Posts Tagged ‘africa’

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First African Safari

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This year, I (quite spontaneously) embarked on the journey of a lifetime when I booked an African safari tour. I took part in several game drives throughout the trip and the experience was unforgettable. But there are a few things I wish I knew beforehand.

1. You May Not See the Big Five

lion african safari

In fact, it’s very likely that you won’t. I only saw a few, but I was lucky and grateful to see the animals I did see. It’s very much a luck of the draw whether you will see very many animals at all. This is difficult to accept after spending a fortune on the trip and it’s important to stay positive and focus on what you do see and learn. Personally, I was glad to see the beautiful African landscapes, even if the wildlife was a bit sparser than I had hoped. Moreover, I think it’s important to relax and stay in the moment. It’s easy to become caught up in desperately searching for the Big Five and miss out on what’s currently going on around you.

2. Not All Safaris Are Created Equal

sunset african safari botswana

There’s a reason why some national parks, like Masai Mara and the Serengeti, are more popular (and expensive). They simply have the best landscapes and selection of wildlife. I chose to skip on these due to the cost. Instead, I went to Etosha and Chobe National Parks. I still had an unbelievable time and got to see many animals, but I regret not doing a safari in the former locations. The photos that my travelmates had from the Serengeti were National Geographic-worthy. They saw so much wildlife, and their view was unobstructed due to fewer trees and flat land.

3. Get a Seat in Front and Wear Layers

storm african safari botswana landscapeI really wish I had made a point of this. While some jeeps are better than others, for the most part it’s difficult to see everything over the people next to and in front of you. When you sit in front, you can get a better view of the animals from multiple angles. I also found it difficult to hear the guide and ask questions from the back.

I was also surprised to find that it can get really cold when you head out for a morning safari. In my case, we started at our campsite and drove over the main roads to the national park so it was also very windy. Wear layers so you can keep warm until the sun comes up.

4. Rent a Good Camera or Lens

hippos hippopotamus chobe safari AfricaI actually don’t own a good camera. When I travel, I just rely on my phone. In most destinations it’s much more convenient than carrying around a camera and I don’t have to worry as much about damaging it. Although the Google Pixel does take better photos than most, it still didn’t have many features that are practically necessary for an African safari. Most importantly, it doesn’t have a good zoom function. Luckily, I was able to rely on others on my trip for good photos, but I really wish I could have taken some of my own.

Whether you don’t own a camera or just don’t have good lenses, you can rent them without making a commitment and shelling out a fortune. BorrowLenses lets you rent equipment for very reasonable prices.

5. You May Get Emotional
elephant african safari big five

Okay, this one may be just me. But seeing wildlife up close is amazing and inspiring. We saw lions mating right next to our vehicle, baboons protecting their young, and elephants just being their majestic selves. I did tear up a few times. It often felt like a spiritual experience.

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Why Malawi Should Be on Your Bucket List

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malawi village africa chitimba

When I embarked on a 34 day tour of Africa, I’ll admit that I didn’t know all that much about some of the countries I would be visiting. I certainly didn’t know anything about Malawi. But after spending five days there it quickly became my favorite country that I’ve ever visited.

Upon entering Malawi, I was immediately struck by the beauty of Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake. The lake runs nearly the full length of the east side of the country. To the west, a green landscape emerges full of mountain ranges.

This incredibly diverse landscape provides for plenty of local activities, including snorkeling, fishing, horseback riding, and hiking. The hike to Livingstonia, a town that lies on top of the mountains, is particularly impressive. Many locals make this 4-hour hike everyday to trade goods. In addition to offering amazing views of Lake Malawi, the hike also takes you past impressive waterfalls, caves, and swimmable natural springs.

Malawi Livingstonia hike waterfalls

However, the hike certainly isn’t easy. Midway through I suffered a sprained ankle and had to hang back. This seeming misfortune ended up being a great opportunity for immersing myself into the local culture. While waiting for the rest of the group to finish the hike, I spent two hours talking to the local people and sharing stories.

I realized that Malawians were some of the friendliest people I had ever met. Malawi does not have nearly as many tourists as many other African countries, so the locals were so excited to see me and invite me into their world. Despite being one of the poorest countries I’ve ever been to, I found the people so positive and welcoming.

We ultimately ended up staying in Malawi longer than planned since the only bridge allowing us to travel onwards had collapsed from the rain. The locals worked together to rebuild it within two days without any help from the government.

malawi africa children livingstonia school orphanageWhile we waited for the bridge to be rebuilt, our tour group had the opportunity to visit the local school and orphanage. Upon entering the village, we were immediately ambushed by children wanting to hold our hands. When we got to the school, we were taken aback by the lack of resources and poor conditions. We ere able to sit in on a lesson and were stunned to hear that they were learning about HIV prevention and medication side effects at such a young age! It was a truly eye-opening experience.

lake malawi africa livingstonia hike

Seeing the orphanage was equally intense. We walked into a nearly empty room where children were sitting on the floor sharing a single toy. Most of them had lost their parents to HIV. Unlike the children at the school, these children were not excited to see us. Instead they seemed shy and nervous, traumatized from all they had been through.

The bridge collapsing was definitely a blessing in disguise. I’ll never forget the stunning landscapes and friendly faces that are Malawi. Moreover, I gained a new appreciation for the simple things in life. I will certainly be back and I hope to help in any ethical way I can.

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