It has been some months since I returned from a safari in East Africa, yet my memories are still very clear.
The strongest memory I have is how long it took my body to recuperate from riding in Land Rovers for 12 days!
Don't get me wrong, the trip was terrific. And with all the research I did in preparation, there are still some things you find out after the fact.
Depending on how much wear and tear your body can take, an important item to have with you is a cushion for the seat. Each camp has more or less the same type vehicles but not all are equal. You are travelling on roads where you will get bumped in every direction. The Safari guides love to say that it is like an African Massage, but I told them it also feels like an African Martini...totally shaken not stirred!
Now that you have your cushion, we can get started.
Choosing the camp(s) you will stay at is an interesting process. I don't mind roughing it to a point so the choices are many. There are permanent camps which offer running water in your tent although how much water and if hot water is always available is another matter. Some camps have bucket showers, which for 2 days was not bad. You tell the person in charge of showers when you want to take your shower and he makes sure you have hot water which comes down from a bucket over your tent into your shower. Not a problem if you need a second bucket.
If you want a slightly higher end type camp you can look at Sanctuary and Lemala brands. One of the Sanctuary camps we were at heats water by solar and there was a limited amount of hot water available at a given time. Once you decide on the camp, I would try to find out if you could reserve a specific "tent" since the location of each one in a specific camp may make a big difference to you. Basically you follow a path and the "tents" are usually in numerical order, although some have names only. Some require a longer walk from the main area, which you may not mind, but if you forget something and have to go back, the walk starts to matter. In the evening once dark you have to be escorted to and from your tent for safety reasons, and that is another reason to consider the distance of your particular "tent." We found that it was nice to be midway from the main area.
The vehicles do vary such as some are open where windows would be, some with windows have an open top, some seats are better and some don't have doors! In our last camp, a vehicle pulls up and I kept looking at it, wondering how we get in. Well, you climb up into it! Ha, just what I wanted to do towards the end of our trip. My advice is to ask ahead of time about the vehicles to determine what works for you. We preferred the windowless ones since they are much easier for taking photos but...those with an open top allow more freedom to take photos, especially if others are in the vehicle. It's easier not to be blocked by anyone.
Most of the guides we had are well informed and answer most of the questions you may have. Some are more enthusiastic in regards to how fast they drive to get you from place to place. When it comes to seeing a Migration or a leopard, a guide's driving speed may make all the difference as to getting there fast and getting a good space to watch all the excitement.
We also found that if you rather stay out all day, you can arrange that with your guide. We liked having an early breakfast then going out for the day until as late as possible. A picnic lunch would be prepared for us and we were always happy with what was presented. We would come back to shower and go to dinner. After that long of a day, we could not get into bed fast enough.
Each camp gave us a different experience and we enjoyed that. Some smaller camps have one large table at which you have your meals so all the guests sit together. A nice way of meeting other people from all over the world.
Clothes are easy. Comfort is the word and layers are a must. You do not need to dress for dinner, at least where we stayed and to do anything else is not necessary. Definitely have a sun hat or baseball cap or two. For shoes, anything comfortable and easy to wipe down since lots of dirt and dust will dirty your shoes.
Use insect repellent on your skin and you can also treat your clothes with various products to be double safe. Sanitary hand wipes help a good deal, especially if you do a lot of pit stops during the day on Safari. Take various meds to help with diarrhea, infections, stomach issues for starters.
Drink the water supplied by the camps which are either bottled or treated. Brush your teeth with the supplied water, not from the faucet.
The food we had at most of the camps was terrific and beautifully presented. Had great coffee all the time, not to mention wine!
If you have a special occasion to celebrate, let your booking agent know since some camps help you celebrate with an experience you won't forget.
Wishing you a wonderful trip!