African Safari 101

I awoke with a start. My sleep-addled brain struggled to determine the unfamiliar surroundings. 

“What was that noise?”

A low heavy “harrumph” was emanating from nearby. Clarity and memory flooded back. I was alone in my tent in the Elephant Camp in Samburu National Park and that noise could only be one of the local pachyderms making their way to the river.   

I frantically started waving the flashlight we had been given by the staff to signal for assistance. Immediately, there was a calm, reassuring voice outside my door. 

“Miss Joy, it's OK. He is only scratching against your tent for a moment. There is nothing to fear.” 

My introduction to safari living had begun.

We arrived in Nairobi in the late evening as is the norm for most international flights. Clearing Customs was quick and efficient and the transfer to our overnight at the Sarova Stanley Hotel uneventful. 

The following morning we were introduced to our tour guides and our group of 13 loaded into our two seven-passenger Safari Land Cruisers and began the first of many long drives. 

Lesson 1

Driving in Kenya is arduous. Traffic is unrelenting and in many areas, the roads are no more than goat tracks. Being in the right vehicles is imperative. We saw other safari operators utilizing minivans and small jeeps and couldn’t imagine how restricting and uncomfortable their journey was. 

Good game viewing allows for you to stand up to take those epic shots as well as allowing equal opportunities for all occupants. 

During our safari, we stayed at three luxury, tented camps. 

This is beyond “glamping”! These permanent fixtures are furnished with king-size canopy beds, clawfoot tubs, outdoor showers and amenities that rival the best hotels in Europe. The staff are professional, kind and hospitable. 

Local Masai are employed as security for each individual tent between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. They are at your beck- and-call for assistance in getting to and from the main lodge area and in my case, getting rid of pesky elephants. 

Lesson 2

Accommodations in Kenya range from large, resort-style lodges to intimate luxury tented camps. 

The large resorts offer pools, spas, fitness centres as well as satellite TV and entertainment. 

The luxury tents are either fenced or un-fenced. The difference becomes the proximity of the local wildlife.  Unfenced allows the animals unrestricted access through the camp and limits your ability to wander freely in the evenings without mandatory security assistance.

WI-FI and electricity in the small camps are provided via generators and only available during set hours. 

By moving around to three different locations we were able to enjoy an ever-changing variety of wildlife. 

The game-viewing days began after a sumptuous early breakfast. We would head off into the national parks to see what awaited us. The guides from various operators all work together via radio to create a network of viewing opportunities. 

The result is that all the visitors have equal access to The Big Five. In fairness, we probably did wait 15 minutes before advising the others about our leopard. 

Lesson 3

Being in the bush in Africa is very different from Canada. The animals in Africa are more likely to hunt you than run from you. My request to “go for a run” was met with incredulity. 

“No, Madam, you cannot go for a run. The animals are everywhere whether you can see them or not.” 

There isn’t much exercise while on safari. And you need some to work off the incredible food they serve every day. 

Trust me, there is so much more to know and understand when planning your African adventure. Push your budget a bit where it counts. 

There’s nothing worse than “cheaping out” on a trip of a lifetime as you’re not likely to get a “re do." 

Ideally, find someone who can give you experienced advice and guide you to those suppliers who can work within your budget and still deliver an epic experience. 


Comments are pre-moderated to ensure they meet our guidelines. Approval times will vary. Keep it civil, and stay on topic. If you see an inappropriate comment, please use the ‘flag’ feature. Comments are the opinions of the comment writer, not of Castanet. Comments remain open for one day after a story is published and are closed on weekends. Visit Castanet’s Forums to start or join a discussion about this story.

More The Joy of Travel articles

About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories