For those who have never been on a wildlife safari, or even visited the African Continent, it is sometimes difficult to know what to expect from your tour. So many images of Africa have embedded themselves in our consciousness, from movies, documentaries, and of course the glossy safari brochures. Most of these sources focus on the positive aspects of a wildlife safari – the droves of wild animals, breathtaking sunrises and limitless open space. All of these can be found in Africa, and are truly magnificent to experience, but prior to booking your trip of a lifetime, you should also be aware of the less attractive side to a safari holiday.
It is possible that you will be so enamoured by the adventure, that you are not even aware of any negative aspects. However, remember that foreign travel does mean that you will experience levels of hygiene and service that you would be unlikely to encounter at home. Safari in Africa can be difficult due to insects, the heat, dust, delayed flights and unreliable vehicles. Communication can be problematic too, as many telephones are out of service and ATMs are not always available. The African culture can also come as a shock to some visitors, as touts plague tourists to change money or buy crafts and many officials do not seem to see reason.
Your wild safari experience will often depend on the tour operator you are travelling with, and how well they protect you from unpleasant occurrences. If you are paying top money for your trip, this level of service should be included without question. Your chaperones should help you through all the transfers and liase with officials. The standard of safari vehicle should be excellent, and top-quality guides should ensure that you see all the animals you desire. A sign of an exceptional tour operator is how they deal with the situation when less fortuitous things do happen.
At the opposite end of the spectrum to these premier safaris are the ‘young adventurer’ overland truck trips, done on a shoestring budget. People that join these safaris know not to expect any protection from the worst of Africa, and are often exposed to poverty, crime and technological failings. In many ways, it is these experiences which build character, and travellers enjoy the trip for all the elements good and bad.
Most people who go on a safari are somewhere in between. This is why it is important that you understand the best and worst that Africa has to offer. Talk to the travel agents and tour operators about any concerns you might have, and give credit to those who are honest enough to explain the drawbacks.