Your African Safari Lodge Experience
Updated: Sep 8, 2018
What to expect on an lodge safari:
Whilst all lodges are different from location and facilities to accommodation and standard, they almost always follow the same format for your daily itinerary, so here’s your guide to what to expect on your African lodge safari.
Your arrival at the reserve:
Arriving by road will mean you will be required to stop at the game reserve gate to sign into the reserve, you may be required to pay your entrance fees at the same time (some reserves allow for these to be charged to your lodge account) so it’s best to have your booking confirmation and wallet to hand. The gate guard will provide you with directions to the lodge but there will be ample signs along the way to ensure you don’t get lost. If you’re arriving by air, you’ll be met at the airstrip by your ranger who will drive you through the reserve to the lodge. In both instances the guard or ranger will radio ahead to confirm your arrival, they can then be prepared to welcome you.
Arrival at the lodge:
Once you drive through the lodge entrance you can expect to be greeted by the lodge manager who will provide you with warm towels and a refreshing drink. Your luggage will be taken straight from the vehicle to your prepared suite/room (if you drove yourself your car will to driven away by the staff to their secure parking area so ensure you have taken everything from the vehicle that you’ll need for your stay).
The lodge manager will go through all the paperwork that is required. This is also your opportunity to confirm any special dietary requirements you may have. They will also confirm to you the daily itinerary before escorting you to your suite/room.
Your first African safari
The usual procedure is to meet for afternoon tea (the timings vary depending on the time of year but it’s usually between (3-4pm). I recommend that you take everything you’ll require for the afternoon drive with you (binoculars, cameras, GoPro, light jacket etc.) A light snack is normally offered with tea, coffee, juice or iced tea). During this time your ranger will arrive and after a brief chat you’ll be off on your first safari experience.
The difference between a Ranger and a Tracker:
Your ranger would have spent a considerable length of time studying to acquire the knowledge needed to pass the varies examinations required to receive the regulators accreditation. He’s most likely also qualified to escort guests on Big 5 game walks. Whilst on your game drive he will be sharing his extensive knowledge of the local fauna and flora, answering any questions you may have and be looking out for the animals.
Your tracker; some lodges continue to use the services of trackers in tandem with your ranger. Your tracker is most likely from the local area and was raised learning the skill of tracking game in the African bush. You will probably be left astonished at his ability to spot the wildlife from a great distance or the age of animal trackers in the road. Your tracker will also be highly qualified in his area of expertise. The interaction between your ranger and tacker can be fascinating and I’d recommend listening carefully to their conversations, they often use a mixture of the local tribal language, Afrikaans and English.
Where to sit on the open game drive vehicle?
This is really down to personal preference but here’s a few pointers to help you decide.
Front row: In my opinion it’s the best position on the vehicle, you are closest to your ranger and tracker so the easiest place to hear what he’s saying and to ask any questions you have. You can also listen in to the discussions between your tracker and ranger, these can be every interesting and insightful. The downside is if it’s windy you are more exposed.
Middle Row: The best of both worlds really, you’re still close enough to interact with your ranger but a little too far away to really hear any conversations with the tracker. You’re in the centre of the vehicle so can converse with your fellow guests on both the front and back rows. You are also in the most sheltered position for protection from the wind, if there is any.
Back Row: My least favourite position, but some people love it. The back row has the advantage of a clear view out of the rear should the sighting move around the vehicle, some people like it as it is the most private with no one looking down on you. The downside is that you are sitting right above the rear axle which can make for a bumpy ride on occasions.
Usually just before sunset, you’ll stop in a spot for a sundowner and snack. This is your perfect opportunity to ask your ranger or tracker any questions you may still have.
The drive back to the lodge will most probably be at dusk so your tracker will switch on the spotlight and search for any interesting nocturnal wildlife en-route.
Morning game drives:
You will normally receive a wake-up call from your ranger (timings are dependent on the time of year but usually between 5-6am). Tea and coffee along with a small snack (muffin, rusk) will be waiting for you at the lodge before you’ll depart for you morning drive. Like with the afternoon drive your ranger will stop at some point for a refreshment and snack. You’ll return to the lodge for a hearty breakfast before the option of retiring to your suite/room for a rest before lunch.
Some lodges, offer an early morning bush walk as a replacement for the game drive. If this is the case I would strongly recommend doing one. You’ll need to wear closed shoes, trainers/sneakers or walking shoes and I would recommend wearing long pants but this is optional, a sun hat, apply sunscreen and insect repellent.
Depending on your lodge you may be able to book yourself a spa treatment, wonder around the curio shop or lounge by the pool.
I hope this brief breakdown of a typical safari itinerary will help you prepare for your African lodge safari.