Going on safari is all about viewing wildlife, and these seven best safari wildlife spotting techniques will help you make the most of your trip.
A little study is a valuable investment of your time to have a successful safari in terms of animal spotting – especially on a self-drive safari when you don’t have a guide doing the hard work for you and pointing out the animals.
These recommendations are a beginner’s guide to seeing safari animals when on safari, whether you’re looking for the big five or the much more elusive small five:
Consider Time Of Day
The most important aspect in influencing animal movements and behaviours is the time of day. Mammals and birds are most active during dawn and dusk, when there is some light but the sun has shed much of its heat. Although it is normally too hot for much activity in the middle of the day, reptiles are most visible there, and many animals, such as lions, may be seen resting in the shade of bigger trees, such as lions who like a long peaceful nap in the middle of the day.
When water is available, most animals will drink on a regular basis, so finding a watering hole is a smart idea – especially during the dry season. Hanging out quietly near watering holes or along sections of river or lake that provide easy access to animals can increase your chances of seeing wildlife. Antelopes drink in little amounts throughout the day, whereas predators and huge herbivores drink around dawn or dusk. Rhinos like mid-afternoon drinking bouts, which last until approximately 10 p.m.
Knowing which creatures like particular habitat types can help, but knowing where to look will greatly boost your chances of spotting. Animals prefer certain sheltering areas within a habitat, such as beneath or in trees, in or on termite mounds, holes on the ground, reeds or grassland, and so on. When surveying the landscape, knowing a species’ specialised sheltering patterns is a valuable shortcut.
Take A Guided Safari
Taking a guided safari with a knowledgeable guide allows you to interact with them and learn a few tips. After a few hours of spotting with a pro, you’ll be able to recognise at least some of the unmistakable animal indicators they’re searching for and be able to apply what you’ve learned to your own situation.
Watch The Weather
Weather conditions have a significant impact on animal behaviour. In general, animals seek shelter from the heat or strong winds, so look for them in covered regions. Many animals’ dusk and dawn activity can be prolonged by overcast weather, providing excellent viewing opportunities. Storms are frequently followed by spurts of activity, with insects and frogs emerging, followed by predators. Nights that are very chilly may compel nocturnal creatures to stay active until daylight.
Look For Tracks & Signs
Even if you don’t see the creatures themselves, telltale indicators such as footprints, droppings, nests, scratches, and so on may be visible. Elephants and larger carnivores may leave clear traces in the sand or on dirt roads, so keep an eye out. Because big cats and wild dogs frequently use highways to hunt, you should be aware that if you notice their footprints leaving the road, this might indicate the location where they left the road to hunt, so keep an eye out!
Have The Right Tools
We recommend bringing the following items with you to dramatically enhance your wildlife viewing: To begin, you’ll need a nice set of binoculars. These will assist you in spotting animals from a distance as well as giving you a better view when you’re up close. Kids appear to like attempting to utilise them as well. Second, you’ll need a guidebook with photographs and descriptions of the species you’ll encounter. This will help you to more exactly identify what you’re seeing. The trick is to remember to bring these with you on safari, along with the other items we recommend.
The Big Five
The big five are considered safari royalty in Southern Africa. The term “big five” was coined by game hunters who realised that these animals were the most difficult and hazardous to hunt on foot. They were the most valuable gifts since they were so difficult to find.
The big five are perhaps the most sought-after animals among safari visitors. The African lion, African leopard, African elephant, Cape buffalo, and either white or black rhino are the big five.
However, there are many additional species to view that aren’t considered part of the big five. Spotting a cheetah, wild African dogs, giraffes, and hippos would be a dream come true for most travellers.
What NOT To Do On A Safari
If you’re working hard to observe as much wildlife as possible, be sure you’re not doing anything to drive it away.
Never leave the car without first asking your guide if it is safe to do so. You don’t want to become the animal’s dinner!
If at all possible, turn off the audio on your camera. The sound of the shutter, or the editing and deleting of images while on safari, will drown out the sounds of nature and upset your fellow safari-goers.
This also applies to speaking. Keep your voice quiet since animals have far superior hearing than humans and will flee if they hear your voice.
A safari may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so take use of it! Plan ahead of time, choose a reliable and competent guide, and do some preliminary study. Know what kind of animals you want to see and tell your guide.
Please get in touch with us to discuss how we can create the perfect safari experience for you.
— Bronwyn Reynolds, Fizzin