Preparing for a Safari in East Africa

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There’s no better continent to view wildlife in their natural habitats than Africa. After all, where else in the world can you come to face with mountain gorillas than Uganda, Rwanda and DRC or witness the wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania.

For most travelers the decision to visit your favorite premier safari destinations, there’s a lot to plan for your trip.

There are varied habitats ranging from tropical forests, classic open savannahs, swamps, rivers and lakes, high altitude mountains like Kilimanjaro and Rwenzori as well as semi-arid and desert dunes.  Whether the most part of your safari is to be doing daily excursions, or visit cities and local communities for cultural encounters, you need to prepare yourself.

Get travel insurance

You are visiting a secure and safe destination but you’re not sure of the uncertainties that come with adventure safaris. Whether you want to relax on beach or undertake adventures like gorilla trekking and mountaineering. You need an all-inclusive travel insurance to cover up whatever activity you shall do as well as emergency situations like accidents.

Most tour operators highly recommend travel insurance for the entire trip days. When traveling to Africa come along with your credit cards. Make currency exchanges since you may be required to make payments in local currency or US dollars.

Choose an organized tour  

Planning African safari with a tour operator is flexible way to get everything you desire. Before you travel, there’s need to inquire about the destination activities, transportation, meals, lodgings and availability of wildlife viewing permits. You can base from your home country pre-book and confirm your African safari including air tickets. By the time you arrive on time, everything would be already arranged as you wish to relax after a flight and begin comfortable trip the next day.

For travelers who don’t enjoy being in a company of others, consider having solo trips. You may travel with a group during transfers but for the sake of your special interests.

Book in advance

When you book early you get enough time to arrange essential items of your safari such as visa, passport, permits, accommodation and things to pack. For instance a visa must be applied for at least 3 months ahead of date you are visiting a particular country.  During peak seasons, many tourists are traveling which make prices high as well lead to low availability of space in lodges. But when you book in advance, budget choices are still many and you won’t pay highly.

If you’re traveling with children, mind so much about accommodation that runs special programs for kids. While few areas in East African safari places such as Uganda and Kenya have high risk of malaria than in South Africa, they have bright setups for kids. On that note, there are activities like gorilla trekking where children below 15 years are not allowed.

What to pack

Understanding what to pack for a long day drive or trekking through tropical rainforest is the strength of your trip. It creates a difference between a disappointing and successful safari.

Not all safaris are similar, depending on the place you’re visiting. The idea is to be weather ready and pack light, flexible clothing and equipment. For most active wildlife viewing adventures, you wake up before sunrise or you are still in the bush during afternoon and late evening drives. The weather is still cold or winds and hot sun tend to alternate whether it is a wet or dry season. Thus make sure to have a backpack that you can access anything you want while on a trip. You’ll quickly get extra layers, rain jackets when it showers or feels cold or a sun hat when the sun is too hot. It is also important to have hiking boots, socks, and a pair of long pants, long sleeved shirts so that your body is covered up.

Take useful accessories including camera and extra batteries, lenses, memory cards and binoculars. Game drives and boat cruises offer closer views of animals for your greater shots. But binoculars will also help you to spot animals that keep away from the safari vehicles and more importantly for any bird watching trip. Take a notebook or dairy as well to write about your experiences and create lasting memories.

If you wish to visit the beach, bring a swimming costume, short pants and sandals.

Sun protection

Most Africa safari destinations experience intense hot sun even during rainy season. Take sunscreen, hat along with lip balm. Traveling long distances tend to cause heat and dust to make you feel dry. Even if you happen to use air conditioned vehicles, you’ll still use jeep or land lovers while in the bush which does not have.

Prepare for your health

When your safari is fully booked, check with a doctor to get any immunizations you may need.

Mostly every travel visiting any destination in East and Central Africa must have a yellow fever vaccination card. So come with proof. You may also vaccinate against hepatitis B and tetanus.

Most destinations in Africa have a risk of malaria infection. To avoid mosquito bites carry anti-malarial tabs and mosquito repellants while on a safari.

Even though lodges are comfortable places with fresh food, you may be exposed to harmful bacteria and suffer from stomach upsets. So it is important to have a first Aid kit. It should include healthy packs of medications as well as anti-bacterial wipes. Toiletries can help you when you want to ease yourself off in the bush.

Note, however, preparing for health depends on the disease and epidemic outbreaks. You must check with embassies and consultants to know the situation in the country you’re visiting.

Be security cautious

Africa is known to have friendly people including locals, safari guides, rangers and staff at the lodges. These try to give their best for a memorable visitor experience. However, be aware of the theft and crime issues in most cities. Though not directed at tourists, sometimes showing off valuables or moving at night in isolated places can attract thugs.

Also be aware of the gender issues especially same sex couples. Many African countries are fighting homosexuality, so keep your acts out of public. Local people as well as laws are still traditional and will be harsh at any awkward act by foreigners.  The same applies to ways of dressing. Unlike in cities where women can dress short clothes but in rural villages, it is still moderate and decent.

You may not see all the animals

The truth about safaris, you’re not guaranteed to see every animal as expected. Some animals are active during morning or evening while others at night. Guides and rangers understand that much and tell you to take optional or do as many activities as you can. Viewing wildlife is popular with day game drive safaris from where you can see elephants, lions, buffalos. During day, you might miss to see nocturnal animals like leopards, bush babies or night jars, you can opt for night game drives.

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