Let’s be frank, Durban is a long way away from most places. Whether you’re visiting from the USA, or from the UK or even Australia or New Zealand, Durban takes a lot of effort to get to. The last thing you want is to come out to Durban and end up having “ho-hum” safari experience.

To try an avoid the “ho-hum” experience (we like that word so much we’ve now added it to our official vocabulary) we thought we’d put together 10 helpful suggestions to make the most of your wildlife safari tour.

Quick List of our 10 Suggestions

  1. Attitude, attitude, attitude
  2. Have binoculars handy
  3. Ask questions
  4. It’s not just about the animals
  5. Get out there early
  6. Have a notebook handy
  7. Go slow
  8. Take photographs
  9. Bring a book
  10. Buy a souvenir

Our Detailed list to of 10 suggestions to make the most of your Durban safari

1. Attitude, Attitude, Attitude

Harold Samuel is often quoted (incorrectly as it turns out) that the 3 most important factors in real estate were “location, location, location”. Well, after nearly 20 years of enjoying, conducting and planning safaris, we feel the most important factors in a satisfying safari trip are “attitude, attitude, attitude“.

Leaving for a safari tour early in the morning in the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve

Leaving for a safari tour early in the morning in the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve

You’ve come all this way, surviving countless hours in a metal tube flying over the oceans while fighting the guy next to you for the arm rest and now you’re finally entering the gamer reserve and about to get started on a bucket list adventure.

To get the best out your safari experience, go in with an open mind. You’re far from home, chances are you’re not going to get a wifi signal, so forget about the office for a while and just absorb your surroundings. Appreciate the sights around you, the landscape of rolling hills in the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve or the flat terrain of the Kruger National Park, revel in it all.

If you go in with an open mind, looking not to judge each experience but to absorb and reflect, you will make the most of your wildlife safari.

2. Have binoculars handy

A pair of binoculars can make a big difference on a safari trip, you can’t always get close to animals on a safari trip, some animals are just too skittish and others too dangerous, so having a pair of binoculars handy will only add to your experience.

Looking out over the Kruger National Park using a pair of binoculars

Looking out over the Kruger National Park using a pair of binoculars

There are many different sizes of binoculars, from the very small set used at sports events to the very big ones used for birding or to see the other side of the world! We use an 10×50 or 8×50 which in terms of physical size and ease of carry works out to be the best (for us anyway).

But there is no need to rush out to buy a 8×50 pair of bino’s if you have only a smaller set, any pair of bino’s will do in a pinch. We always have an extra set of binoculars in our vehicles on our safari tours that visitors are welcome to make use of.

3. Ask questions

If you’re enjoying a safari tour with us here at Country and Coastal Touring, or even if you’re booked with another company or using the services of the parks game drives, ask questions! The guides that show you about are there to make the most of your experience, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.

There is so much more to the bush than just the big 5. Consider the trees you see, many of them have medicinal uses, some of them are spiritually important to the indigenous people. Same goes for plants and bushes. Even the grasses can be fascinating. So let you curiosity get the better of you and ask questions (it’s what we’re paid for).

4. It’s not just about the animals

Did you know that there is a big 5 list of trees? Or that trees can communicate with one another, or that trees have figured out how to attract only some species of animals and not others? Yup it’s true, the world of trees can be just as fascinating as the animals themselves.

Sweet Thorn seen in bloom

Sweet Acacia in bloom Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Trees are fascinating homes to a bewildering array of insects and birds. Some species of trees encourage insects to live on them, some don’t. Some trees benefit from animal interaction and some don’t. There is so much going on with trees that if you just stand quietly for a while it’s amazing just how many different species call trees their home!

The same goes for plants. Same of the most distinctive smells come from the plants of the bushveld. The strong heady smell of the “Wild Sage” bush is a smell I personally identify with the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve – and it can often indicate that an animals has walked through the bush recently.

The plants, the trees, the flowers even the grasses can enhance your experience on a safari tour, so don’t just focus on the animals!

5. Get out there early

It’s so easy to smack that blaring alarm clock right off it’s stand at 5:00am, you’re on holiday after all but, this is precisely the time you need to get out into the bush!

The Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve with the sun rising over the landscape

The Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve with the sun rising over the landscape

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to relax around the pool during the heat of the day – in the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game reserve summer temperatures can easily reach 38 degrees Celsius mid summer and in the Kruger National Park we’re talking in excess of 40 degrees Celsius. The animals themselves tend to be less active during the midday themselves.

However early mornings and late afternoons is where the action is at. We’ve had incredible sightings in the early mornings. Some of the most memorable were two lioness hunting and eventually catching warthog at 6am, a leopard lazily crossing the road and then turning towards us and seemingly posing for a good 10 minutes.

Late afternoons are just as good with many animals becoming active after their midday snooze or mud wallow. Recently we came across a pack of 11 Wild Dog who were just waking up from their midday nap, was amazing to watch them getting ready to head out on a hunt.

So get out of bed early, you can always catch up on your sleep an the airplane back home!

6. Have a notebook handy

You are going to see so much on your safari tour that making notes of what you saw, what you felt or even just making notes of people and place names is going to be so important. Of course using an app on your mobile device or tablet will work just as well (just remember to keep it charged) but nothing beats the feel of scribbling down thoughts in a journal.

Sketches are also fun, even if like me you have no artistic ability at all. You may have questions that can’t be asked at the time, so write them down for later and then at dinner ask away. Having a notebook handy can honestly change the way you experience a wildlife safari.

Kids of all ages will also enjoy making notes. Getting them to do a quick sketch of animals they have spotted will keep them interested in the safari and create memories they can look back on fondly – it’s a win-win for sure!

7. Go slow

I can’t stress this one enough. We’re so used to rushing about in our work lives and at home, rushing to the office, rushing back, or rushing to the store or appointments that it can be a little difficult to go slow.

Here in KwaZulu-Natal the Zulu people have a philosophy that “life moves at the pace of cattle“. This is something we take to heart on our wildlife safari tours because going slow is what it’s all about.

Most game reserves have speed limits, in the Kruger National Park it’s 50km/h on the tar roads and 40km/h on the dirt roads. In the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve is 40km/h everywhere. This in our opinion may still be a little too fast.

We tend to average around 25km/h on game drives. First off it’s slow enough for the driver/guide to be looking for animals and concentrating on the road. It’s slow enough to not hit animals that suddenly run out from the bush and it’s easier to spot animals. And, at that slow pace you get to smell the bush around you which can help you find animals.

So, when you out on a safari drive, slow down and appreciate your surroundings.

8. Take photographs

You don’t need to a professional photographer, most make do with a simple point and shoot camera, using your mobile device is perfectly fine as well, but you definitely should take photos. And not just of the animals, include selfies with the amazing landscape behind you, or family pics with grazing animals watching on – it doesn’t matter really, just take photo’s.

Visitors taking photos during a widlife safari tour

Visitors taking photos during a wildlife safari tour – Photo by Heather M. Edwards on Unsplash

What to do with the photo’s after is up to you. I personally subject family and friends to a slide show evening (I don’t tell them that of course lol). Of course you can upload them to social sites, or group sites or whatever you want.

One word of caution though. It’s easy for photographic enthusiasts to get wrapped up in the moment of taking a photo that they miss what’s happening about them. Our advice is take your photo and then put the camera down and enjoy the experience, the sights, sound and smells (read point number 1 again!).

9. Bring a book

This one sounds a little weird, but you should definitely bring a book. But, we’re not talking about any book here.

There are so many travel authors out there, some are absolutely amazing authors that paint these incredible mental pictures of places they been and experience they’ve had. We’re firm believers that you should keep that sort of inspiration with you.

Find a travel book you love, and travel with it. Write notes on the pages, underline passages that resonate with you, dog-eye sections to come back to later. And bring the book with you. When you’re about to head out on a morning game drive, read a favorite page from your book, or a favorite passage. When it’s almost time to dive into bed, read some more.

It’s about inspiration, it’s about reminding yourself why you’re here in the first place, it’s about finding the joy in watching a sunset or sunrise, or or seeing animals simply being themselves in the wide open African savannas.

10. Buy a souvenir

If there’s one thing that will remind you of where you’ve been, it is a souvenir. Now we’re not talking about filling your suitcase up with junk that will end up catching dust in your home, not at all.

Photograph of African souvenirs

Photograph of African souvenirs from the NY TImes

If at all possible, send a little time in a souvenir shop in the park and pick an item, big or small, expensive or cheap, that speaks to you, that reflects how you feel about your time spent on a safari. It doesn’t have to practical in any way but it should speak to you in some way. And if you can’t find something, well that’s ok as well.

One last word.

We here at Country and Coastal Touring believe in sustainable tourism, and as such we ask that if you do purchase a gift or memento, that you do it from a store that supports the local communities. If you’re not sure if the store you are at does so, simply ask the staff about the products, where they are sourced and if the money spent gets back into the community.

The End

Well not quite the end. We’re passionate about safaris and so have put a great deal of thought and planning into our tour itineraries to ensure you do nothing but enjoy your time with us.

We offer a number of safari tour options to the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve, the Kruger National Park and other reserves around South Africa. Feel free to use the contact form below to get in touch and we’ll be happy to help you achieve that wildlife safari bucket list tick.