Going on safari is all about wildlife spotting, so a little preparation and research to help you see more is a worthwhile investment – whether you’re searching for the big five, or even more elusive little five. These 7 tips are a beginners guide to spotting wildlife whilst on safari:
1. Consider Time of Day
Time of day is probably the most crucial factor in determining animal movements and behaviours. Dawn and dusk tend to be the most active time for most mammals and birds, when there’s some light but the heat of the sun is most diminished. Although the middle of the day is usually too hot for much action, reptiles are most visible then, and many mammals can be seen lounging in the shade of larger trees.
2. Find Water
Most animals will drink daily when water is available, so finding water yourself is good tip – particularly in the dry season. Hanging out quietly at watering holes, or on stretches of rivers or lakes which offer animals easy access will give you a good chance of spotting game Predators and large herbivores tend to drink at dawn or dusk, whilst antelopes drink in small doses throughout the day. Rhinos favour mid evening drinking sessions from dark until around 10pm.
3. Know Habitats
Knowing which animals like favour which type of habitat will help, but knowing specifically where to look will improve your chances of spotting immensely. Animals like particular places to shelter within a habitat, whether it be under or in trees, in or on termite mounds, holes in the ground, reeds or grassland etc. Learning the specific sheltering habits of a species makes for a useful shortcut when scouting the terrain.
4. Take a Guided Tour
One guided safari with a good guide gives you the opportunity to chat to your guide, and learn a few tricks. After a few hours of spotting with a professional you’ll start to understand at least some of the telltale animal signs they’re looking for, and be able to put it to good use yourself.
5. Watch the Weather
Weather conditions effect animal activities enormously. Generally speaking, sun or high winds drives animals to take cover, so you should be looking in sheltered areas. Overcast weather can prolong the dusk & dawn activity of many animals, meaning good viewing conditions. Storms are often followed by bursts of activity as insects and frogs emerge – followed by their predators. Unusually cold nights may force nocturnal species to stay active through the dawn.
6. Look for Tracks & Signs
Even if you don’t see the animals themselves, you may see telltale signs – tracks, droppings, nests, scrapes etc. Elephants and the larger predators will leave obvious tracks on sand or dirt roads, so check often. As cats and dogs often use roads to hunt, if you see their tracks leaving the road this may mark the spot they left the road to hunt, so keep a watchful eye!
7. Have the Right Tools
2 accessories will greatly enhance your wildlife viewing (if you remember to pack them in your safari bag!): 1) A good pair of binoculors will help you to spot animals further away, and give you a better look when you’re close up. 2) An guide book with pictures and descriptions of the animals of can expect to see will allow you to identify what you’re seeing more precisely.