A day on safari

What to expect on a game drive

What to expect on a typical game drive

An African safari. When it comes to exceptional, unique wildlife experiences, there’s nothing else like it. While game-viewing activities can vary according to destination and season, they usually follow a similar routine which centres around the need to see wildlife at its most active – oh, and a lot of eating!

Here’s a rundown of a typical day on safari:

Early mornings
The best chance to see wildlife is in the mornings, when temperatures are cool and animals are still very active. So you have to get up early! After a “knock knock” wake-up call sometime between 5am and 6am, a quick snack of tea, coffee and biscuits will be brought to your tent or served in a communal area of the camp. It can be freezing in these early hours so dress warmly but in layers, so you can peel off clothes as you warm up.

This will happen quickly if you’re doing a walking safari, but if you get chilly on a 4×4 game drive or boating safari, the vehicles and vessels are always packed with blankets (at luxury lodges you might even get a hot-water bottle!).

After a few hours of mesmerising wildlife viewing, you’ll stop for a bush break and enjoy hot drinks and delicious treats in a scenic spot. Or maybe even a hearty bush breakfast, set up on tables with crisp linens and served by the chef, in a remote and stunning location.

Top tip – Don’t worry if you don’t have a full bush breakfast on your morning game activity – a beautiful breakfast or brunch will be waiting for you when you get back to camp.

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a-day-on-safari-Southern Africa Safari Summer Gen Thurgood


Lunch and early afternoons
Back at camp after a morning game activity you can relax and escape the heat of the day for a couple of hours before lunch (in case you haven’t realised, you’ll never go hungry on a safari!). This is the time to read a book, take a siesta, swing on a hammock, cool off in the pool or indulge in a spa treatment. This is the hottest time of the day, so we recommend you copy the animals and head for a shady spot. Later, at around 3pm, you might have another little snack before heading out on an afternoon game drive.

Top tip – If you’re feeling active, after lunch is a great time to spend with the camp conservation team or get an insight into African life with a visit to a local village.

Late afternoons/early evenings
Afternoon game drives are brilliant because the light is so fantastic. And as the day cools down, the wildlife becomes more active again – predators start to stir and their prey prepares for another nervous night in the wild. As well great wildlife-viewing opportunities there’s another thing to love about evening game drives: sundowners!

You’ll stop at a picturesque spot and admire a beautiful African sunset while your guide and tracker make you the perfect gin and tonic and pass around delicious hors d’oeuvres. You’ll usually return to camp just before dark, in time for a shower before pre-dinner drinks, but if the action is just too good to leave, you may stay out longer. Which means you’ll also have the opportunity to gaze at the incredible stars and perhaps even spot an elusive nocturnal animal. Just be sure to always take warm clothes with you so you can layer up again if you start to get chilly.

Don’t worry, back at camp they’ll push back dinner time, so you won’t miss out! It might even be served al fresco, under those incredible stars. Afterwards, you might care to share stories and post-prandial drinks around a campfire with fellow guests.

Top tip – Once it starts to get dark on a game drive it’s not safe to stop for any “bush loo relief”. So make sure you stop before the sun sets or you’ll have to hold on until you return to camp – which might be some distance away!


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Ila Safari Lodge, Kafue, sundowner, Zambia safari



If you’re staying at a private reserve, it’s likely you’ll be offered the chance to head out on a night-time game drive. Do not miss this unique opportunity. It’s a completely different perspective of Africa’s bush and will round off your safari experience beautifully.

Heading out into the endless bush, the only lights you’ll see will come from the stars above, your 4×4 vehicle’s headlights and a spotlight. This will be held by the expert tracker sitting at the front of the vehicle, constantly on the lookout for wildlife.

Thanks to their knowledge, instinct and brilliant eyes, you might get to spot nocturnal creatures such as chameleons, owls, leopards and, if you’re really lucky, perhaps even a pangolin or aardvark. Then it’s back to camp to enjoy a hot drink before falling asleep to the sounds of the bush and dreaming of your next incredible day on safari.

Top tip – It’s always great to experience at least one night drive, but be aware that it can be cold and, in terms of animal action, slow. It’s more about the pleasure of spotting nocturnal creatures, and the sounds and serenity of the night.



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