The array of wildlife-watching opportunities in Africa is dizzying. But with a wealth of species to spot and a vast range of parks, reserves, lodges and camps, how do you pick your perfect safari? BBC Wildlife asked the experts.
- Malaria is present in most safari destinations, and the greatest risk is during the rainy seasons. Before you fly consult your GP or local travel clinic for advice about malaria pills. Take prophylactics, use repellent and cover up between dusk and dawn – when Anopheles mosquitoes are active – and be alert to malarial symptoms after you return home.
- Don’t underestimate the African sun, particularly in open vehicles or on walking or boat safaris. Apply sunblock liberally, wear a hat and bring some long-sleeved shirts for protection.
- Water at most camps isn’t piped. Ask whether it is safe to drink, but otherwise stick to bottled water, even when you are brushing your teeth.
- Never leave food in your tent. Fruit might attract baboons or elephants, while meat could pique the curiosity of hyenas – or even lions.
- Big cats seldom view people as prey, but if you come into contact with one on foot, the worst thing you can do is run – this triggers its instinct to chase.
- Hippos and crocodiles are responsible for many deaths. Don’t swim (except in a swimming pool) without seeking local advice first, and avoid walking near lakes and rivers at dusk and dawn, when hippos are out feeding and may bulldoze anything that gets between them and the water.
- Listen to your guide in the presence of potentially dangerous wildlife such as hippos, buffalos or elephants, especially on walking or boat safaris.
- Snakes and scorpions are secretive and seldom seen unless actively searched for, for instance by turning over rocks. Still, wearing solid walking shoes and trousers will greatly reduce the (already infinitesimal) risk of a bite.
- There are two ways of realising your African dream safari. You can either organise all of the logistics yourself, including booking accommodation and rest camps, and hiring vehicles, or you can book through a tour operator who will arrange everything for you.
- The contact details we have supplied for each experience featured are usually those of specific camps, lodges or ground operators in Africa, but if you want a complete package it is best to go through an African safari specialist based in the UK.
- Below are some of the operators that BBC Wildlife staff have travelled with, but plenty of others advertise in the Classified pages.