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Safari Survival Tips

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Most of these Safari Tips are courtesy of safari guide and driver, Adam1. His advice was administered while on a safari to the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Parks. Lots of his valuable tips were circulated, round the fire, in the form of stories designed to leave any listener lying rigid with fear and unable to sleep.

Adam's Tales

All they found in the morning were his boots...

There was one client who was keen on astronomy. The stars are very clear at the Ngorongoro crater. That evening when everyone went to their tents he was gazing up into the night sky. In the morning his tent was open, his binoculars lay by his camp stool, but he wasn't there. Later in the day, wardens reported a pair of boots found, down on the plain, on the crater floor.

The moral of this story is don't wander off on you own, particularly in the dark. In fact stay in your tent at night.

All they found in the morning were his glasses...

A man was walking in the Serengeti conservation area at night, going home to his village. He was late, it was dark and he was uneasy about the eyes he could see occasionally. They glowed in the bush behind him. The number of pairs of eyes grew... to six, so when he saw another set of eyes, ahead, but at human eye level he was very relieved. Until he saw the bank at the side of the road and the hyena poised on top of it.

The lesson of this story is don't take liberties with hyenas around. Hyaenas start to gather to scavenge round the camp when everyone is in their tents and the fires die away. You can hear them as you lie awake in the dark... a faint howl to your right... an answering yip over on the left... a louder yelp from behind... a loud cackle right by your ear... a padding, shuffling noise at the front...

All they found in the morning were his glasses and his boots...

The local doctor was going home after a party. He was very tired. As he walked his arms hung limp, loose by his sides, and his head drooped.
He never reached home.

Basically, stay alert. Predators pick the weak and the lame and loose limbs are a sure sign of a sick animal.

The one who survived...

After an evening of stories, one client refused to sleep alone. He insisted on sharing my [Adam's] tent. It can be quite chilly at night, up on the rim of the crater. He zipped his sleeping bag up to his neck.
Lions nearby set off after a buffalo. In the dark it ran straight into the campsite, entangling its horns in guy ropes - [Adam's] tent guy ropes. It dragged the tent across the clearing before disentangling itself and disappearing, leaving two lions staring at a heaving heap of canvas.
I got myself clear, because I don't zip up my sleeping bag, and started yelling. The rest of the campsite woke up and joined in. By the time the client got himself out the lions had taken themselves off, they don't like unfamiliar noises.

Don't zip your sleeping bag on safari, you may need to get out in a hurry. Also, remember animals shy away from unfamiliar noises.

Unembroidered Tips

  • Keep your tent zipped up. In the evening, when it cools down, a still warm tent and sleeping bag is an attractive place for snakes.

  • Never leave food in the tent unless you want a close encounter with the yellow fangs of an olive baboon.

  • Don't feed the animals. If you've ever seen what an elephant will do to get a few green leaves from the top of a tree you'll know why.

Boring but Necessary

  • Be prepared for life to be basic. No electricity, no phone, sometimes only the water you take with you. The loo is a long drop hole in the ground. The shower may be a bucket, if you have water to spare.

  • Campsites are not fenced, anything can, and does, wander across it.

  • Emergency and breakdown services can be 24 hours away or more.

The Tallest Story - A Researcher's Story

Returning from a game drive, we found that the cook had carefully dug 4 inch deep moats around each of our tents. That morning a lion had upset all the cooks, the only ones at the camp at the time, by sauntering through the middle of the site. Adam said the moats were there because lions, (well known for their laziness), on coming to a dip in the ground will follow it rather than climb out of it. Therefore, on coming to the moat round your tent they follow it round the tent, instead of going straight through.

The survival tip from this story is if you're more worried about lions than about what the rest of the campsite might think of you, give moats some consideration.

Places like the National Parks in Tanzania are incredible, well worth the effort to see. We are the aliens there, these places are not man-made, they follow their own rules not ours. If you get eaten its because you made yourself into an available snack, not because of anything evil or even ill-intentioned. Just respect their rules.

1Adam is a great guide/driver based in Arusha, Tanzania as of December 1994.

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