East African Game Drives
So, you’re planning on going on a safari, or, you’re so excited that you could burst because you’re now counting down the months/weeks/days until your already booked African adventure. But what will it actually entail?
Everyone’s seen the glamour of a game drive in some shape or form. Documentaries have long brought the animal specked landscapes of Africa to life and with advances in technology, the footage just continues to get better. Seeing the drama for yourself though, that’s different. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s spectacular.
Having recently done our Kenya Classic itinerary himself, Philip gives the low-down on the nitty gritty of what to expect on a game drive.
As far as our East Africa itineraries are concerned, going classic will see you making yourself at home in a spacious six-seater safari jeep. And ‘home’ really is the operative word here, as this hardy 4x4 is to be your transport from start to finish. With its comfy seats, constantly replenished stock of bottled water and a snazzy pop-up roof, whether you’re on safari or simply driving between parks, you’ll be travelling in style.
Really the feature to talk about here is the pop-up roof. When on a game drive, the obvious goal is to get the best sightings possible which is made a whole lot easier when you can stick your head out of the roof. Plus, being able to stand gives you the room to get better angles for your safari scene snaps.
If like me you go for the classic rather than a flying safari, you’ll be with the same guide – who doubles up as your driver – throughout your trip. Not only does this bring quite a lot of ease to the situation, but it means that you can actually strike up a real bond with the person that you’re essentially going to spend your holiday with. Continuously undergoing up-to-date training, able to speak multiple languages and boasting a strong knowledge (and passion) of the flora, fauna and local culture that you will encounter on your trip, the guides are well equipped to make this the holiday of a lifetime.
Speaking from personal experience, the guides are unbelievably friendly, knowledgeable and genuinely care about you getting good sightings. They know where prides of lions usually hang out and even roughly where specific leopards might be – they’re usually hiding, but just knowing that they could be nearby is exhilarating enough. They really do try their very best to find as many animals as possible and are all about the quality sightings, so try and seek out area where there won’t be too many other vehicles around.
Morning Game Drives
Typically starting any time between 5.30am and 7.30am (depending on the season), morning game drives mean setting a pre-crack-of-dawn-alarm. But don’t fear, most lodges perk you up with an early morning coffee spread, so you won’t be too groggy when you venture out in search of big game. And East African coffee is notoriously brilliant, so you’re in for a treat.
It’s best to get out as early as possible as the cooler it is the more active the animals will be – in fact this is one of the best times to catch one of the big cats hunting as they tend to sleep during the midday heat. Basically this is a race between you and sunrise. And when you do sight sunrise over the savannah? It’s beautiful. I can see why bloggers rave about golden hour.
After around two and a half to three hours of soaking up all that a morning in the national park has to offer, you’ll race back to camp to catch a late breakfast and digest all that you’ve seen. With a few hours to go until your afternoon adventure, you’re free to while away your time lounging by the pool, visiting a local community, enjoying a nature walk, or just relaxing in your room only interrupted by lunch – you are on holiday after all.
Afternoon Game Drives
Come mid-afternoon, the heat has died a little and any time between 3pm and 4.30pm is usually deemed a good time to set off on your second game drive of the day. Pre-game drive snacks and coffee will be laid on by the lodge and then you’re good to go.
Refreshed from a midday snooze – and we’re not just talking about the animals – your afternoon game drive will bring all kinds of circle of life moments. After (hopefully) plenty of superb sightings, the real highlight lies in the journey back to the lodge. Seeing a giraffe is fantastic, but seeing the sunset created silhouette of a giraffe and acacia dotted plain is nothing short of incredible.
If you’ve arranged sundowners, or have them included with that particular lodge, you’ll get plenty of time to soak up this sight as you stop to enjoy a drink in the bush. And if not, then you’ll be heading back for a well-earned dinner at the lodge. But the night doesn’t end there. Once you’ve had your fill, a romantic stroll around the lodge's grounds is most definitely on the cards – with little to no light pollution, the stargazing opportunities in this part of the world are immense.