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How to safari like a pro in Africa

Published July 22nd, 2015

If the closest you thought you'd get to Africa was watching The Lion King, think again. Our mates at Topdeck are offering a whopping 35 percent off selected Africa trips until 31 July. These deals offer more bang for your buck and you have just over a week to make that African adventure (at an unbeatable price) a reality. We're also here to help, with our top tips on how to safari like a pro in Africa. Lions and elephants and giraffes, oh my!

Game reserves are not theme parks

This is Africa, not Australia Zoo. You're out in the wild among untamed, untrained and unpredictable animals. They don't appear at scheduled times, so it's important to remember: patience, grasshopper.

Your ranger will be your new best friend, too. While they have no control over the animals, they'll help you get the most out of your trip, whether it's framing a photo or spotting a particular species. But just remember that your group will remain as unobtrusive to the animals as possible and your leader will never put you in any potentially unsafe situations just so you can get that Instagram shot. Take heed of your guide's directions, and for the love of all things khaki, do not wander off on your own!

The Big 5 and more

The lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo were so dubbed 'The Big 5' in the 19th century as they were the hardest animals for game hunters to track. These days, it's about only taking photographs and leaving footprints, mmmkay?

While it's likely you will see most of the Big 5 (the leopard is particularly elusive) don't despair if you don't tick them all off. There are plenty of amazing creatures out there, and you may even find a new favourite. Warthogs are particularly adorable (and hilarious) as they scamper off with their babies in tow through the scrub at the sight of humans. Ca-ute!

Shake it, baby

A game drive isn't a game drive if you haven't packed some snacks and bevvies for the afternoon. If you're lucky, the rangers will take care of refreshments. Otherwise, stock up with goodies for the ultimate sundowner session, like South African biltong (similar to beef jerky) and Amarula (a creamy, fruity liqueur).

However, all those drinks, bumpy tracks and potentially chilly evenings are not kind to weak bladders. If you need a loo break, tell the ranger, and they'll be able to show you a spot for the dreaded bush pee. And don't bother bringing loo paper. You'll have to pick it up after you've done your thing and that's well, a little gross.

To selfie stick or not to selfie stick...

Do bring a camera. Something in the SLR realm with a wide angle and zoom lens (bring two if you're gung ho) will grant you National Geographic-worthy images, but even an iPhone will do. However, when it comes to those controversial photo implements...

Don't bring a two-metre-long selfie stick attached to a Go-Pro. The benefits of those sports cameras are an extra wide angle so there's really no need to be sticking something that long out of the truck. It could be snatched out of your grasp by a curious animal or knocked off on a tree branch. What's more, it makes you look like a bit of a moron.

Less is more, except when more is more

You'll probably be camping so you don't need to necessarily pack light; simply pack strategically. Ladies, that means leaving that volumising mascara, bronzer and five kinds of targeting serums at home.

Leave room in your backpack for layers, lots of layers. African days can be scorching and when the sun dips below the horizon, temperatures can turn frigid instantly. Oh, and make sure you've got plenty of bug spray.

Be prepared

Much like Scar sings as he schemes to overthrow Mufasa as king of the Pride Lands, one must be prepared when one travels to Africa. Like anywhere you travel, it's important to keep your wits about you. Don't put yourself in any potentially dodgy situations. Never walk around alone at night, don't stop on the side of the road in remote areas and don't flash your cash around like a big boi anywhere.

Though it's unlikely you'll get into strife, it pays – more than you may realise – to have travel insurance. We won't wax lyrical about being covered for things that may go wrong, just trust us.

Not to mention, a visit to the travel doctor will sort you out with any jabs or medication you may need depending on which part of Africa you visit. It's a small price to pay in minimising the possibility of falling ill.

Have fun!

Above all else, relax and let the good times roll. With increasingly affordable airfares, attractive exchange rates, as well as wicked Topdeck deals, the great plains of the Masai Mara, Okavango Delta or Kruger National Park are no longer the bucket list destinations they once were. A trip to Africa will surpass all your expectations, and linger longer in your memory than all those early morning waiting games.

Anna Howard

I thrive on discovering hidden gems and local haunts wherever I travel, from hole-in-the-wall cafes and dive bars, to antique stores and eclectic markets. I feel just as content in a cosy cabin in the wilderness as I do lost in the crowd of a buzzing city.