Article Added By Charles Sonko,

East Africa Professional Tour Guide, Safari Operator and Adventurer.

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WHAT HAPPENS ON AN AFRICAN SAFARI

The Experience in Africa.
As the sun sets on a day of safari, memories are imbued with surprise. Preconceptions have molded and twisted into reality, foreign concepts now understood as the safari itinerary plays out. Picturing an African safari initially comes with dozens of questions. What happens after sundown? How long is a game drive? Is there time to relax?  Safari itineraries burst with exotic reverie. Rhino tracking walking safari, lunch stops beside a waterhole, mobile camps in the forest; it all sounds exciting, but taking the snapshots and creating a firm picture of a safari vacation is difficult. So, what happens on an African safari? What does a typical day look like? Here's an overview.

It can be easy to picture a European itinerary, with visits to museums, city walking tours, or dinner tables booked at a Michelin star restaurant. But even the staple safari activity, the game drive, comes as an alien concept to first time visitors. How long is a safari? How much is game and how much is driving? As much as the destination is exotic, so is a safari itinerary, filled with new concepts and unique experiences. As a starting point, the general mood is one of serenity and tranquility. For all the thrill and excitement of being on safari, most itineraries follow the rhythm of life out on the landscape; cool mornings and late afternoons are when the action is intensified, while the hot midday sun is usually for downtime and relaxing at camp. With the procession of wildlife continually wandering past, these quiet hours radiate charm.

Every itinerary is filled with an often diverse collection of safari activities, each of them flexible at heart. Guides are experts at maximizing the wildlife encounters but the experience is wildly unpredictable. For example, a game drive might last an extra hour because you've spotted vultures and hyenas fighting over a baby hippo carcass. Or it could be cut short as basecamp has radioed in a pride of lions hanging out by the camp's waterhole. Some activities are more structured, like hot air balloon rides or river boat cruises, but a vast proportion of an itinerary will be constantly tinkered dependent on the mood of both the customer and the animals. Walking safari, nighttime drives, horseback safari; new impressions are offered by the myriad of activities, each providing a compelling angle.

Safari continues at camp, where there are many more exotic concepts to consider. What are the bathroom facilities like? What do you eat? Is there even electricity? While the camps excel in blending into the environment, there is more than adequate comfort and an ongoing itinerary of surprise; cocktails at sundown, mid-afternoon snacks, detailed narratives provided by wildlife specialists, stargazing instruction, guided walks in the vicinity. And while this might be the middle of the bush, the amenities are much like the comforts of home. Using traditional methods and modern touches, safari camps provide a blueprint in ecological existence.

Moving between destinations is part of the experience, the road journeys, another game drive, and the aerial flights providing stunning impressions of scale. The wilderness excels in offering solitude and calmness, an unexpected addition to a vacation that evokes notions of drama. Even on a drive between parks there are always a dozen photo opportunities. And while safari destinations and itineraries are based on similar ideas and activities, there's a diversity and individuality that shines throughout.