Though a typical day on safari will vary between safari lodges and camps, the itinerary below is an example of what happens on safari in a private nature reserve, or conservancy, to give you an idea of what happens each day.
It’s important to remember that timings will also vary depending on the season you’re visiting certain countries. For example, in a South African winter, you’re likely to get up slightly later to catch the sunrise and head out slightly earlier in the evening to watch the sunset.
5:00 am: Wake up call
A typical day on safari starts very early, with a wake-up call around 5 am. Though that may seem outrageous, it’s totally worth it as the animals are most active in the morning, before the high temperatures cause the predators to rest and hide in the bush.
If you’re not woken up by the call of birds close to your tent, you can set your alarm or a member of the camp staff may come by to wake you up.
5:15 am: Coffee and rusks
Some camps bring coffee or tea and biscuits to your room, while others will serve it in the mess tent. It’s a good idea to eat and drink something, as you’ll be out on your game drive for a few hours and you don’t want your rumbling tummy disturbing the wildlife!
6:00 am: Morning drive
Next, it’s the reason you’re here! Your morning game drive. You’ll climb aboard a jeep with a driver and tracker and head out into the bush to see what you can find.
The rangers might have heard animals during the night or while setting up for the morning drive, so they will head out in that direction. Other times, they’ll just drive in search of animals tracks and more often than not will get lucky.
The morning game drive normally takes around 3 hours, so if you’re used to having breakfast early, you might be hungry by the time you get back to camp.
9:30 am: Breakfast
Breakfast is one of the best meals of the day on safari, and will often involve cereal, toast, yoghurt, fresh fruit and a full English too.
Sometimes, the guides will organise breakfast in a local beauty spot during the drive. You may find yourself munching on a piece of pineapple while overlooking a huge family of hippos. You wouldn’t get that at home, so make sure you soak it all up!
10:30 am: Bushwalk
If you’re staying in a private game reserve, your camp might offer an optional bush or nature walk, accompanied by an expert guide. Sometimes camps will run a trip to a local village instead.
If you are given the chance to go on a bushwalk, I highly recommend it. This will not be about trying to find big game but instead is an opportunity to learn about the plants and animal tracks. On one walk in South Africa, we came face to face with a family of white rhino, and it was easily one of the most exhilarating and humbling moments of my life! This is incredibly rare though – most walks are uneventful on the big 5 front, but it still pays to be aware, just in case.
11:30 am: Freetime
You’ll have a bit of time to rest before lunch, so take the opportunity to freshen up, have a shower or take a nap to give yourself enough energy for the day ahead.
1:00 pm: Lunchtime
Depending on your camp, lunch will either be served in the mess tent or outside around the camp. It will often be a buffet style, with salads to start, a main course and pudding.
2:00 pm: Free time
After lunch, you’ll have free time to rest in your tent or explore the camp. Some camps will have small pools you can splash around in, others will have bookshelves full of field guides and stories, but there’s nothing quite like just sitting around and appreciating the nature around you! You might even be lucky enough to spot monkeys or other animals playing nearby.
4:00 pm: Afternoon tea
Before you head out on your afternoon game drive, you’ll be served tea or coffee and a snack in the mess tent. This should keep you going until the sundowner.
4:30 pm: Evening game drive
The evening game drive will last about 3 hours, and will often involve trying to catch up with the animals you spotted in the morning or looking out for something new.
6:30 pm: Sundowner at sunset
As the sun begins to set, your guides may stop at a scenic spot to set up drinks and snacks. There’s something so special about watching the sunset with a gin and tonic and a handful of local snacks. You can share stories with your fellow safari-goers, or simply soak up the atmosphere of the bush as the stars begin to come out.
7:00 pm: Nocturnal safari
After the sun goes down, your guide and tracker will use a powerful spotlight to help them find nocturnal animals through the reflection in their eyes. The atmosphere is totally different from during the day, and it’s really special if you do see something. Bushbabies, hares and chameleons are quite common to spot at night.
7:30 pm: Drinks around the fire before dinner
After arriving back at camp, the staff will light the campfire and set up chairs around it for you to enjoy drinks before dinner. This is a wonderful time to reminisce over the day’s sightings or to get to know your guides and fellow safari-goers.
8:00 pm: Dinner
Dinner is normally a three-course meal, all cooked fresh in the camp by the local chefs. In Kenya, we were given soup and homemade bread to start, a delicious main of something hearty, followed by a yummy dessert. The staff were able to cater to every dietary requirement, which is quite a feat for a small kitchen in the middle of nowhere!
9:30 pm: Nightcaps around the fire
If you haven’t crashed by now, there will be time to enjoy more drinks around the fire after dinner. It can be tempting to stay up chatting for hours, but remember you’ll have an early start in the morning, so it’s best to retire before too long!