What to Expect on a Safari | Jumbari Family Safaris
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What to expect on a safari

Are you thinking of traveling to Africa but are unsure of what to expect from a safari experience? For your convenience, we have compiled this concise guide to what to expect on a safari, which outlines your day-to-day safari itinerary, the role of your safari guide and tracker, as well as the types of wildlife you will encounter.


Safari vehicle awaiting a charter flight arrival, Photo credit | African Bush Camps Kanga Camp

Safari Guides:

On arrival at a safari lodge, you will be assigned a dedicated Safari Guide and Safari Tracker for the duration of your stay. Your guiding team will be responsible for briefing you on safari ethics, educating you on the environment and wildlife, as well as ensuring that you get the best possible safari experience. Your Safari Guide will man the Safari vehicle, while the tracker sits on a custom seat on the front-left of the safari vehicle in search of obscured wildlife and animal tracks.


Trackers and guides on safari, Photo credit | andBeyond Ngala Tented Camp

Safari Vehicles:

You can expect two types of safari vehicles depending on whether you are traveling to Southern or East Africa.

In Southern Africa the vehicles are typically open-air on the sides with some having a closed roof to protect you from the sun. These vehicles are usually Land Rovers or Toyota LandCruisers, designed for varying terrain. Safari vehicles typically seat 9 passengers however, some lodges prefer 6-7 passengers per vehicle ensuring that all passengers have a window seat to optimize on sighting opportunities. Opting for a private safari vehicles is always an option on prior arrangement and at an additional cost. 


Open air vehicles in South Africa, Photo credit | Lion Sands Narina Lodge


In East Africa, 4×4 all terrain vehicles are required and you can expect safari vehicles that are entirely enclosed with pop-up roofs. A large pop up roof ensures uninterrupted views and great photographic opportunities. In addition, these vehicles often feature raised suspension and engine snorkels for river crossings, their ruggedness means you can access wild and off the beaten track destinations with ease. 


Enclosed pop up safari vehicles, Photo credit, anBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge


No two safaris are the same – you never know what you are going to see. This makes a safari both exciting and possibly disappointing at times. Safari experiences have a variety of varying factors such as varying season, terrain and vegetation, climate, time of day and other uncontrolled factors.

Wildlife roams freely in the reserves and are not tracked by the safari guides. This requires safari trackers to use their expert knowledge to find wildlife by means of tracking their footprints. It is important to note that during your safari experience you might come across big cats fitted with tracking collars – this is NOT a means to track animals for tourism purposes but an essential part of big cat conservation.


Animal tracking with the guide and tracker, Photo credit | Cheetah Plains


Although the game reserve you are visiting may be home to the Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant), sightings of all five of these animals are not guaranteed. As mentioned, sightings are dependent on a variety of factors. Leopard sightings are hard to come by and you can count yourself lucky to have spotted one, particularly during daylight hours as these particularly elusive creatures are for the most part, nocturnal.  

If there is a particular animal you would like to see, we suggest contacting your Jumbari specialist to find out where your best chances are of spotting this animal. Sabi Sand Game Reserve has spent the past 3 decades developing a close relationship between the leopards and rangers through implementing the Leopard Conservation Programme. This conservation programme has secured Sabi Sand as one of the world’s most exceptional leopard sighting reserves. 


Leopard in Lion Sands National Park, Photo credit | Lion Sands Narina Lodge

A typical itinerary for an African wildlife safari:

05h30: You will receive an early morning wake up call from your dedicated safari guide. 

05h45: Meet for tea and coffee and a small breakfast snack at the main lodge.

06h00: Depart for your morning game drive. These drives typically take 3 hours.

08h15: Stop for coffee and breakfast treats at a viewing point. Your Safari guides will set up a coffee and tea station.


Coffee stops on a morning game drive, Photo credit | Cheetah Plains

09h00: Arrive at the lodge for your full breakfast. Hot breakfast and buffet. 

10h00 – 12h00: Time at leisure.

12h00 – 14h00: Lunch is served at the main lodge.

14h00 – 15h30: Time at leisure.

16h00: Depart for afternoon game drive. These drives typically take 3 hours. 

18h15: Stop for sundowners at a viewing point. Enjoy a selection of drinks and snacks. 

19h00: Arrive at the lodge. Enjoy a drink at the bar followed by dinner.

Spend the evening at leisure.

*These hours vary depending on the season in which you are traveling. During the winter months, departure will be slightly earlier in the afternoon.


Sundowners on a late afternoon safari, Photo credit | Cheetah Plains

Why do game drives depart in the early mornings and later afternoons?

Safaris typically depart during the early mornings and late afternoons to provide guests with a greater chance of seeing both nocturnal and daytime animals. During the hot summers, animals tend to retreat to shaded areas to escape the heat of the day. Heading out earlier means that the animals may still be active from the night before – including the night time predators who may be starting to settle down for the day. In addition, the cooler mornings are more pleasant for both safari goers and animals, increasing your chances of sightings. In the late afternoons, the opposite occurs, day time animals will start settling in for the night and night time predators will begin to roam. 


Late afternoon safari’s, Photo credit | Singita Serengeti House

Safari Ethics: 

Whilst your safari guide and tracker will be sure to run through safari protocol before you start, it’s always best to start with some background insights. There are many ethics to be abided by when it comes to safari’s within wildlife territories. 

For game vehicles, the following should be abided by at all times:

No standing up in the safari vehicles.

Animals can recognize human shapes and figures when standing or breaking the outline of the vehicle. In doing this you are not only endangering yourself but every other person on the vehicle.

No dangling arms and legs out of vehicle.

For the same reasons as mentioned with regards to standing, but this is of particular importance when in a sighting with animals. Always stay inside the vehicle and keep all limbs in check. Not doing so will provoke the animals, putting everyone at serious risk.


Seated on safari, Photo credit | Singita Sweni Lodge

No loud noises.

Keep noise to a minimum as it disturbs animals and other safari-goers and it generally disturbs the entire wilderness experience. Remember, noise travels a great distance through the wilderness and on the water. 

No Cellphones sounds.

Cellphones are to be turned to flight mode for all game viewing experiences and activities. Making or receiving calls and texts is forbidden and phones may only be used for photos and video.

No Headphones allowed.

Headphones are not to be used when on a game drive in case sudden emergency instructions need to be issued by the guide.


Silence in the crater, Photo credit | Lemala Ngorongoro

When it comes to walking safaris, the following protocol should always be adhered to:

Do not run under any circumstances. Running evokes a chase and you will be pulled down, mauled or trampled. If an animal becomes hostile, stop and listen to your guide. Never turn your back on the animal. Stay in a group and follow given instructions accordingly. 

Always walk in single file at an arm’s length from each other. In doing this, animals will see you as one unit rather than a herd that can be easy to split up.

Communicate with hand signals, whistles and whispers. This relates back to noise, don’t shout, scream or generate noise that could render the animals hostile. 


Single file on walking safari, Photo credit | andBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge

Do not smoke or eat, only drink water. Animals have an incredible sense of smell and will be attracted by something as small as a wrapped candy. Sodas and sweet drinks always lure stinging insects so stick to water. If you do need to eat while on safari (possibly for medical reasons), try to avoid anything with noisy packaging and inform your guide before heading off. Smoking is a fire hazard in the African bush and will pollute the natural environment and disturb the animals. 

Follow and respect the guide’s instructions. The guides are experts both in a safari environment and with the animal behaviour at hand. They will have the best judgement in any situation and as it is their job to keep you safe,  it is imperative that you always follow their instructions.

Only take photographs with consent of guide and then no use of flash is permitted – ideally switch camera sounds off. Animals may run away when they hear the click of the camera, spoiling the sighting for everyone. In addition, the camera flash must always be turned off to avoid aggravating the wildlife.

What to pack for a Safari?

Summer, winter, rain or shine – Africa has it all and it’s best to be prepared and pack for all elements when it comes to faily safaris. Generally, early morning and evening game drives can be quite chilly; whilst the midday heat can be harsh. Light, long sleeved clothing will work and hats are absolutely necessary to help protect your little ones from the harsh African sun with sunscreen always being an essential.
Shoes can make or break your safari so we’d recommend sturdy, comfortable hiking or running shoes – be it for running around the camp or joining in on nature walks, these are a necessity on safari. Another top tip to spot the elusive and low laying wildlife is of course a pair of binoculars. For more information on what to pack for you and your family on safari, download and consult our Safari Guide.
Walking safari, Photo credit | Chem Chem Safari Lodge


It’s important to brush up on the general safari rules and safety tips before you head off on your ultimate African adventure with Jumbari Family Safaris. Following these guidelines will ensure you get the best out of your safari experience while simultaneously being a responsible traveler. Have any other questions about your safari itinerary? Get in touch with one of our consultants for more insights into a safari experience in Africa.