Safari: The Extraordinary Rules

Rule One: Sleep with the curtains open. Nothing beats an African sunrise, and the best way to experience it is from the comfort of your own bed, opening your eyes to a magnificent vista glowing in the morning light. Many safari lodges are designed specifically to make the most of the rising or setting sun, and even when there aren’t magnificent landscapes to admire, you never quite know what you might see taking an early morning stroll past your room.

Doro Nawas, Namibia

Doro Nawas, Namibia

Rule Two: Leave the pith helmet at home. Even though will provide endless amusement for your fellow safari goers (and ample opportunities for them to practice covert portrait photography), the days of the mighty pith helmet are past. A bush hat or any wide-brimmed hat will do nicely.

Rule Three: Cameras should be seen, but not heard. Nothing ruins the magic of a moment in the bush listening to an elephant’s rumble than the irritating snap and whirr of a camera. In these days of digital photography, the sound effects are rarely necessary and can really detract from the experience. Which leads us to…

Rule Four: Sometimes, cameras shouldn’t be seen either. Provided you’re spending more than a couple of days on safari (we usually recommend three as an absolute minimum) try at least one game drive without a camera in your hand. Even better, try a walking safari. You notice so much more of the sights, sounds and smells of the bush when you’re not seeing the whole thing through a camera screen. After all, if you wanted to see the bush through a screen, you can do it from your own arm chair with considerably less hassle and have David Attenborough for company.

Safari in the Masai Mara

Fighting lions near Karen Blixen Camp, Masai Mara

Rule Five: Don’t send Mother Nature a shopping list. If you come on safari with a shopping list of animals to tick off, you’re likely to be disappointed. We know one very unlucky girl who spent five days in the Masai Mara and didn’t see a single lion- stupendously unlucky, but it can happen. Instead, be open to whatever the bush may bring, and prepare to be delighted-whether it’s a sighting of a civet, battling giraffes, or ball-pushing dung beetles.  It’s invariably these travellers who end up watching lions battle for supremacy, or catching a river crossing of the Great Migration all to themselves.

Last, but not least, Rule Six: all rules are made to be broken…

My latest crush: Montusi Mountain Lodge

If you have a temper tantrum because you have to leave your lodge, it’s got to be pretty good right? To be fair, my sulks on leaving Montusi were between me, the grasses and the birds,  but I couldn’t help resenting the long drive and the perfectly blameless hire car that were to break me and Montusi apart. Why couldn’t the irritatingly efficient machine break down and leave me stranded, just for a day or two?

Night time at Montusi Mountain Lodge

Starlight at Montusi Mountain Lodge

My most recent trip to South Africa had got off to something of a rocky start, with unseasonal storms in almost every place I visited.  After a long drive through rural KwaZulu Natal  Montusi welcomed me with a cosy fire and vast windows that framed the lightening crackling along the top of the Drakensberg.

Opening my eyes the next morning to glorious sunshine and the sort of view you have to photograph (just so you can show off about it later) I headed for the peak of Mount Montusi. Hiking through meadows that smelled of wild mint and listening to the clanking cowbells only cemented my love for Montusi. Sadly, it seemed as if I had just a few brief stolen moments to admire the view and the bushman rock art (in the UK it’d be behind glass and a velvet rope, here it’s on an open cave wall), and then I had to leave.

Au Revoir Montusi, I’ll be back!

The signs of modern South Africa: A Road Trip around Kwa Zulu Natal

We love visiting Africa, especially on a self drive trip- it’s the best way to experience a country as locals do, rather than flying into remote luxury resorts and never seeing a local village or experiencing an elephant firmly blocking the road. Sometimes it can be exhausting, at others frustrating (a huge thank you to our wonderful client Calynne for putting up with crackly phone calls from deep in the bush), but generally, it’s just wonderful. Most recently we took a road trip around Kwa Zulu Natal and felt as if we’d finally discovered the soul of South Africa (as someone else said- “KZN is where Africa starts…”) Rather than droning on ourselves, just click to let the signs of modern South African speak for themselves…