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What to Expect From a Day on Safari

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Herd of elephants at sunset in Chobe National Park, Botswana

Chobe National Park, Botswana

A day on safari is a unique experience that feeds your soul from sunrise to sunset. What to expect on an African safari can be different each day, depending on the season and location, but the general logistics are similar.

Go on safari and experience heart-pounding intensity one moment, followed by long stretches of searching the landscape for wildlife the next. All this is intertwined with quality downtime in some of Africa’s most luxurious and unique accommodations.

What is an African safari like? Going on a safari is unpredictable, with experiences that offer panoramic views of plains or rampaging herds, often at the same time. The following guide covers what a day on safari is like, illustrating how each may be similar in design, but with experiences that differ.

  1. Early Morning
  2. Late Morning
  3. Early Afternoon
  4. Late Afternoon and Early Evening
  5. Night Time Experience
  6. Plan Your Day with a Safari Specialist

Early Morning

Hippos at sunrise, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Your typical day begins early, usually before sunrise. A quick and easy breakfast often includes tea, coffee, and baked treats, before you head out for a game drive to spot wildlife as the bush comes alive.

The cool temperatures see animals stepping out into the day, presenting a prime opportunity for safari-goers to see them more easily. As the sun comes up, wildlife like elephants and giraffes start moving to waterholes, while predators may be seen nurturing a kill from the night before.

There is nothing like hot coffee or tea enjoyed with a view of the savanna at sunrise or the woodlands as light peeks through the trees, and finding the perfect place to set the scene is part of the ritual.

Learn more: The Big Five, the Little Five, and How to See Them • How to Choose a Safari Destination for Your Trip

Late Morning

Herd of zebras in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Animal activity seems to slow down as the day heats up. As you explore, you will notice the wildlife shifts from active predators, chatty birds, and waterhole gatherings to herds of zebra and gazelle.

After a few hours of safari, you will most likely return to your accommodations for a hearty breakfast, or you might stay in the wilderness for a “bush breakfast”. The experience blends luxury and scenery, with a hospitality team setting up tables, and chairs, and creating an ideal ambiance.

The day seems young, yet so much has taken place already, so a rest or reading may be in order, a moment to take in all that has unfolded thus far.

The heat of the late morning will impact the vibrancy of the wildlife, but experiencing the scenery adds to the dimensions of the overall game drive. Learn more about the diversity and significance of the scenery with our landscapes and habitats to explore on an African safari.

Early Afternoon

King's Pool Camp, Linyanti Wildlife Reserve in Botswana

King's Pool Camp, Linyanti Wildlife Reserve in Botswana

If your lodge or camp serves lunch rather than mid-morning brunch, the midday meal will most likely be served on a communal deck or large patio with views of a waterhole.

The time between brunch or lunch and your next safari activity is yours to do as you please. Visit the library, enjoy a drink while watching for waterhole activity, or strike up a conversation with a lodge or camp team member.

Some guests relish the idea of taking an afternoon nap, the sounds of the bush helping you to nod off. If a spa treatment is your thing, escape into paradise of a different kind, either at the lodge’s wellness center or in the privacy of your private deck.

Where you take a safari can have an impact on the type of day of the experience. The types of safari accommodations and how to choose can help you better understand how you may engage with the wildlife and wilderness, while what’s the difference between National Parks, Conservancies, Private Concessions, and Private Game Reserves can give you more insight into how each destination is managed. This can determine whether you visit an area specific to wildlife or one that is shared with local communities.

Late Afternoon and Early Evening

Lion in the Kalahari, South Africa

Kalahari, South Africa

The animals are active again in the late afternoon and gearing up for your second game drive of the day is exciting. Guests meet on the communal deck or in the dining area for a high tea comprising homemade treats, sandwiches, and more.

As you head out, stay alert for active wildlife. Predators like leopards, lions, and especially hyenas are lively after an afternoon sleep. As the temperatures start to drop, the bush comes alive, with creatures big and small stirring.

Sundowners are an afternoon game-drive tradition, offering a refreshing drink at a scenic lookout with breathtaking views of the African sun as it bids goodnight. Returning to your lodge in the early evening light, your guide will be on the lookout for any nocturnal animals.

The time you take your safari can significantly impact what you take with you on a game drive. Our guide on what to bring on an African safari can help you decide how to pack, especially when considering what the changing times of a safari can mean for your experience.

Night Time Experience

Leopard in a tree during a night game safari

Night Game Drive

Depending on where your journey takes place, you may have a night safari with a vehicle equipped with a powerful spotlight and a spotter looking for the eyes of a passing predator or prey. Expert night trackers are excellent at spotting nocturnal regulars in trees and bushes.

A night safari gives you a completely different perspective of animal activity. However, if this is not an option for you or you prefer to stick to daytime game viewing, the comforts of your lodge will provide the perfect end to a wonderful day.

Enjoy a delicious dinner followed by some time at the bar or around a cozy campfire as you recall the events of your day, perhaps sharing stories with other guests. Gaze at the stars before retiring to your luxury tent or room, a good night’s rest all that separates you from waking up and doing it all over again.

Learn more: Types of African Safaris: Different Ways to Experience a Safari

Plan Your Day with a Safari Specialist

Sundownders in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Sundowners in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

A day on safari will unveil countless wonders. Whether a traditional game-drive safari, a guided walking safari, a hot-air balloon ride, horse riding, or a mountain-biking safari experience, your day will unfold in similar ways as you explore the African bush.

As you look to plan your immersive safari experience, discover the best time to go on an African safari to make the most of each day. Visit our African safari travel guide to get a wealth of information that can prepare you for exciting adventures and luxuries. When you are ready to book, explore our African safaris and contact a Zicasso Africa travel expert to get the process started.

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