What to expect from a South African safari.

As you immerse yourself in the wonders of Africa’s wild spaces, just as every sunrise and sunset is unique, each safari destination provides something a little different. 

South Africa offers an incredible variety of luxurious options. You could choose to sleep high above the surrounding bush at Phinda’s Mountain Lodge and Kruger Shalati’s Train on the Bridge or be lulled to sleep under the stars in an open-air treehouse, or deck, complete with a king-sized bed. There are lodges with modern African decor and those that imbue the essence of an old-world safari. 

While each setting and experience will have its own flavour, here’s a guide to some of what you can look forward to on safari.

Game drives, guided walks, or conservation experiences 
You’ll need to abide with the rhythms of the wild when you come to Africa to see its wildlife, or you risk missing nature’s show. This means an early morning start, as animals tend to be most active around dawn and dusk, which happily coincide with the best light for photography.

You can expect to wake before dawn for your morning safari. The open safari vehicle will generally depart at 5am in summer or 6am in winter for the day’s first adventure. While, guided wilderness walks also leave at first light to avoid the heat of the day. Walking safaris are accompanied by a specially qualified ranger and are only available to those who are fit and over 16 years of age.

While there are no guarantees of what you’ll see on any given game drive, rangers are skilled at tracking animals and alert each other to sightings via two-way radio. As you journey through the bush they’ll share interesting facts about the wildlife in the area and use their well-trained eyes to point out creatures that you may have missed. Each outing is exciting in that you can’t predict what is going to happen. Will you witness a Whalberg’s eagle feasting on termites, watch elephants swim across a river, or spot a leopard sauntering by?

The evening game drives are no less thrilling. After the African sun dips behind the horizon, you could find yourself bumping along a dirt track under the night sky, resplendent with stars, as your guide swings a powerful lamp from side to side in search of reflective pairs of eyes.

For something extraordinary, you can join a wildlife team that includes a vet and rangers and take part in a conservation experience. You’ll get to witness an animal, such as a rhino, being darted from the air and then get up close to see the notching and microchipping procedure as well as the collection of DNA samples. This once-in-a-lifetime experience contributes to the conservation of our magnificent African wildlife. 

Enjoy sumptuous fare
Foodies don’t need to worry about being isolated in the bush without access to good food. High-end lodges often partner with renowned chefs to create stellar menus. Whichever lodge you find yourself at, your day will most likely start with a hot beverage and some light snacks before you set off on your first game drive. When you return there’ll quite often be an extravagant brunch, followed later by various lunch options as well as freshly baked goods for tea time. Most lodges will cater for special dietary requirements, as long as you let them know ahead of time. Dinners can range from a braai (barbeque) in a boma under the stars to refined meals paired with some of South Africa’s premium wines.

An unhurried pace
Between morning and evening game drives and your meals, you’ll have time for a languorous afternoon nap, relaxing in and around the pool or spa, or reading in your private quarters or in the communal lodge lounge. If you do need to connect to the outside world, there’ll usually be WiFi (at least at the main lodge), however, you may find yourself pleasurably distracted by the natural world with no desire to enter into the daily digital fray.

The stillness of a sultry afternoon provides the perfect time to unwind as you drink in the beauty of the natural world all around you, perhaps with a gin and tonic in hand.

We’d love to hear from you
If you have any questions about the best time of year to visit and what to anticipate in various regions, or at certain lodges, we’d love to hear from you.

Happy exploring,

The Leopard Team

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