photos, even before blogging, it is something I have always done, so having photos from game drives were a must for me, but I was fortunate enough that I went on numerous drives on my last trip, which meant at times I chose not to take my camera. On the occasions, I didn’t take my camera I ensured I took it everything in and created a different kind of memory, photos are beautiful to look back on but nothing beats actually being there 100% in the moment, not viewing it through a camera lens. Find a good balance. On my last trip, I fell back in love with my Canon 600D after replacing it with my Olympus Pen for the past year, with a 300mm lens the Canon produced such stunning visuals and picked up every colour of the African sky.
Overall, have fun and cherish every moment. If you are an animal lover seeing these wonderful creatures in the wild is a life changing experience and if you are like me, it will become a bit of an addiction, as soon as I arrived home I was already looking up flights to Botswana, the next place on my game drive bucket list!
If there are any other questions you have regarding game drives, national parks or even the wildlife life please feel free to ask me by email or via Twitter, and I will do my best to help.Looking for a different kind of safari? How about a Jungle River Cruise in Borneo?
This post was sponsored by Marco Polo and also contains a few affiliate links, but as always my opinions and love of animals are all my own.