We asked the Encompass Africa team: what are your best tips for people travelling to Africa?
Jono’s top tips
Founder |Adventurer |MD
Start planning early
I can’t stress this enough. Yes, you can usually get a last-minute safari to somewhere, but it will rarely be to the place or places at the top of your list. And if you’re thinking about going to multiple camps, you can forget it – the popular ones book out early. After all, we’re talking small, private camps and lodges with just a handful of rooms, not mega hotels catering for thousands.
We recommend people book their safaris one or even two years ahead – it will give you the best opportunity to get the safari you want for the budget that you have.
Worried about safety?
Ask yourself if you’d be put off going to, say, London, Paris or New York for the same reason. I normally tell people that sipping a gin and tonic in the middle of the Serengeti is a lot safer than going to any of these big cities.
When you’re on safari you’re hundreds of miles away from the most dangerous creature on earth: the human being. Ask anyone who’s been on safari, enjoying nature and blissful solitude, and most of them will tell you that they’ve never felt safer anywhere else on Earth.
Go for quality rather than quantity
By this I mean spend more time doing less, and in one spot, rather than jumping around from place to place, spending one night here and one night there. You’ll have a much better experience if you focus on a single country or region, rather than trying to fit all of Africa into one trip.
Spend your money doing amazing things on the ground, rather than forking out for endless transfers and expensive regional flights to places where you’ll only spend a night or two and never get to fully appreciate.
Danica’s top tips
GM| Guest Services | Creative
Less is more
You won’t need nearly as much in your bag as you think. Do a trial pack, then a day later revisit it and take away at least a third of the items.
Let there be light
What I mean by this is open your curtains and doors, and let in the light and the sounds and smells of Africa. You might never be in this part of the world again, so make sure you truly immerse yourself in it.
Avoid the damp and dank
There’s nothing worse than a suitcase full of wet clothes, dusty books or leaking beauty products – so when it comes to packing, ziplock bags or something similar are your best friends.
Conditioner is your friend
Conditioner isn’t a guarantee in camps so if, like me, you have thick hair, you’ll need to take your own to avoid looking like Marge Simpson!
If you are walking or trekking, I highly recommend you take trekking wool that you can put in your shoe to avoid your socks moving and rubbing. It works a treat and you can buy them in bags of varying sizes. Make sure you get 100% wool otherwise I can’t guarantee it will make a difference.
Gen’s top tips
Africa Specialist | Brisbane
Before heading on your safari
Jump onto Pack for a Purpose, a website that asks people to sacrifice a small amount of space in their luggage in order to pack supplies urgently needed by local communities and conservation initiatives.
It’s supported by many of the properties and safari operators that we work with, so we always try to encourage our guests to pack something that will be truly welcomed – and you can use the space you free up for souvenirs!
Pack your medication
Medication should always be packed in your carry-on and not your check-in luggage.
Aside from preventing issues in the unlikely event that your bags go missing, the extreme temperature changes in the aircraft’s hold can cause medication to become less efficacious or even inactive.
You’ll get the best experience with your guide
if they can see you’re engaged and asking lots of questions.
The more interested you are, the more they’ll be willing and eager to share their amazing stories and knowledge.
Stephanie’s top tips
Africa Specialist | Sydney
Don’t feel the need to buy an entire safari outfit
You can easily wear clothes that you already own, as long as the colours are neutral. When I’m on safari I live in jeans or shorts and dress in layers, as the mornings are cold but once the sun is up things heat up quickly. And always take half of what you think you’ll need! You can do laundry as you go and no one will be surprised or offended if you wear the same outfit to breakfast, lunch and dinner for a few days in a row.
I held off for years, as guides will share theirs with you as often as they can, but nothing beats having your own pair to scour the horizon, especially when you’re in your room and want to see what’s going on out in the wild beyond your window. They don’t have to be expensive, but really are worth the purchase.
Put your camera down
Like most people, I used to take many, many pictures when on safari, but I’ve realised that (a) I’m no professional photographer so they’re not brilliant and (b) I don’t really do anything with the photos when I get home. So now, instead of trying to capture the perfect shot, I try to absorb the scene with my own eyes, and just really enjoy the moment. Some moments – as well as sounds, smells and feelings – can never be captured in a photo, but they can live in your memory.
Don’t over-do it
When planning their first trip to Africa many people try to cram lots in, but I alway say don’t try to do too much – safaris are more tiring than you think and it’s best to leave while you’re still loving early morning game drives, rather than looking forward to them ending.
I love going on safari and would never miss a game drive, but after 10 days I’m ready for a change of activity. Nothing beats ending a safari with some time on a beautiful beach – or even sandwiching a beach escape between two different safaris, so you can have a break from dawn wake-up calls!
Don’t be scared of visiting cities
Cities such as Cape Town or Johannesburg are wonderful places with lots to do, see and experience. There’s no reason to avoid them, especially if your accommodation, transfers and day tours are arranged in advance. But even if you’re wanting to travel independently and self-drive around Cape Town, there’s nothing to fear. Simply take the usual precautions you’d follow in any big city (like not wearing every diamond you own), and follow local advice such as avoiding driving in areas you don’t know and being sure to take taxis at night, even if you’re only travelling a short distance. These incredible cities will really surprise you.
Katie’s top tips on Africa travel
Guest Services | Brisbane
Utilise our safari concierge
We have a great online platform with loads of helpful information to ensure your holiday is effortless.
Read your documentation carefully
It is important that you are prepared for what awaits. Our final travel documentation is really thorough so you will see all of the minor details that really matter on the ground.
Make sure you have your passports valid for 6 months from the date you get home. Visit your GP to ensure you have the right vaccinations and any preventative medication (malaria tablets). Know the visa requirements and costs and get your money ready for visas, tipping and your shopping!
Twenty kilograms of luggage is actually quite a lot, and whatever you pack, you probably won’t use all of it. We have a lot of guests worry that they won’t be able to pack in accordance to the luggage weight and bag restrictions. But it’s perfectly achievable, and our packing list is a great guide for what you will and won’t need. I only packed 12kg on my last safari!
Put away your plastics
Plastic bags are banned in a number of African countries so don’t take any with you! You could get fined and even prosecuted.