While we all know how exciting it is to see a lion or elephant in the wild, squealing with delight will send said animal fleeing. The same goes for having one’s mobile phone ring while watching birds from a hide. Following a few basic rules of safari can prevent this.
Whether you’re doing self-drive or a group safari in the Kruger Park, it’s good to be aware of the basic manners expected from everybody, to ensure that a safari in the park is good for all and includes the most game sightings possible. Here we list some simple points to remember on wildlife safaris.
Before Your Game Drive
Being well prepared before going on a game drive will make the experience even better.
Familiarise Yourself With Park Rules
Kruger has a set of rules to ensure both your safety and that of the animals and the environment. The full set can be found on their website. The basic rules are also printed on the green gate permit you receive when coming through the gate into Kruger.
Be aware of gate times. Both gates into the park and into the camps have specific opening times and late comers may be fined.
What To Wear
No, the animals don’t expect you to put on your pearls and make sure that your bag matches your eye shadow. Far from it. When going on open vehicles or walking safaris especially, be sure to avoid bright colours. Basically, the more you blend into the bush, the less likely it is that animals will spot you and flee. This means more and longer sightings.
What To Take With You
The last thing you want to have to do while on a game drive is to have to return to camp, mid-sighting. Be sure to take everything you need along with you:
- Sun cream and hat
- Camera (and if it’s a mobile phone camera, put it on silent)
- Warm clothes
- Water and snacks
On Your Game Drive
If you’re on a group safari with a guide, the guide will deal with the driving and you can just kick back and look for animals. If, however, you’re doing a self-drive safari, there are a couple of basic rules to follow:
- Obey the speed limit: 50 km/h on tarred roads and 40 km/h on gravel roads
- When you see an animal, pull over to the side of the road, so as not to block it
- Never go off the designated roads. This is to protect the environment. Lots of little guys live next to the roads – think lizards, insects etc.
- Don’t drive over dung in the road. There may well be a dung beetle busily going about his business in that dung
- No hooting, revving or blaring sound systems (obviously)
Basically, this one’s an easy one: you should have NO interaction with any animal you see. To ensure their safety and yours, never get out of the car and approach animals. In fact, never get out of your car, even if you can’t see any animals. There may very well be a lion standing in the dappled shade of a tree behind you or a snake slithering through the grass. While these are both things that are fantastic to see, you want to be safely in your car when you see them, not face-to-face!
The same goes for feeding animals. Don’t. Whether you’re in a camp or out in the bush, feeding wild animals is effectively giving them a death sentence. If they’re fed by humans they become unafraid of them, begin to beg, get aggressive when they’re not fed, and we all know what happens then. So, no, just don’t.
At Game Sightings
The main thing to remember when coming across an amazing sighting in the park – say, a lion and its kill – is that everybody would like to see it. A couple of pointers to follow are:
- Firstly, and most importantly: don’t crowd the animal i.e. respect its space and park a reasonable distance away
- In the same vein: don’t corner or hem the animal in. If there are numerous cars, be sure to leave plenty of space for the animal(s) to leave when they wish to
- Turn off your car, especially if it’s a diesel. This’ll ensure that the animal is not scared away and that everybody can hear the incredible sounds of nature
- Never get out of the car. This includes leaning out of the window or sitting on the window/roof. Animals are habituated to the shape of the car, so any arm/body part sticking out of the car will scare them, resulting in a fight or flight response, neither of which is good
- The same goes for trying to attract their attention by shouting/hooting/making noise/throwing things. Don’t
- Stay a little while, enjoy the sighting, take some photos, then move on to give others a turn
- Be nice: tell other people that you pass – quietly – about the sighting and where it is
Group safaris are wonderful, firstly because you get to share the safari experience with others from all over the world and, secondly, because you have an experienced guide doing all the hard work and ensuring that you get the best sightings possible.
Of course, as with any group, ‘dynamics’ may come into play. Following some simple rules can keep things pleasant:
- Be sensitive to people’s cultures. Not everybody does things the same way, and that’s cool
- On game drives, be quiet, put off mobile phones, put cameras on silent
- If you’re on the outside seat, lean back so that those in the middle can see too
- Don’t be That Person. You know the one … loud, obnoxious and demanding. This is the bush. Sit back, relax and enjoy it
Take Nothing, Leave Nothing
This one goes without saying. Many people think that leaving ‘biodegradable’ things like orange peels is okay, but it’s not. Kruger is an ecologically-sensitive area and huge effort is made to ensure that the indigenous environment is kept just so.
As for plastic, paper, tins and bottles … not only are they unsightly, but they’re a choking and poisoning hazard to animals. Take it home with you.
Don’t Remove Things
Again, the Kruger Park is a conservation area, so removing plants or picking flowers is forbidden. Same goes for picking up rocks or fossils.