Jacques Smit has worked as a safari guide in Southern Africa and has been the Marketing Director of Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve for over 15 years. Here he shares some essential tips for planning a safari in South Africa.
Use an Africa specialist to help you design your safari and choose operations with an ethical, sustainable philosophy and proven community programmes. Your tourism support is part of their conservation success.
Most private game reserve safaris are conducted in open, off-road safari vehicles for close encounters, whereas most vehicles in national parks travel on public roads and must be covered by law.
Although private reserves such as Sabi Sabi are part of the larger Kruger National Park – there are no fences between them – they offer highly trained rangers and trackers who control the number of vehicles in each sighting.
When to go
The best time to go depends on what you want to combine your safari experience with, whether it be Cape Town, Victoria Falls or perhaps a beach resort in Mozambique.
The spring/summer months are the rainy season and bring lush bush, migratory birds and abundant food. Autumn and winter are equally beautiful, grasses are lower and game viewing is concentrated around water sources, while the winter night skies are spectacular.
How long to stay
Sabi Sabi runs two three-hour safaris a day to maximise the opportunity to observe animal behaviour, so allow at least two to three full days to enjoy multiple safaris, an environmental walking safari on foot with your armed ranger to get to know the small things.
You also want time to relax and enjoy the luxury of the lodge and its surroundings. The most common thing we hear from guests is that they wish they had stayed at least one more night.
The first rule is to respect that we are guests in this environment and must ensure that we don’t interfere with the animals’ natural environment so that they don’t associate our presence with stress.
Standing up in the safari vehicle is a definite no – it breaks the shape of the vehicle. Mobile phones are useful for taking pictures, but don’t lean out of the vehicle to get the perfect selfie – enjoy the moment and make sure the phone is on silent!
Absolutely no feeding of animals and at times flash photography may be prohibited and complete silence required.