When you are in Africa, game drives are one of the exciting activities. Below we share seven tips that are useful for spotting wildlife.
Text: Angelique van Os | Photography: Henk Bothof
1. Get the timing right
Go for exciting game drives early in the morning before or near sunrise. Or at the end of the day. Then the light is best for photographing and predators are active. You can also brave the worst heat.
Be as quiet as possible and look carefully towards bushes and trees. These are good hiding places for felines. Take your binoculars with you and regularly screen the area. In addition, there is a good chance that you will encounter wildlife at a watering hole.
It’s an open door, but don’t wear brightly colored clothing. On a walking safari it is better not to wear white or black, because predators can associate that with the tail or the rear of a prey animal. Or they see you as competition. You will be amazed when suddenly a lion appears behind you. Wear green, beige or brown colors. Dark blue is also good.
4. Stick to the rules
It’s a huge cliché, but it happens too often that people are stubborn: always stay in the car! Unless your guide says it’s safe to get out. For example, as long as you are in the car, a feline will not see you as a threat, but as part of an object. If you climb out of the car, it’s a different story.
Listen to instructions
Also, don’t just stand or make quick movements in the car when you are near large animals. They may be frightened or feel threatened. Always keep sufficient distance. Wild animals are always unpredictable, so listen carefully to the guide’s instructions. He or she knows exactly how to ‘read’ a particular animal and respond to their behavior.
5. Ensure division of labor
To preserve as much as possible the experience and memory of the animals you have spotted, you can agree that one person will film and the other will take photographs.
6. Read up
Investigate animal tracks and feces in advance. It also helps if you know which animals (and plants) you can encounter at the location in question. This way you can also participate in the ‘game’ along the way and increase your chance of success. And you might impress the guide.
7. Make a choice
Take your time: if you have found a leopard or cheetah, discuss with your guide (and other travelers) whether you can stay a little longer. It is often better to choose to see one animal (and family) than to see a little or nothing of everything. It is special to be able to observe animals up close and the moment passes in no time. And even if they are found, the wait will be worth it. Animals almost always start moving and that’s when things can get really interesting!
If you may encounter a different track in advance, discuss with your guide what offers the best opportunities. If you have cheetahs in mind, but you find tracks of a lion and there is a good chance that you can trace the lion(s), make an informed choice.