How To Plan Your Safari Self Guided Tour

It's not at all difficult to go on a self guided tour in Africa. In fact it's loads of fun but there are a few things that you will need to know to make your travel experience as successful and enjoyable as possible.

Guidelines for a Kruger tour at less than $110 a day

I've written this with a particular bias towards a Kruger National Park self guided safari because that is where my expertise lies (I've been on over one hundred myself) but many of the basic principles will apply to other safari areas in Africa although the particulars will differ from park to park.

Wildlife Spotting - The A to Z

Picture this: You are driving down the road on your self guided tour in the Kruger Park and spot a small movement out of the corner of your eye. You stop quickly and there, not 5 metres from the road lies a whole family of lions, sleeping the day away.

There is nothing quite like the thrill of spotting wildlife in their natural habitat but you need to keep in mind that this is not a zoo. The animals come and go as they want and through a large area so you need a good measure of luck and patience if you are going to see them at all.

But there is a way to tilt the balance in your favour and improve your chances of seeing the big five on your self guided tour on a daily basis. Follow this tip and you will almost be on par with the full time safari guides.

In the reception area of each main camp of the Kruger Park (there are 12 in total) you will find a map of the park with small color coded magnets available to stick onto it. The idea is for visitors to report their daily sightings of the big five (and on some maps, wild dog and cheetah) by placing the relevant color magnet onto the area of the map where they spotted the animal.

For instance, black = leopard, blue = buffalo and so on. It's completely voluntary but many people pay a visit to the map after their morning drive and report what they have seen. And it's this map then that can really help you to plan where you are going to drive every day.

There is no guarantee that the wildlife will still be there of course (they probably won't), but it gives you a general picture of which routes your chances are the best of seeing the big five because animals tend to be territorial. And sometimes it might just be a lion kill in which case they will hang around for days on end.

Just talking to other self guided tour visitors and asking about what they have seen is also a great way of finding things you would otherwise have missed. I have lost count of the times that I have asked people what they have seen and they have directed me to a lion, leopard or rhino sighting.

And here is the single most important thing you need to do on your self guided tour that will ensure you see a lot more animals than you normally would...

Get up early!

Yep, it's as simple as that. You need to get up so early that you can be in the queue when the camp gates open which is as early as 4:30 am in the summer. A few other people have cottoned onto this secret too so you won't be the only one parking your car in line but it really does make a difference. Trust me on this one.

The reason is that a lot of the nocturnal animals are still active at this time returning from the evenings foraging for food so you have a good chance of spotting them. Any later and you will have very little to no chance.

Lions also seem to enjoy lounging around on the road in the evening or early morning. I have no idea why but they do. When the sun comes up it gets too warm and they move off so catch 'em while they are still there by getting up early.

And please remember to observe the self guided tour queue courtesy of not passing the car in front of you once you all start driving. They got up earlier than you for their place so racing past them to get to the animals first is not a good move.

Don't Forget the Binoculars and Field Guide

Indespensible aids for spotting wildlife are a good pair of self guided tour binoculars and a field guide to identify animals and birds.

guide your own safari ebook When you spot something exciting the binoculars will bring you a lot closer to the action and a good field guide is filled with information about animal behaviour which will help you find them in the first place and then identify them exactly once you do.

NEXT: Kruger Park accommodation, transportation, food and drink...

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