Top Tips for First Time Visitors to Africa

1- Engage with the locals
With over 3000 languages spoken across the continent Africans love a good story. As so often happens, a warm smile is met with ten new friends. Meals are shared, families are large and in a world of contrasts everyone counts. Travel with an open heart and you are sure to be touched by someone extraordinary.

2- Look at the stars
When the sun melts over the horizon and the bush begins to stir, take a moment, look up, and watch the universe unfold.

3- Wear long sleeves in the evenings
The earth bakes by day and cools by night, which is when the littlest of creatures like to go about their business. It is advisable to keep wrists and ankles tucked away.

4- Leave your gadgets at home
One of the nicest things about being in the bush is the feeling of remoteness. It is not uncommon to see only wilderness in all directions, as far as the eye can see, and it can be tempting to bring something along to keep you occupied, or to read up on the things you have seen using an app or a tablet computer. For a more authentic experience leave the screen at home and carry a guidebook, ask a local or make use of the collection of reading material provided at your lodge.

5- Notice the small things
Africa is big five country; lions, elephants, buffalo, leopard and rhino. It is also home to the lesser known little five. Ant lion, elephant shrew, buffalo weaver, leopard tortoise and rhinoceros beetle are a must-see on any safari bucket list.

6- Ask questions
Guides and trackers are seldom students on a gap year. They learn their skill through years of living in the bush, fine-tuning their knowledge to the pulse of life in the wild. They act on instinct. Being able to share their experiences with you allows them to pass on a love of nature, which is something they all take great pride in.

7- Cook your meal on an open flame
South Africans call it a braai. Essentially, a braai consists of sitting around a campfire telling stories, drinking cold beer and watching the flames slowly smoke your meat to perfection. It’s primal, and not to be missed!

8- Get up early
The bush follows a natural rhythm. During the day when the sun is high and the ground warm, life falls into a sleepy lull. Hunters and prey are at ease, resting, until the light softens to dusk and the bush stirs. Nerves twitch, senses heighten, lions begin to prowl. Lives are lost, tummies are filled and a new dawn breaks with a strong sense of survival. Animals are fresh, the bush is alive, and the morning light is lovely.

9- Less photos, more memories
Some of the most photogenic landscapes in the world can be found in the plains of Africa. There is a delicate balance between catching the moment in an award winning shot, and missing out on the moment entirely. Frequently, tourists forego seeing an elusive wild dog dart out into the open because they are tied up looking for their film. Photo opportunities are plentiful and every aspiring photographer goes home with a shot of a lifetime. When the shutter is closed and the image yours, remember to lower your lens and soak it all in.

10- Allow for change
Flying to your lodge, going on a scheduled game drive, having steak for dinner and drinking your favorite wine are part of your luxury safari experience. When you land on your airstrip locals are there to chase the animals off the runway. Anything can happen. Game drives are dictated by the game, dinner by what’s available and flight times by whether or not a herd of elephants are standing in the way. Your lodge is equipped to deal with most anything and you will be well cared for, however, you should expect a little African Timing. Relax, unwind, breathe it all in. Africa is subject to change. It guarantees to leave you changed.

*Original blog post published for Robert Mark Safaris

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