Travel Etiquette – What You Need to Know Before You Safari

Thinking of going on a Safari? Then you’ve probably got a million and one questions of how to go about one, what to do and the etiquette involved with the locals and the wild. Safari travel has experienced increasing popularity due to its ‘once in a lifetime’ factor, not to mention the wonderful sights and experiences you’ll have in a tropical climate.

south africa giraffe feeding

Giraffe feeding in South Africa

In this post we will be covering some travel-based etiquette that new and existing safari-goes can benefit from:


The Visa Situation

  • In addition to a passport you need to ensure the country your visiting requires a visa. We recommend checking the list of via requirements for the country you intend to safari in by using the official VisaHQ
  • Ensure plenty of time in advance to allow for your visa to process – at least 60 days prior to travel.
    • Although it’s sometimes possible to buy your visa in person, it’s best to have peace of mind before your travels and avoid any hefty fees


Pack Light

  • You don’t want to pack too much or too little for a Safari. Have enough equipped for both extremes in weather as the day will be scorching with heat whilst at night the temperature can plummet drastically.
  • Light weight clothes that are lightly coloured will help you manage the heat. A jacket and blanket for the night time is also highly beneficial. You’ll also want some hefty walking boots as
    • Be open to the fact that your clothes will become dirty, and fast. We highly recommend staying away from ‘cool’ safari gear as it’s likely to take a beating.


Know Your guide

  1. Know your guide
    1. Your guide not only drives you around to the best spots but they also go out of their way if they spot animal prints to help you find the source of wildlife that would benefit your experience. They’re knowledgeable and can answer many of your burning questions about your safari experience.
      1. Taking a genuine interest in your guide can make the experience all that more fun. The better the relationship with your guide the smoother the whole safari experience will go for you
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Show Manners and be courteous

  • If there are signs saying not to walk in unlit paths or keep out of certain areas due to the sensitivity of the wildlife and/or indigenous folk – obey. You never know what mud holes or animals are lurking in the dark
    • Be respectful and listen to your guide extensively during your safari trip. Ask about local customs, manners, and courtesies as to not offend any village folk or get you and your crew in danger.


Be Open minded and flexible

  • Every safari guide can have its hiccups and be unpredictable, but for the most part it’s generally smooth sailing and everyone is happy. Try not to stress about anything you have no control of, such as the long ride. Prepare yourself for hot and cold weather, strong winds, scorching heat and pests.
    • You may even be driven on very rough terrain if there are a heard of animals in the way or some other form of blockage in the roads. Although these aren’t the most comfortable of experiences, it’s an experience nonetheless and you might even take something positive away from it.


Ask your guide questions

  • Asking questions will enrich your safari experience all that little bit more. No question is a silly one – if you want to know the behaviours of a particular animal or what their calls mean, ask!
    • Stoke your curiosity – ask your burning questions in the moment – as you’ll actually get the answer you seek


Get Mosquito repellent

  • Mosquitos are absolutely everywhere in Africa. Too much mosquito repellent doesn’t exist – seriously, go crazy. Save yourself the itchy red spots by topping up regularly with lots of spray, especially in the evenings.


Get cash and necessities beforehand

  • Cash machines are rarely ever around, especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere and want to buy a souvenir from a local village.
    • It’s also important to pack enough toiletries and essentials. Don’t bring your entire bathroom cabinet – but you want the essentials such as high SPF, repellent, antihistamines and pain killers for any tough moments. These won’t always be readily available when you’re at your destination. Save the panic and make a list to tick off all the essentials you need.
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Learn basic language of the country you’re visiting

  • Whilst this isn’t a prerequisite, making an effort to learn a few words sits very well with the locals.
    • Simple greetings and sign offs like hello and thank you can go a long way. Most local villages require a greeting when you visit and it can be handy, as well as respectful to do this.


Respect all wildlife

  • If you’re in foreign territory – respect and you’ll be respected in return. This goes for the wildlife too.
    • Don’t ask your guide to veer off the intended trail, these trails exist for your safety and optimised view of the wildlife.
    • It’s exciting seeing an animal such as a cheetah or lion for the first time, however if you call it over or yelp too loudly in excitement, it becomes incredibly intrusive for the wildlife around you. Tread lightly and appreciate silently


Ditch the cell phone

  • There’s nothing worse than someone chatting away when you’re trying to soak in the safari experience. Whilst you might want to share the odd few snaps on social media, try and ditch the phone when you’re in action.
    • Wait until you’re back at camp to tweet about your experiences and learn to enjoy the moment. The world can wait for your photos.


Give back to the wildlife

  • A safari acts as a eye-opener and can really educate you in the importance of preserving precious wildlife. By signing up to conservation safari tours and societies you can directly help aid in wildlife conservation through donations, events and facilitated programs.
    • Tipping your guide is also a great way you can keep the wonders of the safari industry alive. It’s a way of thanking them for their hospitality and knowledge.


Essentials check list:

  1. Long sleeved, white/lightly coloured t-shirt
  2. Short-sleeve t-shirts
  3. Wind-proof jacket
  4. Swimsuit
  5. Flip-flops (for camp)
  6. Good walking shoes (worn in) and long socks
  7. Sun hat
  8. High SPF protection
  9. UV-filtered sunglasses
  10. Your own binoculars
  11. Camera + necessary equipment and/or lenses
  12. Essential/full first aid kit
  13. Day bag for on-the-go necessities
  14. Cleaning essentials – shower gel, shampoo, razors, sanitary products

We also highly recommend Trip Savvy’s full guide on what to take on a safari

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Wim van den Heever is a professional wildlife photographer based in South Africa and owner of Tusk Photo, who has had an ever growing interest in image-making and nature since a young age.  His work is internationally published in the likes of BBC Wildlife and National Geographic. His ranges of safari tours are designed to show the beauty of African landscapes at their finest.

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Amboseli national park, Kenya