Planning a Safari - Fodor's The Complete Guide to African Safaris: with South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda & the Seychelles (Full-color Travel Guide) (2015)

Fodor's The Complete Guide to African Safaris: with South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda & the Seychelles (Full-color Travel Guide) (2015)

Planning a Safari

Main Table of Contents

Getting Started


On Safari


Getting Started

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Air Travel | Customs and Duties | International Driver’s License | Money Matters | Online Travel Tools | Passports and Visas | Safety and Precautions | Travel Insurance | Vaccinations

Updated by Claire Baranowski

In choosing to take a safari, you’ll embark on one of the biggest travel adventures of your life. It’s a big investment of both time and money—and planning well is crucial to ensure you have a good time. Even a basic question like “what should I wear?” is extremely important. In this safari section, we’ll cover all the special considerations and lingo you’ll need, with plenty of insider tips along the way.

Most people start planning a safari six to nine months in advance, but it’s never too soon to start planning your trip. In fact, planning your trip 12 months in advance isn’t unreasonable, especially if you want to travel during peak season—November through February in South Africa, July through October elsewhere—and have your heart set on a particular lodge.

If you’re keen to see big game, particularly the Big Five, then your best bets for success will be in East Africa and South Africa. The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is known for its plentiful game and is the stomping ground for approximately 1.5 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebra, and 350,000 antelope that race every July more than 1,931 km (1,200 miles) to find enough water and grass to survive during the Great Migration. The Masai Mara National Reserve in neighboring Kenya is probably best known for its large population of big cats, as well as hippo and the rare black rhino and spotted hyena. In South Africa, Kruger National Park and the private Sabi Sand game reserve just outside of Kruger are ideal places to observe the Big Five as well as leopards and hundreds of other species. In Kruger alone, there are an estimated 1,200 species of flora and fauna. You’ll see the African elephant everywhere in the park, with lion more abundant in the central and eastern regions; rhino and buffalo make their home in the woods of southwest Kruger.

Deciding where you want to go and choosing the safari operator in whose hands you’ll place your trip are the most important things you need to do. Start planning for your safari the way you would any trip. Read travel books about the areas that most interest you. Talk to people who have been on a similar trip; word-of-mouth advice can be invaluable. Surf the Net. Get inspired. Line up your priorities. And find someone you trust to help plan your trip.


Traveling by plane is the best and most viable means of transportation to most safari destinations. If you’re visiting a game lodge deep in the bush, you’ll be arriving by light plane—and you really will be restricted in what you can bring. Excess luggage can usually be stored with the operator until your return. Don’t just gloss over this: charter operators take weight very seriously, and some will charge you for an extra ticket if you insist on bringing excess baggage.


If you’re planning to fly between a few of the countries mentioned in this book, consider the Star Alliance African Airpass, which can be purchased only by international passengers arriving in Africa on a Star Alliance carrier (Continental, United, US Airways, Air Canada, South African Airways, etc.); it’s good for 3 to 10 flights on Ethiopian Airways, South African Airways, Brussels Airlines, and EgyptAir. The flights are sold in segments, priced by the distance between cities. These can be expensive when compared to the discount airline pricing within South Africa, but they’re a bargain for the longer routes, such as from Nairobi to Johannesburg. If your itinerary includes more than 2 of the 26 cities served in Africa, this may be a good choice.

If you’re flying on American Airlines or British Airways, another option is the Visit Africa Pass by Oneworld Alliance (there are 11 airlines in the alliance), which uses a zone system between cities in South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. The minimum purchase is two segments and the maximum is 20. It’s a great value when compared to regular fares.

Air Pass Info
Oneworld Alliance. |
Star Alliance. |


Charter companies are a common mode of transportation when getting to safari lodges and remote destinations throughout Southern and East Africa. These aircraft are well maintained and are almost always booked by your lodge or travel agent.

On-demand flights, those made at times other than those scheduled, are very expensive for independent travelers, as they require minimum passenger loads. If it’s just two passengers, you’ll be charged for the vacant seats. Keep in mind that you probably won’t get to choose the charter company you fly with. The aircraft you get depends on the number of passengers flying and can vary from very small (you’ll sit in the co-pilot’s seat) to a much more comfortable commuter plane. Those with a severe fear of small planes might consider road travel instead.

Luggage limits: Due to the limited space and size of the aircraft, charter carriers observe strict luggage regulations: luggage must be soft sided and weigh no more than 15 kg (33 lbs). Weight allowances may vary by company, so be sure to ask what the limits are before packing.


Visitors traveling to South Africa or other Southern Africa Common Customs Union (SACU) countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, and Swaziland) may bring in new or used gifts and souvenirs up to a total value of R3,000 (in South African rand) duty-free (US$344 at this writing). For additional goods (new or used) up to a value of R12,000, a fee of 20% is levied. In addition, each person may bring up to 200 cigarettes, 20 cigars, 250 grams of tobacco, two liters of wine, one liter of other alcoholic beverages, 50 ml of perfume, and 250 ml of eau de toilette. The tobacco and alcohol allowance applies only to people 18 and over. If you enter a SACU country from or through another in the union, you aren’t liable for any duties. You will, however, need to complete a form listing items imported.

The United States is a signatory to CITES, a wildlife protection treaty, and therefore doesn’t allow the importation of living or dead endangered animals, or their body parts, such as rhino horns or ivory. If you purchase an antique that’s made partly or wholly of ivory, you must obtain a CITES preconvention certificate that clearly states the item is at least 100 years old. The import of zebra skin or other tourist products also requires a CITES permit.

U.S. Information
U.S. Customs and Border Protection. |
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. |


If you’re taking a self-driving safari or renting a car in countries other than South Africa and Namibia, you’ll need an international driver’s license. These licenses are valid for one year and are issued at any American Automobile Association (AAA) office in the United States; you must have a current U.S. driver’s license. You need to bring two passport-type photographs with you for the license. A valid U.S. driver’s license is accepted in South Africa and Namibia.


Most safaris are paid for in advance, so you need money only to cover personal purchases and gratuities. (The cash you take should include small denominations, like US$1, US$5, and US$10, for tips.) If you’re self-driving, note that many places prefer to be paid in the local currency, so make sure you change money where you can. Local currency information is discussed in individual chapters. MasterCard and Visa are accepted almost everywhere; American Express is often refused in Botswana. Neither Diners Club nor Discover is recognized in most African countries. TIP It’s a good idea to notify your credit-card company that you’ll be traveling to Africa so that unusual-looking transactions aren’t denied.

Reporting Lost Cards
American Express. | 800/528-4800 in the U.S., 336/393-1111 collect from abroad |
MasterCard. | 800/307-7309 in the U.S., 636/722-7111 collect from abroad |
Visa. | 800/847-2911 in the U.S., 303/967-1096 collect from abroad |


When setting a budget, consider how much you want to spend and keep in mind three things: your flight, the actual safari costs, and extras. You can have a low-budget self-catering trip in one of South Africa’s national parks or spend a great deal of money in one of the small, pampering, exclusive camps in Botswana. Almost every market has high-priced options as well as some economical ones.

Besides airfare and safari costs, make sure you budget for visas, tips, medications, and other sundries such as souvenirs. Plan to stay at a city hotel on your first and last nights in Africa—it’ll help you adjust to jet lag and makes things altogether easier. Expect to pay from US$50 for basic accommodations to US$750 a night in the most luxurious hotels. If you do splash out on your safari, but want to keep costs down elsewhere, look out for special offers—sometimes South African lodges will throw in a free night’s accommodation in Cape Town, for example, and this can turn out to be a great bargain.

Plan to spend US$15-$25 a day (per traveler) on gratuities. In South Africa tips are on the higher end of this range and usually are paid in rand (the local currency); you may also use U.S. dollars for tips, however. Elsewhere in Southern Africa, U.S. currency is preferred.

Luxury Safaris

The most popular option is to book with a tour operator and stay in private lodges, which are owned and run by an individual or company rather than a government or country. Prices at these lodges include all meals and, in many cases, alcoholic beverages, as well as two three- to five-hour-long game-viewing expeditions a day. Occasionally high-end lodges offer extra services such as spa treatments, boat trips, or special-occasion meals served alfresco in the bush. Prices range approximately from US$400 to US$1,600 per person per night sharing a double room. If you travel alone, expect to pay a single supplement because all safari-lodge rooms are doubles.

Safaris on a Shoestring Budget

Don’t let a tight budget deter you. There are many opportunities for great big-game experiences without going over the top. And, you won’t have to completely abandon the idea of comfort and style either. Here are some money-saving tips that every budget can appreciate.

Drive yourself and/or self-cater. The least expensive option is to choose a public game park—Kruger National Park in South Africa, for example—where you drive yourself and self-cater (shop for and prepare all meals yourself). Most South Africans travel this way. The price of this type of trip is approximately a tenth of that for private, fully inclusive lodges.

Rates for national-park camps, called rest camps, start at about US$34 a day for a two-bed rondavel (a round hut modeled after traditional African dwellings) and go up to $85 for a four-bed bungalow. Budget about $6 for breakfast, $8 for lunch, and $12 for dinner per person for each day on the trip. You’ll need to factor in park entry fees, however, and these can add quite considerably to the cost of your trip.

Driving yourself can be enjoyable, but keep in mind that you’ll have to identify all the animals yourself, and you can’t go off-road. Hire a guide from the main office of the park; it’s inexpensive and will add a great deal to your experience. South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia are the best places to self-drive, as road conditions are good. Elsewhere, you may need a 4x4 vehicle. Cars are difficult to rent in Zimbabwe, and the roads are very poor in Kenya. Keep in mind that car rentals can be expensive.

Stay in accommodations outside the park or in a nearby town. This cuts down on the “mark-ups” that you may experience for the convenience of staying inside a park, and you can come into the park on day-trips, so you won’t miss anything.

Stick to one park, or visit a lesser-known one, and keep your trip short. The high-end safari-goer may visit up to four different parks in different terrains and areas of the country, but the budget traveler would do well to stick to just one. Lesser-known parks can be just as good as famous ones, and sometimes being far from the madding crowds is a luxury in itself. Many travelers tack a two- or three-day safari onto the end of a beach holiday; this is enough time to see the Big Five and get a good understanding of the animals you’ll encounter.

Consider mobile-camping safaris. Travel is by 4x4 (often something that looks like a bus), and you sleep in tents at public or private campsites. There are different levels of comfort and service, and the price varies accordingly: at the lower end, you’ll pitch your own tent and help with cooking; but with a full-service mobile-camping safari, your driver/guide and a cook will do all the setup. The cost will also vary according to the number of people on the tour. You’ll really feel at one with nature and the wildlife if you take this option, but you’ll need to be able to put up with a certain level of roughing it. A full-service safari costs in the region of $100-$200 a day—a quarter of what you’d spend at a private lodge.

Book a private lodge in the off-season. Many lodges—South Africa’s Sabi Sands area, for example—cost about US$800 per person per night during the high season but can drop to about US$500 a night during the slower months of July and August; on average savings can be 30%-40%. In the rainy season, however, roads may be impassable in some areas and the wildlife hard to spot, so do your research beforehand. Sometimes, the high season merely correlates with the European long vacation. In South Africa, the low season is from May to September, mostly because Cape Town is cold and wet during this time. Regions north of the country, such as Kruger, are excellent for game-viewing during this time, as the winter is the dry season and grasses are short. Early mornings and nighttime can get cold, but the daytime is usually dry and sunny. You’ll also have the benefit of fewer crowds, although if you’re very social, you may find the off-season too quiet. If you’re a honeymooner, it’s perfect.

Cheap flights are out there, but you’ll have to work for them. Aggregators such as and can help you search for the best fares that meet your requirements. American travelers can save money by flying through Europe. Book a flight to a regional hub like Nairobi or Johannesburg, and then catch a connecting flight to your destination. Many of Kenya’s budget airlines fly from Nairobi to destinations in Tanzania, and South Africa’s budget airline Kulula Airlines ( flies from South Africa to Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. For flights to South Africa, look into flying via Dubai or Doha. You’ll add extra time to your flight, but you could save big. Always book at least two months in advance, especially during the high season.

Budget for all aspects of your trip and watch out for hidden extras. Most safaris are all-inclusive, so you don’t think about the cost of your sundowner drink, snacks on your game drive, or cocktails at mealtime. However, some lodges, such as the Fairmont Mara Safari Club in Kenya, charge extra for drinks and excursions (e.g., a visit to a Masai village). You can keep your costs down by going to a place where things are à la carte and pay only for the things you deem important. Be aware that local beer is usually cheap, but wines are often imported (outside of South Africa) and are quite expensive.

When you book your trip, be clear as to whether extras such as airport transfers, use of equipment (including sleeping bags on some mobile-camping safaris), and entry fees are included in the price.

Book your trip locally, or at the last minute. Last-minute deals can offer massive discounts, as long as you’re prepared to be flexible about everything to do with your trip. Alternatively, book a trip locally once you’re at your destination. This is popular in Kenya and Tanzania but is really an option only if you have plenty of time. You can also gather a group of people at your lodging and do a group booking. This way you’ll have the benefit of a guide, too, with the cost shared among a number of people.


Ranger/Guide: About US$20 per person, per day.

General staff: US$25 is sufficient for a couple staying two days. Marc Harris, managing director of Tanzania Odyssey, a London-based tour operator, suggests tipping roughly $15 a day (per couple) into the general tip box, and $15 each to your tracker and butler (if applicable), and $15 per trip for a vehicle transfer.

It’s also a good idea to bring some thank-you cards with you from home to include with the tip as a personal touch. Fodor’s Forum member atravelynn adds, “Put bills in an envelope for your guide and in a separate envelope with your name on it for the camp staff. Sometimes the camps have envelopes, but bringing some from home is also a good idea.”


All Africa culls English-language news articles from regional papers.

All About Africa

Africa Adventure.



All Africa.

Independent Newspapers.


A valid passport is a must for travel to any African country. TIP Certain countries, such as South Africa, won’t let you enter with a soon-to-expire passport; also, you need two blank pages in your passport to enter South Africa. If you don’t have a passport, apply immediately, because the process takes approximately five to six weeks. For a greatly increased fee, the application process can be shortened to as little as one week, but leaving this detail to the last minute can be stressful. If you have a passport, check the expiration date. If it’s due to expire within six months of your return date, you need to renew it at once.

TIP If you’re planning a honeymoon safari, make sure the bride’s airline ticket, passport, and visas all use the same last name. Any discrepancies, especially between a passport and an airline ticket, will result in your trip being grounded before you even take off. Brides may want to consider waiting to change their last name until after the honeymoon. Do be sure to let the lodge know in advance that you’re on your honeymoon. You’ll get lots of special goodies and extra-special pampering thrown in.

Document Checklist

· Passport

· Visas, if necessary

· Airline tickets

· Proof of yellow-fever inoculation, if necessary

· Accommodation and transfer vouchers

· Car-rental reservation forms

· International driver’s license

· Copy of information page of your passport

· Copy of airline tickets

· Copy of medical prescriptions

· List of credit-card numbers and international contact information for each card issuer

· Copy of travel insurance and medical-emergency evacuation policies

· Travel agent’s contact numbers

· Notarized letter of consent from one parent if the other parent is traveling alone with their children

U.S. Passport Information
U.S. Department of State. | 877/487-2778 |

U.S. Passport and Visa Expediters
A. Briggs Passport & Visa Expeditors. | 800/806-0581, 202/338-0111 |
American Passport Express. | 800/455-5166 |
Passport Express. | 800/362-8196 |
Travel Document Systems. | 800/874-5100, 202/638-3800 |
Travel the World Visas. | 866/886-8472, 202/223-8822 |

Safari Planning Timeline

Six Months Ahead

· Research destinations and options and make a list of sights you want to see.

· Start a safari file to keep track of information.

· Set a budget.

· Search the Internet. Post questions on bulletin boards and narrow your choices. Watch out for fake trip reviews posted by unscrupulous travel agents.

· Choose your destination and make your reservations.

· Apply for a passport, or renew yours if it’s due to expire within six months of travel time. Many countries now require at least two empty pages in your passport.

· Buy travel insurance.

Three to Six Months Ahead

· Find out which travel documents you need.

· Confirm whether your destination requires visas and certified health documents.

· Arrange vaccinations or medical clearances.

· Research malaria precautions.

· Book excursions, tours, and side trips.

One to Three Months Ahead

· Create a packing checklist.

· Fill prescriptions for antimalarial and regular medications. Buy mosquito repellant.

· Shop for safari clothing and equipment.

· Arrange for a house and pet sitter.

One Month Ahead

· Get copies of any prescriptions and make sure you have enough of any needed medicine to last you a few days longer than your trip.

· Confirm international flights, transfers, and lodging reservations directly with your travel agent.

· Using your packing list, start buying articles you don’t have. Update the list as you go.

One Week Ahead

· Suspend newspaper and mail delivery.

· Collect small denominations of U.S. currency ($1 and $5) for tips.

· Check antimalarial prescriptions to see whether you need to start taking medication now.

· Arrange transportation to the airport.

· Make two copies of your passport’s data page. Leave one copy, and a copy of your itinerary, with someone at home; pack the other separately from your passport. Make a PDF of these pages and e-mail them to yourself for access.


While most countries in Southern and East Africa are stable and safe, it’s a good idea to do your homework and be fully aware of the areas you’ll be traveling to before planning that once-in-a-lifetime trip.

The CIA’s online World Factbook has maps and facts on the people, government, economy, and more for countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. It’s the fastest way to get a snapshot of a nation. It’s also updated regularly and, obviously, well researched.

There’s nothing like the local paper for putting your finger on the pulse. has links to English-language newspapers, magazines, and websites in countries the world over.

The U.S. State Department’s advice on the safety of a given country is probably the most conservative you’ll encounter. That said, the information is updated regularly, and nearly every nation is covered. Just try to parse the language carefully. For example, a warning to “avoid all travel” carries more weight than “avoid nonessential travel,” and both are much stronger than a plea to “exercise caution.” A travel warning is more permanent (though not necessarily more serious) than a so-called public announcement, which carries an expiration date.

At you can check the official travel warnings of several nations (for a more rounded picture), catch up on relevant news articles, and see what other travelers have to say. The site covers not only safety and security concerns but also weather hazards and health issues. For a small fee you can receive e-mail updates and emergency notifications for specific destinations., the website of author, filmmaker, and adventurer Robert Young Pelton is, as its name suggests, edgy, with information on the world’s most dangerous places. Finding safety information on other seemingly safer places requires a little more fiddling around. There are forums where danger junkies share tips, and there are links to other relevant sites.

Travel Warnings
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) | | |
U.S. State Department. | |


You may want to consider a comprehensive travel-insurance policy in addition to any primary insurance you already have. Travel insurance incorporates trip cancellation; trip interruption or travel delay; loss or theft of, or damage to, baggage; baggage delay; medical expenses; emergency medical transportation; and collision damage waiver if renting a car. These policies are offered by most travel-insurance companies in one comprehensive policy and vary in price based on both your total trip cost and your age.

It’s important to note that travel insurance doesn’t always include coverage for threats of a terrorist incident or for any war-related activity. It’s important that you speak with your operator before you book to find out how they would handle such occurrences. For example, would you be fully refunded if your trip was canceled because of war or a threat of a terrorist incident? Would your trip be postponed at no additional cost to you?

TIP Purchase travel insurance within seven days of paying your initial trip deposit. For most policies this will not only ensure your trip deposit, but also cover you for any preexisting medical conditions.

Many travel agents and tour operators stipulate that travel insurance is mandatory if you book your trip through them. This coverage isn’t only for your financial protection in the event of a cancellation but also for coverage of medical emergencies and medical evacuations due to injury or illness, which often involve use of jet aircraft with hospital equipment and doctors on board and can amount to many thousands of dollars.

Consider signing up with a medical-evacuation assistance company. A membership in one of these companies gets you doctor referrals, emergency evacuation or repatriation, 24-hour hotlines for medical consultation, and other assistance. International SOS and AirMed International provide evacuation services and medical referrals. MedjetAssist offers medical evacuation.

HTH Worldwide.
International Medical Group. |
Travel Guard. |
Wallach & Company. |

Medical-Assistance Companies
Air Med. |
International SOS. |
MedJet Assistance. |


Traveling overseas is daunting enough without having to worry about all the scary illnesses you could contract. But if you do your research and plan accordingly, there will be no reason to worry.

The Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, has an extremely helpful and informative website where you can find out country by country what you’ll need. Remember that the CDC is going to be extremely conservative, so it’s a good idea to meet with a trusted health-care professional to decide what you’ll really need, which will be determined by your itinerary. We’ve also included the basic information on the countries we cover in the preceding chart.

Keep in mind that there’s a time frame for vaccines. You should see your health provider four to six weeks before you leave for your trip. Also keep in mind that vaccines and prescriptions could run you anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000. It’s important to factor this into your budget when planning, especially if your plans include a large group.

You must be up to date with all of your routine shots such as the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, etc. If you’re not up to date, usually a simple booster shot will bring you up to par. If you’re traveling to northern Kenya December through June, don’t be surprised if your doctor advises you to get inoculated against meningitis, as this part of the continent tends to see an outbreak during this time.

We can’t stress enough the importance of taking malaria prophylactics. But be warned that all malaria medications aren’t equal. Chloroquine is NOT an effective antimalarial drug. And halofantrine (marketed as Halfan), which is widely used overseas to treat malaria, has serious heart-related side effects, including death. The CDC recommends that you do NOT use halofantrine.

Health Warnings
Centers for Disease Control (CDC). | 877/394-8747 international travelers’ health line |


Hepatitis A can be transmitted via contaminated seafood, water, or fruits and vegetables. According to the CDC, hepatitis A is the most common vaccine-preventable disease in travelers. Immunization consists of a series of two shots received six months apart. You only need to have received the first one before you travel. This should be given at least four weeks before your trip.

The CDC recommends vaccination for hepatitis B only if you might be exposed to blood (if you’re a health-care worker, for example), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than six months, or risk exposure during medical treatment. As needed, you should receive booster shots for tetanus-diphtheria (every 10 years), measles (you’re usually immunized as a child), and polio (you’re usually immunized as a child).


Yellow fever isn’t inherent in any of the countries discussed in this book. Some countries, however, such as Kenya, will require you to present a valid yellow-fever inoculation certificate if prior to arrival you traveled to a region infected with yellow fever.

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Binoculars | Clothing | Electricity | Toiletries and Sundries

You’ll be allowed one duffel-type bag, approximately 36 inches by 18 inches and a maximum of 26 kilos (57 pounds)—less on some airlines, so it’s essential you check ahead—so that it can be easily packed into the baggage pods of a small plane. A personal-effects bag can go on your lap. Keep all your documents and money in this personal bag.

TIP At O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg you can check bags at Lock-Up Luggage, on the upper level of the underground parkade, near the main lift lobby in International Arrivals. The cost is approximately US$6 per bag per day, and the facility is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Packing Checklist

Light, khaki, or neutral-color clothes are universally worn on safari and were first used in Africa as camouflage by the South African Boers, and then by the British Army that fought them during the South African War. Light colors also help to deflect the harsh sun and are less likely than dark colors to attract mosquitoes. Don’t wear camouflage gear. Do wear layers of clothing that you can strip off as the sun gets hotter and put back on as the sun goes down.

· Three cotton T-shirts

· Two long-sleeve cotton shirts

· Two pairs shorts or two skirts in summer

· Two pairs long pants (three pairs in winter)

· Optional: sweatshirt and sweatpants, which can double as sleepwear

· Optional: a smart/casual dinner outfit

· Underwear and socks

· Walking shoes or sneakers

· Sandals

· Bathing suit

· Warm thigh-length padded jacket and sweater in winter

· Windbreaker or rain poncho

· Camera equipment, extra batteries or charger, and memory cards

· Contact lenses, including extras

· Eyeglasses

· Binoculars

· Small flashlight

· Personal toiletries

· Malaria tablets

· Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF 30 or higher, moisturizer, and hair conditioner

· Antihistamine cream

· Insect repellent

· Basic first-aid kit (aspirin, bandages, antidiarrheal, antiseptic cream, etc.)

· Tissues and/or premoistened wipes

· Warm hat, scarf, and gloves in winter

· Sun hat and sunglasses (Polaroid and UV-protected ones)

· Documents and money (cash, credit cards), etc.

· A notebook and pens

· Travel and field guides

· A couple of large white plastic garbage bags

· Ziplock bags to keep documents dry and protect electronics from dust

· U.S. dollars in small denominations ($1, $5, $10) for tipping


Binoculars are essential and come in many types and sizes. You get what you pay for, so avoid buying a cheap pair—the optics will be poor and the lenses usually don’t stay aligned for long, especially if they get bumped, which they will on safari. Whatever strength you choose, pick the most lightweight pair; otherwise you’ll be in for neck and shoulder strain. Take them with you on a night drive; you’ll get great visuals of nocturnal animals and birds by the light of the tracker’s spotlight. Many people find that when they start using binoculars and stop documenting each trip detail on film, they have a much better safari experience.

Safari Photo Tips

All the safaris included in this book are photographic (game-viewing) safaris. That said, if you spend your entire safari with one eye closed and the other peering through a camera lens, you may miss all the other sensual elements that contribute to the great show that is the African bush. And more than likely, your pictures won’t look like the photos you see in books about African safaris. A professional photographer can spend a full year in the field to produce a book, so you’re often better off just taking snaps of your trip and buying a book to take home.

TIP No matter what kind of camera you bring, be sure to keep it tightly sealed in plastic bags while you’re traveling to protect it from dust. (Dust is especially troublesome in Namibia.) Tuck your equipment away when the wind kicks up. You should have one or more cloth covers while you’re working, and clean your equipment every day if you can.

Learning some basics about the wildlife that you expect to see on your safari will help you capture some terrific shots of the animals. If you know something about their behavior patterns ahead of time, you’ll be primed to capture action, like when the hippos start to roar. Learning from your guide and carefully observing the wildlife once you’re there will also help you gauge just when to click your shutter.

The trick to taking great pictures has three components: first is always good light. An hour after sunrise and before sunset are the magical times, because the light is softer and textures pop. For the few hours of harsh light each side of midday, you might as well put your camera away. The second component is framing. Framing a scene so that the composition is simple gives an image potency; with close-ups, fill the frame for maximum impact. Using objects of known size in the foreground or middle ground will help establish scale. The third component is capturing sharp images: use a tripod or a beanbag to rest the camera on while in a vehicle. When using a long lens (upward of 200mm), you can’t hand-hold a steady shot; you must have some support if you want your photos to be clear.

Digital Cameras

Cameras with eight megapixels of resolution can print high-quality, smooth A4 or letter-size prints; images with five-megapixel resolution are fine as well. The iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 works pretty well as a digital camera for snapshots. Invest in a telephoto lens to shoot wildlife, as you tend to be too far away from the animals to capture any detail with the zoom lens generally built into most point-and-shoot cameras. This may mean upgrading to a more robust camera. A tripod or beanbag is another must-have; it’ll stabilize your camera, especially when a zoom lens is extended.

Buy or borrow as many memory cards as you can—you’ll use them. You may want to use multiple smaller memory cards to minimize the risk of losing an entire card’s worth of images. And, as always, remember to bring extra batteries or your battery charger.


You should need only three changes of clothing for an entire trip; almost all safaris include laundry as part of the package. If you’re self-driving you can carry more, but washing is still easy and three changes of clothes should be ample if you use drip-dry fabrics that need no ironing. On mobile safaris you can wear tops and bottoms more than once, and either bring enough underwear to last a week between lodges, or wash as you go in the bathroom sink. Unless there’s continual rain (unlikely), clothes dry overnight in the hot, dry African air.

TIP In certain countries—Botswana and Tanzania, for example—the staff won’t wash underwear because it’s against cultural custom.

For game walks, pack sturdy but light walking shoes or boots—in most cases durable sneakers suffice for this option. For a walking-based safari, you need sturdy, lightweight boots. Buy them well in advance of your trip so you can break them in. If possible, isolate the clothes used on your walk from the remainder of the clean garments in your bag. Bring a couple of large white plastic garbage bags for dirty laundry.


Most of Southern Africa is on 220/240-volt alternating current (AC). The plug points are round. However, there are both large 15-amp three-prong sockets (with a ground connection) and smaller two-prong 5-amp sockets. Most lodges have adapter plugs, especially for recharging camera batteries; check before you go, or purchase a universal plug adapter before you leave home.

Safari hotels in the Serengeti, the private reserve areas outside Kruger National Park, and the less rustic private lodges in South Africa are likely to provide you with plug points and plugs, and some offer hair dryers and electric-razor sockets as well (check this before you go). Lodges on limited generator and solar power are usually able to charge cameras, as long as you have the right plug.


Most hotels and game lodges provide toiletries such as soap, shampoo, and insect repellent, so you don’t need to overpack these items. In the larger lodges in South Africa’s national parks and private game reserves, stores and gift shops are fairly well stocked with clothing and guidebooks; in self-drive and self-catering areas, shops also carry food and drink. Many lodges have small shops with a selection of books, clothing, and curios.

On a canoe safari you’re in the relentless sun every day and have to protect your legs, especially the tops of your thighs and shins, from sunburn. Bring a towel or, even better, a sarong, and place it over your legs. Sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher is de rigueur.

TIP The African sun is harsh, and if you’re even remotely susceptible to burning, especially coming from a northern winter, don’t skimp on sunscreens and moisturizers. Also bring conditioner for your hair, which can dry out and start breaking off.

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On Safari

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Accommodations | Children on Safari | Communications | Game Drives | Health | People with Disabilities | Seasons | Types of Safaris | Wildlife Safety and Respect

Your safari will be one of the most memorable trips you’ll ever take, and it’s essential that your African experience matches the one you’ve always imagined. Nothing should be left to chance, and that includes where you’ll stay and how you’ll get around.

If you already know what the term “bush” means, then you’ve read all the books and brochures and watched all the movies and TV shows about Africa and African safaris and are ready to book the real thing.

But what happens if the chalet you get isn’t what you expected it to be, or your game-viewing vehicle doesn’t quite look like those you’ve seen in the movies? The pieces may be falling into place, but your idea of what life is like on safari may still be a golden-tinged haze. The whos, whats, and hows still need to come into focus. If you have questions like, Where’s the best place to sit in a game-drive vehicle? Can you get near a honey badger?, then read on.

By the way, “bush” is a term used to describe the natural setting of your safari—be it in forests, plains, or on riverbanks. The expression “going to the bush” means going away from urban areas and into the wilderness.


The days are long gone when legendary 19th-century explorer Dr. David Livingstone pitched his travel-stained tent under a tree and ate his sparse rations. But whether you go simple in a basic safari tent with an adjacent bucket shower and long-drop toilet, choose ultracomfort in a mega-tent or canvas-and-thatch chalet, or go totally over the top in a glass-walled aerie-cum-penthouse with a state-of-the-art designer interior, you’ll still feel very much part of the bush.


Some would say that using the word “luxury” with “safari lodge” is redundant, as all such lodges fall into this category. But there’s luxurious, and then there’s luxurious. Options in the latter category range from Out of Africa-type accommodations with antique furniture, crystal, and wrought-iron chandeliers to thatch-roofed stone chalets, Tuscan villas, and suites that wouldn’t seem out of place in midtown Manhattan. In nearly all, you can expect to find air-conditioning; in many there will be a small library, a spa, a gift shop, and Internet service—often in a “business center” (a computer in the main lodge) or Wi-Fi. You may even have your own plunge pool.


Think luxurious, oh-so-comfortable, and spacious…in a tent. This is no ordinary tent, though. Each has its own bathroom, usually with an outdoor shower; a wooden deck with table and chairs that overlooks the bush; carpet or wooden floors; big “windows”; and an inviting four-poster (usually) bed with puffy pillows and fluffy blankets (for those cold winter months). The public space will comprise a bar, a lounge, dining areas, viewing decks, usually a pool, and a curio shop. Some will have Internet, air-conditioning, and private plunge pools.


This option varies enormously. You could have the original, roomy walk-in dome tent (complete with canvas bedrolls, crisp cotton bedding on GI stretchers, open-air flush toilets, and bucket showers) that’s ready and waiting for you at day’s end. Or you could have luxury tents (with crystal chandeliers, antique rugs, and shining silver) that stay in one place for a few months during peak seasons. They’re all fully serviced (the staff travels with the tents), and you’ll dine under the stars or sip coffee as the sun rises.


What you’ll get in this category depends on which park you’re in and what type of lodgings you’re looking for. Accommodations can vary from campsites to simple one-room rondavels, or round huts, with en-suite bathrooms; safari tents to two- to four-bed cottages; or possibly a top-of-the-range guesthouse that sleeps eight people. With the exception of some camping sites, and some places in South Africa, all national-park accommodations are fully serviced with staff to look after you.


Most safari operators and private game reserves don’t accept children under a certain age, usually under 8, but sometimes the age limit is as high as 12. This age limit is largely for safety reasons. Animals often respond, not in a positive manner, to something that is younger, slower, or smaller than they are. And even though you might think your six- or seven-year-old adores all sorts of animals and bugs, you’d be surprised how overwhelmed kids can become, out of the comfort of their home and backyard, by the size and multitude of African insects and wildlife.

Take into account, also, that when you’re following a strange schedule (with jet lag) and getting in and out of small planes, safari vehicles, boats, and the like with other people whom you probably won’t know, there often is no time to deal with recalcitrant children—and fussing will, you can be guaranteed, annoy the other people in your plane or lodge, who have spent a great deal of money for what may be a once-in-a-lifetime safari trip.

One option, if you can afford it, is to book a private safari where no other people are involved and you dictate the schedule. Many private lodges will rent you the entire property for the length of your stay; this is often the only way these camps allow children under age 8 on safari. At the very least, a camp will require that you pay for a private safari vehicle and guide if you have children under 12. Be advised that, even if you’re renting the whole camp, babies and toddlers still aren’t allowed out on game-viewing trips.

One great family option is to stay with &Beyond, formerly CC Africa, a safari operator with children’s programs at several of its upscale camps throughout Southern and East Africa. While you follow your own program, your kids pursue their own wilderness activities; and you all meet up later for meals and other activities.


Berg-en-Dal, Kruger Park, South Africa. Kids can explore in safety at this attractive, fenced camp, which has a great pool and curio shop. Get them to walk around the camp’s perimeter and spot game.

Kwando Lebala Camp, Botswana. Kids learn to track, make plaster casts of spoor, spot game, cook over the boma (traditional thatch dining enclosure), tell stories, catch and release butterflies, make bush jewelry, and learn about ecology.

Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, Tanzania. Apart from game drives, there are picnic lunches, balloon trips, and guided walks to the crater’s rim or along the nature trail around the lodge.

Okaukuejo, Etosha, Namibia. The 24-hour floodlighted water hole—regarded as one of the finest in Africa—will keep kids entranced for hours. They can sit, stand, or run (quietly) around.

Pafuri Camp, South Africa. This lovely camp in Kruger’s far north has a superb children’s program and special family accommodations that give everybody privacy. Kids will love Crooks Corner, where baddies on the run used to hide.

Voi Wildlife Lodge, Kenya. This is a popular family destination (kids under 2 stay free, 2-12 at half price), so don’t expect peace and tranquility. There’s a kids’ play area, a pool, DVDs, and wildlife games.

Considerations for Children

Consider the following if you’re thinking about bringing children to a private safari lodge:

· Are they afraid of the dark? A safari camp that runs on generator-powered batteries will have minimal lights at night.

· Are they startled easily? Large animals may come quite close to rooms or tents or near safari vehicles.

· Are they comfortable with strangers? Most meals at safari lodges are at communal tables, and shared six-seat planes are the basic form of transportation between remote safari camps.

· Are they troubled by bugs? The African bush can be filled with moths as big as small birds as well as a host of other flying and crawling insects.

· Are they picky eaters? Meals are usually buffet style and food for camps is often ordered at least a month in advance, so your child’s favorite food may not be available.

A much cheaper alternative is also one of the most enjoyable for a safari as a family: a self-driving trip where you stay at national parks. No destination is better in this regard than Kruger National Park in South Africa, where there are comfortable accommodations and lots of other families around. You’ll be able to set your own schedule, rent a cottage large enough for the entire family, and buy and prepare food you know your children will eat.

It’s best not to visit malarial areas with children under age 10. Young kidneys are especially vulnerable to both the effects of malaria and the side effects of malaria prophylactics. You might opt to practice stringent nonchemical preventive measures, but know the risks: malaria’s effects on young children are much worse than they are on older people.

Babies aren’t allowed in safari vehicles. Some lodges, such as those at MalaMala, provide babysitting services for infants. The sound of an infant crying puts most predators on alert—dangerous to other passengers as well as the child. Keep in mind also that the bush is often a hot and dusty place with little in the way of baby-friendly amenities. You’d have to bring all your own supplies, and if something were to go wrong there would be no way to get immediate help until a flight could be arranged.



Most lodges will have a computer with Internet access, but remember that there’s often one computer for all the guests to use, and service is probably coming via satellite so availability may be limited. Many have Wi-Fi, too, although the service can be erratic and slow.


If you really want to save on international phone calls, the best advice is to provide a detailed itinerary back home and agree upon a schedule for calls. Internet calling like Skype may work well from the United States, but it’s not always functional in Africa, unless you’re on a reliable high-speed Internet connection, which isn’t available everywhere. However, if you have a South African “free” cell phone (meaning you can receive calls for free; all phones using an SA SIM card do this), someone in the United States can call you from their Skype account, for reasonable per-minute charges, and you won’t be charged.

Mobile Phones

Cell phones also can be rented by the day, week, or longer from the airport on your arrival, but this is an expensive option. If you plan on bringing a U.S. cell phone while you’re traveling, know that plans change frequently, so try to gather as many details before leaving to figure out which plan is right for you. Some allow free calls to your number, but charge rates close to landline calls if you call the United States. If you don’t text message at home, you’ll learn to in Africa, where a simple text message costs a fraction of the cost of making an actual call. This is a handy option for meeting up with friends, but for making hotel reservations, it’s best to make the call.

The least complicated way to make and receive phone calls is to obtain international roaming service from your cell-phone service provider before you leave home, but this can be expensive. TIP Verizon customers can’t use their phones in Africa. Any phone that you take abroad must be unlocked by your company in order for you to be able to use it.


The best time to find game is in the early morning and early evening, when the animals are most active, although old Africa hands will tell you that you can come across good game at any time of day. Stick to the philosophy “you never know what’s around the next corner,” and keep your eyes and ears wide open all the time. If your rest camp offers guided night drives on open vehicles with spotlights—go for it. You’ll rarely be disappointed, seeing not only big game but also a lot of fascinating little critters that surface only at night. Book your night drive in advance or as soon as you get to camp.

Arm yourself with specialized books on mammals and birds rather than a more general one that tries to cover too much. Airports, lodges, and camp shops stock a good range, but try to bring one with you and do a bit of boning up in advance. Any bird guide by Ken Newman (Struik Publishers) and the Sasol Guide to Birds are recommended.

Many national parks have reception areas with charts that show the most recent sightings of wildlife in the area. To be sure you see everything you want to, stop at the nearest reception and ask about a spotting chart, or just chat with the other drivers, rangers, and tourists you may encounter there, who can tell you what they’ve seen and where.


On your game drive you’ll very likely be pointed to a nearby bush (which the ranger checks out before you use it). Carry tissues and toilet paper with you, although these are usually available in the vehicle. Sometimes there might be a toilet—well, actually, it’ll very likely be a hole in the ground below a toilet seat—called drop toilets. Bury any paper you may use. If you have an emergency, ask your ranger to stop the vehicle and check out a suitable spot.


Game rangers (sometimes referred to as guides) tend to be of two types: those who’ve come to conservation by way of hunting and those who are professional conservationists. In both cases they have vast experience with and knowledge of the bush and the animals that inhabit it. Rangers often work in conjunction with trackers, who spot animals, and advise the rangers where to go. Often a tracker will be busy searching out animal tracks, spoor, and other clues to nearby wildlife while the ranger drives and discusses the animals and their environment. Rangers often communicate with each other via radio when there’s been a good sighting.

The quality of your bush experience depends heavily on your guide or game ranger and tracker. A ranger wears many hats while on safari: he’s there to entertain you, protect you, and put you as close to the wilderness as possible while serving as bush mechanic, first-aid specialist, and host. He’ll often eat meals with you, will explain animal habits and behavior while out in the bush, and, if you’re on foot, will keep you alive in the presence of an excitable elephant, buffalo, hippo, or lion. This is no small feat, and each ranger has his particular strengths. Because of the intensity of the safari experience, with its exposure to potentially dangerous animals and tricky situations, your relationship with your guide or ranger is one of trust, friendliness, and respect. Misunderstandings may sometimes occur, but you’re one step closer to ensuring that all goes well if you know the protocols and expectations.

Interacting with your ranger

Acknowledge that your guide is a professional and an expert in the field, and defer to his knowledge. Instead of trying to show how much you know, follow the example of the hunter, which is to walk quietly and take notice of all the little signs around you. Save social chatter with the guide for when you’re back at camp, not out on a game drive. Rangers appreciate questions, which give them an idea of your range of knowledge and of how much detail to include in their animal descriptions. However, if you like to ask a lot of questions, save some for later, especially as several other people are likely to be in the safari vehicle with you. Carry a pocket notebook on game drives and jot down questions as they occur; you can then bring them up at dinner or around the campfire, when your ranger has more time to talk and everyone can participate in the discussion.

Don’t let your ranger “guide by the numbers”—providing only a list of an animal’s attributes. Politely ask questions and show you’d like to know more. Even the best guides may experience “bush burnout” by the end of a busy safari season with demanding clients, but any guide worthy of the title always goes out of his way to give you the best possible experience. If you suspect yours has a case of burnout, or just laziness, you have a right to ask for certain things. There’s never any harm in asking, and you can’t expect your guide to read your mind about what you like. If, for example, you have a preference for birds, insects, or whatever, ask your guide to spend time on these subjects. You may be surprised by how happy he is to oblige.

Bush Walks

Guided bush walks vary, but usually a maximum of eight guests walk in single file with the armed ranger up front and the tracker at the back. A bush walk is a more intimate experience than a drive. You’re up close with the bush and with your fellow walkers and guides. Your guide will brief you thoroughly about where and how to walk, emergency procedures, and the like. If you’re in a national park, you’ll most likely have to pay an additional fee to have an armed park ranger escort you on your walk.


Your safari transportation is determined by your destination and could range from custom-made game-viewing vehicles (full-service safari) to a combi or minivan (basic safari or self-drive). There shouldn’t be more than six people per vehicle. To make sure you experience every view, suggest to your ranger that visitors rotate seats for each drive. Be warned if you’re going it alone: roads in Africa range from superb to bone crunching. Plan your route carefully, arm yourself with reliable maps, and get up-to-date road conditions before you go.

In closed vehicles, which are used by private touring companies operating in Kruger National Park, sit as close to the driver-guide as possible so you can get in and out of the vehicle more easily and get the best views.

Open-Sided Land Rovers

This is the most common game-viewing vehicle, especially in South Africa, Tanzania, and Botswana, and is usually a Land Rover or a Land Cruiser. Each vehicle seats six to eight people. Vehicles that have raised, stepped seating—meaning the seats in back are higher than the ones in front—are used for game drives. There are usually three rows of seats after the driver’s row; the norm at a luxury lodge is to have two people per row. The more expensive the camp, the fewer people in the vehicle. Sit beside the ranger/driver if you’re a bit unsteady, because you won’t have to climb up into the rear. In the front row you’ll have the clearest conversations with the ranger, but farther back you’ll have a clearer, elevated view over the front of the car. The back seats tend to be bumpy, but you get great views.

Pop Tops

Used mainly in Kenya, because of dirt, dust, and rain (and cheetahs, who like to jump on the roof or hood of the vehicle!), these hard-topped minivans pop up so you can stand up, get a better view, and take photos in every direction. If you’re claustrophobic or very tall, this might not be the vehicle for you, but there are outfitters that have larger vehicles that can “stretch.” If it gets really hot outside, you’ll be happy to close up and turn on the air-conditioning. Make sure water and sodas are available.


It’s unlikely that you’ll use one of these unless you’re on a very cheap safari or a self-drive—they are, however, perfect for the Namibia Desert. The advantage is that they sit high off the ground and provide much better views; some outfitters offer vehicles that can expand. If you’re self-driving, make sure you get a van with air-conditioning and power steering. The farther north you go, check out your prospective vehicle’s year and make sure it’s as recent as possible.

Small Planes

As many camps and lodges are inaccessible by land, or are in very remote places, you’ll often fly in a 6- to 10-seat plane. Always take a bottle of water with you (small planes can get very hot), and make sure you have medication ready if you’re prone to motion sickness. Keep in mind the strictly enforced luggage restriction: usually 12 kg (26 lbs) of luggage in a soft bag that can squeeze into the plane’s small hold, but check in advance. Flights can be bumpy, and landing strips are often just baked earth. Also keep in mind there are no bathrooms on these planes, which, if you’re practicing good hydration, can be problematic for flights that are more than an hour!


If your lodge is on or near a river, expect to go out in a boat. Options range from the big sunset safari boats with bars and bathrooms on the Zambezi and Chobe rivers to a six- or eight-seater along the Okavango and smaller rivers, where your amenities include a cool box of drinks and snacks but no toilet. One of the highlights of your stay in the Okavango Delta will be gliding in a mokoro (a canoe) poled by an expert local waterman through papyrus-fringed channels where hippos and crocs lurk.


Of all the horror stories and fantastic nightmares about meeting your end in the bush, the problem you’re most likely to encounter will be of your own doing: dehydration. Also be wary of malaria, motion sickness, and intestinal problems. By taking commonsense precautions, your safari will be uneventful from a health perspective but memorable in every other way.

The Travel Health Online website is a good source to check out before you travel because it compiles primarily health and some safety information from a variety of official sources, and was created by a medical publishing company. The CDC has information on health risks associated with almost every country on the planet, as well as what precautions to take. The World Health Organization (aka the WHO) is the health arm of the United Nations and has information by topic and by country. Its clear, well-written publication International Travel and Health, which you can download from the website, covers everything you need to know about staying healthy abroad.

Health Warnings
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) | 877/394-8747 international travelers’ health line |
South African Airways Netcare Travel Clinics. | 0861/665-665 |
Travel Health Online. |
World Health Organization (WHO) |


The African sun is hot and the air is dry, and sweat evaporates quickly in these conditions. You might not realize how much bodily fluid you’re losing as a result. Wear a hat, lightweight clothing, and sunscreen—all of which will help your body cope with high temperatures. If you’re prone to low blood sugar or have a sensitive stomach, consider bringing along rehydration salts, available at camping stores, to balance your body’s fluids and keep you going when you feel listless.

Drink at least two to three quarts of water a day, and in extreme heat conditions as much as three to four quarts of water or juice. Drink more if you’re exerting yourself physically. Alcohol is dehydrating, so try to limit consumption on hot or long travel days. If you do overdo it at dinner with wine or spirits, or even caffeine, you need to drink even more water to recover the fluid lost as your body processes the alcohol. Antimalarial medications are also very dehydrating, so it’s important to drink water while you’re taking this medicine.

Don’t rely on thirst to tell you when to drink; people often don’t feel thirsty until they’re a little dehydrated. At the first sign of dry mouth, exhaustion, or headache, drink water, because dehydration is the likely culprit. TIP To test for dehydration, pinch the skin on the back of your hand and see if it stays in a peak; if it does, you’re dehydrated. Drink a solution of ½ teaspoon salt and 4 tablespoons sugar dissolved in a quart of water to replace electrolytes.

Heat cramps stem from a low salt level due to excessive sweating. These muscle pains usually occur in the abdomen, arms, or legs. When a child says he can’t take another step, ask if he has cramps. When cramps occur, stop all activity and sit quietly in a cool spot and drink water. Don’t do anything strenuous for a few hours after the cramps subside. If heat cramps persist for more than an hour, seek medical assistance.


Many lakes and streams, particularly east of the watershed divide (i.e., in rivers flowing toward the Indian Ocean), are infected with bilharzia (schistosomiasis), a parasite carried by a small freshwater snail. The microscopic fluke enters through the skin of swimmers or waders, attaches itself to the intestines or bladder, and lays eggs. Avoid wading in still waters or in areas close to reeds. If you’ve been wading or swimming in dubious water, dry yourself off vigorously with a towel immediately upon exiting the water, as this may help to dislodge any flukes before they can burrow into your skin. Fast-moving water is considered safe. If you’ve been exposed, pop into a pharmacy and purchase a course of treatment and take it to be safe. If your trip is ending shortly after your exposure, take the medicine home and have a checkup once you get home. Bilharzia is easily diagnosed, and it’s also easily treated in the early stages.


In summer ticks may be a problem, even in open areas close to cities. If you intend to walk or hike anywhere, use a suitable insect repellent. After your walk, examine your body and clothes for ticks, looking carefully for pepper ticks, which are tiny but may cause tick-bite fever. If you’re bitten, keep an eye on the bite. Most people suffer no more than an itchy bump, so don’t panic. If the tick was infected, however, the bite will swell, itch, and develop a black necrotic center. This is a sure sign that you’ll develop tick-bite fever, which usually hits after about 8 to 12 days. Symptoms may be mild or severe, depending on the patient. This disease isn’t usually life-threatening in healthy adults, but it’s horribly unpleasant. TIP Check your boots for spiders and other crawlies and shake your clothes out before getting dressed.

Always keep a lookout for mosquitoes. Even in nonmalarial areas they’re extremely irritating. When walking anywhere in the bush, watch out for snakes. If you see one, give it a wide berth and you should be fine. Snakes really bite only when they’re taken by surprise, so you don’t want to step on a napping mamba.


Micro-fauna and -flora differ in every region of Africa, so if you drink unfiltered water, add ice to your soda, or eat fruit from a roadside stand, you might get traveler’s diarrhea. All reputable hotels and lodges have filtered, clean tap water or provide sterilized drinking water, and nearly all camps and lodges have supplies of bottled water. If you’re traveling outside organized safari camps in rural Africa or are unsure of local water, carry plenty of bottled water and follow the CDC’s advice for fruits and vegetables: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it. If you’re going on a mobile safari, ask about drinking water.


The most serious health problem facing travelers is malaria. The risk is medium at the height of the summer and very low in winter. All travelers heading into malaria-endemic regions should consult a health-care professional at least one month before departure for advice. Unfortunately, the malarial agent Plasmodium sp. seems to be able to develop a hardy resistance to new prophylactic drugs pretty quickly, so the best prevention is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes in the first place.

After sunset, wear light-colored (mosquitoes and tsetse flies are attracted to dark surfaces), loose, long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and shoes and socks, and apply mosquito repellent (that contains DEET) generously. Always sleep in a mosquito-proof room or tent, and if possible, keep a fan going in your room. If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, some malaria medicines are safe to use but in general it’s best to avoid malaria areas entirely.

Generally speaking, the risk is much lower in the dry season (May-October) and peaks immediately after the first rains, which should be in November, but El Niño has made that a lot less predictable.

If you’ve been bitten by an infected mosquito, you can expect to feel the effects anywhere from 7 to 90 days afterward. Typically you’ll feel like you have the flu, with worsening high fever, chills and sweats, headache, and muscle aches. In some cases this is accompanied by abdominal pain, diarrhea, and a cough. If it’s not treated you could die. It’s possible to treat malaria after you’ve contracted it, but this shouldn’t be your long-term strategy for dealing with the disease. TIP If you feel ill even several months after you return home, tell your doctor that you’ve been in a malaria-infected area.


As a foreigner, you’ll be expected to pay in full for any medical services, so check your existing health plan to see whether you’re covered while abroad, and supplement it if necessary. South African doctors are generally excellent. The equipment and training in private clinics rival the best in the world, but public hospitals tend to suffer from overcrowding and underfunding and are best avoided.

Over-the-Counter Remedies

You can buy over-the-counter medication in pharmacies and supermarkets. For expediency, however, you should bring your own supply for your trip and rely on pharmacies just for emergency medication.


If you’re prone to motion sickness, be sure to examine your safari itinerary closely. Though most landing strips for chartered planes aren’t paved but rather grass, earth, or gravel, landings are smooth most of the time. If you’re going on safari to northern Botswana (the Okavango Delta, specifically), know that small planes and unpaved airstrips are the main means of transportation between camps; these trips can be very bumpy, hot, and a little dizzying even if you’re not prone to motion sickness. If you’re not sure how you’ll react, take motion-sickness pills just in case. Most of the air transfers take an average of only 30 minutes and the rewards will be infinitely greater than the pains.

TIP When you fly in small planes, take a sun hat and a pair of sunglasses. If you sit in the front seat next to the pilot, or on the side of the sun, you’ll experience harsh glare that could give you a severe headache and exacerbate motion sickness.


Having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t go on safari. It’s important, however, to plan carefully to ensure that your needs can be adequately met. South African lodges, especially the high-end private ones, are the easiest to navigate and have the fewest steps. Keep in mind that all-terrain 4x4 vehicles don’t have seat belts, so you need enough muscle control to keep yourself upright while the vehicle bumps along the unpaved roads. Getting in and out of these elevated vehicles can also be challenging. Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa is completely accessible and even has specially equipped four-wheel-drive safari vehicles with harness seat belts. Many of Kruger’s camps have special accommodations.


The seasons in sub-Saharan Africa are opposite of those in North America. Summer is December through March, autumn is April and May, winter is June through September, and spring is October and November. The Seychelles follows a similar pattern, with the notable addition that stormier seas make winter unsuitable for keen divers.


High season, also called dry season, refers to the winter months in East and Southern Africa when there’s little to no rain at all. Days are sunny and bright, but the nights are cool. In the desert, temperatures can plummet to below freezing, but you’ll be snug and warm in your tent wherever you stay. The landscape will be barren and dry (read: not very attractive), but vegetation is low and surface water is scarce, making it easier to spot game. This is the busiest tourist time.

The exception is South Africa and Seychelles, where high season is linked with the summer vacation schedules of South Africans (December through mid-January), and both the European summer vacations (July-August) and Christmas holidays (December-January) in the Seychelles.


When we say “low season,” we’re saying that this is the rainy season. Although the rains are intermittent—often occurring in late afternoon—the bush and vegetation are high and it’s more difficult to spot game. It can also get very hot and humid during this time. However, the upside is that there are far fewer tourists, lodge rates are much cheaper (often half price), and the bush is beautifully lush and green. Plus there are lots of baby animals, and if you’re a birder all the migrant species are back from their winter habitats. Seychelles’ low season occurs during the cusp times of February-April and October-November, which can be the nicest times to visit in terms of both weather (especially April and November) and better prices.


The shoulder season occurs between summer and winter; it’s fall in the U.S. The rains are just beginning, tourist numbers are decreasing, and the vegetation is starting to die off. Lodges will offer cheaper rates.

To find out exactly what the weather will be for your destination, African Weather Forecasts ( lists weather information for the entire continent.



The mode of transportation for fly-in safaris is as central to the experience as the accommodations. In places such as northern Botswana, where few roads are paved, or northern Namibia, where distances make road transfers impractical, small bush planes take you from lodge to lodge. These planes are usually six-seat Cessna 206 craft flown by bush pilots. The planes have no air-conditioning and in summer can be very hot, especially in the afternoon. Bring a bottle of water with you. And go to the bathroom before flying; there are no restrooms on these planes. Most flights are short—approximately 30 minutes or so—but some can be up to an hour.

Flying from destination to destination is a special experience. The planes stay at low altitudes, allowing you to spot game along the way: you might see elephant and buffalo herds lined up drinking along the edges of remote water holes, or large numbers of zebras walking across the plains. Fly-in safaris also allow you to cover more territory than other types of safaris. In Botswana, for example, the trip between the diverse game destinations of the Moremi Wildlife Reserve in the Okavango Delta and northern Chobe National Park is 40 minutes by plane; it would take six hours by vehicle, if a road between these locations existed.

Hopping from place to place by plane is so easy and fast that many travelers make the mistake of cramming their itineraries with too many lodges. Plan your trip this way and you’ll spend more time at airstrips, in planes, and shuttling to and from the airfields than tracking animals or enjoying the bush. You’ll glimpse animals as you travel back and forth—sometimes you’ll even see them on the airstrips—but you won’t have time to stop and really take in the sights. Try to spend at least two nights at any one lodge; three nights is better.

The best way to set up a fly-in safari is to book an all-inclusive package that includes airfare. (It’s impractical to try to do it yourself.) A tour operator makes all the arrangements, and many offer standard trips that visit several of its lodges. For example, in Botswana, Orient-Express Safaris has a package that includes three camps in three very different locations.

TIP If your bag is over the weight limit, or if you weigh more than 220 pounds, you’ll be required to purchase an additional plane seat (usually about US$100).


The majority of safari-goers base their trips at luxury lodges, which pack the double punch of outstanding game-viewing and stylish, atmospheric accommodations. A lodge may be made up of stone chalets, thatch-roof huts, rondavels, or large suite-like tents. Mosquito nets, leather furnishings, and mounted trophies add to the ambience. Dinners are served inside or in an open-air boma. All have hot-and-cold running water, flush toilets, toiletries, laundry service, electricity, and, in most cases, swimming pools. Some lodges also have air-conditioning, telephones, hair dryers, and minibars. The most lavish places also have private plunge pools.

Make no mistake—you pay for all this pampering. Expect to spend anywhere from US$400 to US$1,500 per person per night, depending on the season. All meals, beverages, house wines, game drives, and walks are included. A three-night stay is ideal, but two nights are usually sufficient to see the big game.

The time you spend at a private lodge is tightly structured. With some exceptions, the lodges offer almost identical programs of events. There are usually two three- to four-hour game drives a day, one in the early morning and another in the evening. You spend a lot of time sitting and eating, and in the afternoon you can nap and relax. However, you can always opt for an after-breakfast bush walk, and many lodges now have spas and gyms. If you’re tired after your night drive, ask for something to be sent to your room, but don’t miss the bush braai (barbecue) and at least one night in the boma.

On game drives at bigger camps, rangers stay in contact with one another via radio. If one finds a rhino, for example, he relays its location to the others so they can bring their guests. It’s a double-edged sword. The more vehicles you have in the field, the more wildlife everyone is likely to see. But don’t worry, most lodges are very well disciplined with their vehicles, and there are rarely more than three or four at a sighting. As your vehicle arrives, one already there will drive away. In choosing a game lodge, remember to check how much land a lodge can traverse and how many vehicles it uses. Try to go on a bush walk with an armed ranger—an unforgettable experience, as the ranger can point out fascinating details along the way.

All lodges arrange transfers from nearby airports, train stations, or drop-off points. In more remote areas most have their own private airstrips carved out of the bush and fly guests in on chartered aircraft at extra cost. If you’re driving yourself, the lodge will send you detailed instructions because many of the roads don’t appear on maps and lack names.


Most mobile-safari operations are expertly run but are aimed at budget-conscious travelers. They’re mostly self-sufficient camping affairs with overnights at either public or private campgrounds, depending on the safari’s itinerary and price. Sometimes you stay at basic lodges along the way. Travel is often by something that looks like a 4x4 bus.

For young, hardy people, or the young at heart, mobile safaris are a great way to see the land from ground level. You taste the dust, smell the bacon cooking, stop where and when you want (within reason), and get to see some of the best places in the region. Trips usually run 14 to 21 days, although you can find shorter ones that cover fewer destinations. Prices start at US$750 and climb to US$2,500 for all-inclusive trips. Not sure whether all-inclusive is right for you? Consider combining a mobile safari with a lodge-based one, which gives you the best of both worlds. A minimum of 10 nights is recommended for such an itinerary.


A self-drive safari, where you drive yourself in your own rental vehicle, is a great option for budget travelers and for those who feel comfortable seeing the bush without a ranger at hand to search out game or explain what you’re seeing. Some popular and easiest-to-navigate options are South Africa’s Kruger National Park, Pilanesburg National Park, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, and Namibia’s Etosha National Park. These parks have paved, well-marked roads and a wide range of accommodations that include family-size chalets, small huts, tents, and camping sites. You may buy your own groceries and cook for yourself at all of these areas; some options, especially in Kruger, have restaurants and stores on-site.

If possible, rent a van or a 4x4, since the higher off the ground you are the better your chances of spotting game (although a two-wheel-drive car is fine); remember that you have to stick to marked roads. In addition to patience, you’ll need drinks, snacks, and a ready camera. Keep your eyes and ears open and you may come across game at any time, in any place.

TIP Purchase a good park map that shows roads, watering holes, different eco-zones, and the types of animals you can expect to find in each. You can buy these maps when you enter a park or at rest-camp shops, and it would be foolish to pass them up.

Plan your game-drive routes around as many water holes and rivers as possible. Except during the height of the summer rains, most game come to permanent water sources to drink. In winter, when the land is parched, a tour of water holes is bound to reap great rewards. Even better, take a picnic lunch and park at the same watering hole for an hour or two, especially in winter, when the car interior doesn’t become too hot. Not only will you see plenty of animals, but you’ll find yourself slipping into the drama of the bush.

Driving Tips and Safety

Although most animals in popular parks are accustomed to vehicles with humans in them and will carry on unperturbed in many cases, a vehicle should still approach any animal carefully and quietly, and the driver should “feel” the response. This is for your own and the animals’ safety. A delicate approach also gives you a better chance of getting as close as possible without alarming the animal. Be conservative and err on the side of caution, stopping as soon as circumstances suggest.

Human presence among wild animals never goes unnoticed. Don’t get out of the vehicle, even if the animals appear friendly, and especially don’t feed the creatures. Animals don’t associate people in a vehicle with the potential food source or possible threat that they do when people are out of the vehicle. But for this ruse to work you must be quiet and still. The smell of the exhaust fumes and noise of a vehicle mask the presence of the human cargo, so when the engine is off you need to exercise extra caution. This is especially true when closely viewing lions and elephants—the two animals most likely to attack a vehicle or people in a vehicle. When approaching lions or elephants, never leap out of your seat or talk loudly; you want to be able to get as close as possible without scaring them off, and you want to avoid provoking an attack.

Spotting Game

It does take time to develop your ability to find motionless game in thick bush. All those fancy stripes and tawny colors really do work. Slowly, though, you learn to recognize the small clues that give away an animal in the bush: the flick of a tail, the toss of a horn, even fresh dung. To see any of this, you have to drive slowly, 15 to 25 kph (10 to 15 mph). Fight the urge to pin back your ears and tear around a park at 50 kph (30 mph) hoping to find something big. The only way to spot game at that speed is if it’s standing in the road or if you come upon a number of cars already at a sighting. But remember that being the 10th car at a game sighting is less exciting than finding the animal yourself. Not only do the other cars detract from the experience, but you feel like a scavenger—a sort of voyeuristic vulture.


Many lodges offer walks as an optional way to view game. On a walking safari, however, you spend most, if not all, of your time in the bush on foot, accompanied by an armed guide. Because you’re trekking through big-game country, there’s an element of danger. But it’s the proximity to wilderness that makes this type of trip so enchanting—and exciting. Of course, you can’t stop every step of the way or you’d never get very far, but you’ll stop frequently to be shown something—from a native flower to spoor to animals—or to discuss some aspect of animal behavior or of tracking.

Walking treks take place on what are known as wilderness trails, which are natural tracks made by animals and are traversed only on foot, never by vehicle, to maintain their pristine condition. These trails usually lead into remote areas that you would never see on a typical safari. In some cases porters carry the supplies and bags. Accommodation is usually in remote camps or occasionally in tents.

TIP Consider your physical condition for walking safaris. You should be in good health and be able to walk between 6.4 and 16 km (4 and 10 miles) a day, depending on the scope of the trip. Some trips don’t allow hikers under age 12 or over age 60 (but Kruger Park makes exceptions for those over 60 if you produce a doctor’s certificate). Also, you shouldn’t scare easily. No guide has time for people who freeze up at the sight of a beetle, spider, or something more menacing; guides need to keep their attention on the wilds around them and on the group as a whole. Guides are armed, and they take great caution to keep you away from trouble. To stay safe, always listen to your guide and follow instructions.


Nature is neither kind nor sentimental. Don’t be tempted to interfere with the natural processes. The animals are going about the business of survival in a harsh environment, and you can unwittingly make this business more difficult. Don’t get too close to the animals and don’t try to help them cross some perceived obstacle; you have no idea what it’s really trying to do or where it wants to go. If you’re intrusive, you could drive animals away from feeding and, even worse, from drinking at water holes, where they’re very skittish and vulnerable to predators. That time at the water hole may be their only opportunity to drink that day.

Never feed any wild creature. Not a cute monkey, not an inquisitive baboon, not a baby tree squirrel, or a young bird out of its nest. In some camps and lodges, however, animals have gotten used to being fed or steal food. The most common animals in this category are baboons and monkeys; in some places they sneak into huts, tents, and even occupied vehicles to snatch food. If you see primates around, keep all food out of sight, and keep your windows rolled up. (If a baboon manages to get into your vehicle, he will trash the interior as he searches for food and use the vehicle as a toilet.)

Never try to get an animal to pose with you. This is probably the biggest cause of death and injury on safaris, when visitors don’t listen to or believe the warnings from their rangers or posted notices in the public parks. Regardless of how cute or harmless they may look, these animals aren’t tame. An herbivore hippo, giraffe, or ostrich can kill you just as easily as a lion, elephant, or buffalo can.

Immersion in the African safari lands is a privilege. In order to preserve this privilege for later generations, it’s important that you view wildlife with minimal disturbance and avoid upsetting the delicate balance of nature at all costs. You’re the visitor, so act like you would in someone else’s home: respect their space. Caution is your most trusted safety measure. Keep your distance, keep quiet, and keep your hands to yourself, and you should be fine.

Safari Do’s and Don’ts

Do observe animals silently. Talking loudly frightens animals and disturbs their activities.

Don’t attempt to attract an animal’s attention. Don’t imitate sounds, clap hands, pound the vehicle, or throw objects.

Do respect your driver and guide’s judgment. They have more knowledge and experience than you. If they say no, there’s a good reason.

Don’t leave your vehicle. On self-drives, drive slowly, and keep ample distance between you and the wildlife.

Do dress in neutral tones. If everyone is wearing earth tones, the animal sees one large vegetation-colored mass.

Don’t litter. Any tossed item can choke or poison animals.

Don’t attempt to feed or approach animals. This is especially important at lodges and campgrounds where animals are accustomed to humans.

Don’t smoke. The bush ignites easily.


Never sleep out in the open in any area with wildlife. If you’re sleeping in a tent, make sure it’s fully closed as in zipped or snapped shut; if it’s a small tent, place something between you and the side of the wall to prevent an opportunistic bite from the outside. Also, if you’re menstruating, be sure to dispose of your toiletries somewhere other than in or near your tent. All in all, if you’re in your tent and not exposed, you should be quite safe. Few people lose their lives to lions or hyenas. Malaria is a much more potent danger, so keep your tent zipped up tight at night to keep out mosquitoes.

Never walk alone. Most camps and lodges insist that an armed ranger accompany you to and from your accommodation at night, and rightly so.

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Safari Speak | South African Words and Phrases | Swahili Essentials | Zulu Essentials

Mastering the basics of just two foreign languages, Zulu and Swahili, should make you well equipped for travel through much of the region. Zulu is the most common of the Southern African Nguni family of languages (Zulu, Shangaan, Ndebele, Swazi, Xhosa) and is understood in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Swahili is a mixture of Arabic and Bantu and is used across East Africa. In Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia your best bet initially is to stick with English.


Ablution blocks: public bathrooms

Banda: bungalow or hut

Big Five: buffalos, elephants, leopards, lions, and rhinoceros, collectively

Boma: a fenced-in, open-air eating area, usually circular

Braai: barbecue

Bushveld: general safari area in South Africa, usually with scattered shrubs and trees and lots of game; also referred to as the bush or the veld

Camp: used interchangeably with lodge

Campground: a place used for camping that encompasses several campsites and often includes some shared facilities

Campsite: may or may not be part of a campground

Concession: game-area lease that’s granted to a safari company and gives it exclusive access to the land

Game guide: used interchangeably with ranger; usually a man

Hides: small, partially camouflaged shelters from which to view game and birds; blinds

Kopje/Koppies: hills or rocky outcrops

Kraal: traditional rural settlement of huts and houses

Lodge: accommodation in rustic yet stylish tents, rondavels, or lavish suites; prices at lodges usually include all meals and game-viewing

Marula: tree from which amarula (the liquor) gets its name

Mobile or overland safari: usually a self-sufficient camping affair set up at a different location (at public or private campgrounds) each night

Mokoro: dugout canoe; plural mekoro

Ranger: safari guide with vast experience with and knowledge of the bush and the animals that inhabit it; used interchangeably with game guide

Rest camp: camp in a national park

Rondavel/rondawel: a traditional round dwelling with a conical roof

Sala: outdoor covered deck

Self-catering: with some kind of kitchen facilities, so you can store food and prepare meals yourself

Self-drive safari: budget-safari option in which you drive, and guide, yourself in a rented vehicle

Sundowner: cocktails at sunset

Tracker: works in conjunction with a ranger, spotting animals from a special seat on the front of the 4x4 game-viewing vehicle

Veld: a grassland; see bushveld

Vlei: wetland or marsh



Abseil: rappel

Bakkie: pickup truck (pronounced bucky)

Berg: mountain

Boot: trunk (of a car)

Bottle store: liquor store

Bra/bru/my bra: brother (term of affection or familiarity)

Buck: antelope

Burg: city

Chommie: mate, chum

Dagga: marijuana, sometimes called zol

Djembes: drums

Dorp: village

Fanagalo: a mix of Zulu, English, Afrikaans, Sotho, and Xhosa

Highveld: the country’s high interior plateau, including Johannesburg

Howzit?: literally, “how are you?” but used as a general greeting

Indaba: literally, a meeting but also a problem, as in “that’s your indaba.”

Ja: yes

Jol: a party or night on the town

Kloof: river gorge

Kokerbooms: quiver trees

Lekker: nice

Lowveld: land at lower elevation, including Kruger National Park

Mopane: nutrient-poor land

More-ish: so good you’ll want more, mouthwatering

Muthi: (pronounced mooti) traditional (non-Western) medicine

Plaas: farm

Petrol: gasoline

Robot: traffic light

Sangoma: traditional healer or mystic

Shebeen: a place to drink, often used for taverns in townships

Sis: gross, disgusting

Sisi or usisi: sister (term of affection or respect)

Spar: name of grocery market chain in Africa

Spaza shop: an informal shop, usually from a truck or container

Stoep: veranda

Takkie: (pronounced tacky) sneaker


Biltong: spiced air-dried (not smoked) meat, made of everything from beef to kudu

Bobotie: spiced, minced beef or lamb topped with savory custard, a Cape Malay dish

Boerewors: Afrikaner term for a spicy farmer’s sausage, often used for a braai (pronounced boo-rah-vorse)

Bredie: a casserole or stew, usually lamb with tomatoes

Bunny chow: not a fancy name for salad—it’s a half loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with meat or vegetable curry

Chakalaka: a spicy relish

Gatsby: a loaf of bread cut lengthwise and filled with fish or meat, salad, and fries

Kabeljou: one of the varieties of line fish

Kingklip: a native fish

Koeksister: a deep-fried, braided, sugared dough

Malva: pudding

Melktert: a sweet custard tart

Mogodu: beef or ox tripe

Moroho: mopane worms

Pap: also called mielie pap, a maize-based porridge

Peppadew: a patented vegetable, so you may see it under different names, usually with the word dew in them; it’s a sort of a cross between a sweet pepper and a chili and is usually pickled.

Peri-peri: a spicy chili marinade, Portuguese in origin, based on the searing hot piri-piri chili; some recipes are tomato-based, others use garlic, olive oil, and brandy

Potjie: pronounced poy-key and also called potjiekos, a traditional stew cooked in a three-legged pot

Rocket: arugula

Rooibos: an indigenous, earthy-tasting red-leaf tea

Samp: corn porridge

Snoek: a barracudalike fish, often smoked, sometimes smoorsnoek (braised)

Sosaties: local version of a kebab, with spiced, grilled chunks of meat

Waterblommetjie: water lilies, sometimes used in stews

Witblitz: moonshine



Buffalo: nyati

Cheetah: duma

Crocodile: mamba

Elephant: tembo

Giraffe: twiga

Hippo: kiboko

Impala: swala

Leopard: chui

Lion: simba

Rhino: kifalu


Yes: ndio

No: hapana

Please: tafadhali

Excuse me: samahani

Thank you (very much): asante (sana)

Welcome: karibu

Hello: jambo

Beautiful: nzuri

Goodbye: kwaheri

Cheers: kwahafya njema


Food: chakula

Water: maji

Bread: mkate

Fruit(s): (ma)tunda

Vegetable: mboga

Salt: chumvi

Sugar: sukari

Coffee: kahawa

Tea: chai

Beer: pombe


What’s your name?: Jina lako nani?

My name is: Jina langu ni.

How are you?: Habari?

Where are you from?: Unatoka wapi?

I come from: Mimi ninatoka.

Do you speak English?: Una sema Kiingereza?

I don’t speak Swahili.: Sisemi Kiswahili.

I don’t understand.: Sifahamu.

How do you say this in Swahili?: Unasemaje kwa Kiswahili?

How much is it?: Ngapi shillings?

May I take your picture?: Mikupige picha?

Where is the bathroom?: Choo kiko wapi?

I need: Mimi natafuta.

I want to buy: Mimi nataka kununua.

No problem.: Hakuna matata.



Yes: yebo

No: cha

Please/Excuse me: uxolo

Thank you: ngiyabonga

You’re welcome: nami ngiyabonga

Good morning/hello: sawubona

Goodbye: sala kahle


Food: ukudla

Water: amanzi

Bread: isinkwa

Fruit: isthelo

Vegetable: uhlaza

Salt: usawoti

Sugar: ushekela

Coffee: ikhofi

Tea: itiye

Beer: utshwala


What’s your name?: Ubani igama lakho?

My name is: Igama lami ngingu.

Do you speak English?: Uya khuluma isingisi?

I don’t understand.: Angizwa ukuthi uthini.

How much is it?: Kuyimalini lokhu?

May I take your picture?: Mikupige picha?

Where is the bathroom?: Likuphi itholethe?

I would like: Ngidinga.

I want to buy: Ngicela.

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