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Image: Kariaga Game Reserve website

Game drives and visits to Nature reserves have topped the ‘must do when in South Africa’ list for many years. Not only does it play an important role in the country’s Nature Conservation, it has also transformed South Africa’s Game and Nature Reserve Industry into a multi-billion Rand enterprise over the past few decades. It now ranks as SA’s sixth-biggest in the agricultural sector and employs more than 100,000 people.

Whether you are Safari savvy or a Game drive rookie, here are some points to note before donning your khakis and heading to the bush.

Weather: The major Safari areas of South Africa can get hot – even in winter. Expect days to be warm with plenty of sunshine and the evenings can be chilly. Make sure you pack in plenty of sunscreen lotion with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30-50. Remember the protection factor indicates how many minutes in direct sun you are protected for and needs to be reapplied regularly to prevent sunburn. Although an antiperspirant deodorant to keep you comfortable is recommended, it is unnecessary to marinate in your favorite designer fragrance or cologne in the bush! A good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare and harmful rays of the sun is also a good idea. Keep hydrated at all times during your Game Drive, and do not underestimate the African sun. For a good South African weather resource-click here

Wardrobe: what to pack: While you needn't splash out on all the latest Safari gear, pack neutral toned clothes of light cotton fabrics that blend easily into the bush. A couple pairs of shorts, shirts and a pair of long pants for cooler days will be more than enough. A lightweight rain jacket incase of rain is a necessity, as well as a fleece pullover or cardigan for early morning and night drives.The key is to dress in layers as the weather can quickly go from cold to hot and back again. You will need a good pair of walking shoes for Game walks and a wide brimmed hat to prevent sunburn, especially on the back of the neck. You could pack a few smart-casual outfits for dinner time depending on where you are staying.

Gear: Camera, charger, memory cards. You’ll be taking a lot of photos when you’re out on Safari, but camera equipment can weigh you down—try to pack light so that you are nimble enough to snap that not-to-be-missed shot. You will also need something to protect your equipment from the elements. Store your camera and accessories in a waterproof and dustproof bag. Make sure you take extra memory cards for your camera and a charger or spare batteries. Charge your camera the night or the afternoon before your drive. Keeping other guests and your Guide waiting for you to sort your camera gear out minutes before a scheduled drive is not good Safari etiquette.

Binoculars. For wildlife that is not viewed up close for example birdlife-go with a pair that offers at least 8x30 magnification—that way you’ll be able to comfortably view game from afar and the images will appear crisp and vivid. Packing a small flashlight is always a good idea. Sometimes you have to walk in the dark and being able to see where you are going in the bush is always a good thing! Make sure you always check with your Guide before switching on your flashlight during night drives to not startle Wildlife.

Medicine and toiletries: Pack a small bag or medical kit with your preferred painkillers, some plasters, after sun lotion, stomach relief meds, A SPF lip balm, and an antihistamine cream. Remember to pack any chronic medications or prescriptions (enough for the trip), and a good insect repellent. Most of the lodges and Rest Camps will have a basic medical aid kit, but take a few items to keep with you. Some of the viruses that can be caught in Africa aren’t as simple as getting a jab in the arm, such as Malaria which affects large parts of the continent. Be sure to stock up on the required medication to forego any illness.Please consult your doctor about prophylaxis before your trip and do not forget to pack it.

Reading material: Consider packing a book that you will enjoy reading, or download some good reads to your Kindle. There will be some leisure time during the middle of the day or in the evenings when you will be grateful to have something to read.

Safari Etiquette, what to do and what NOT to do!

  • First rule of the bush- Respect the Wildlife! These animals are not in a zoo and you are visitors to their home. No matter how tame or placid they may appear, they are wild animals. Wild animals are in survival mode 100% of the time. Never underestimate the Wildlife. Of the Safari big 5 animals (Lions, Leopard, Elephants, Buffalo and Rhinos) the Buffalo is known to be the most dangerous. They have that herd mentality, are fiercely protective and will attack together if threatened. Hippos are extremely territorial and protective of their young, they are known to charge if they feel jeopardized. Needless to say, shouting, standing up in the vehicle,yelling, waving arms, pointing selfie sticks or other items outside the Jeep at animals will get you into trouble, either with the animals you are provokin,g or with the operator.

  • Observe and obey your Guide! Safari operators and Guides at the various lodges and Game Reserves will stress basic precautions you need to take while game viewing. It is these professionals’ jobs to keep you and the Wildlife safe, don't make it difficult for them. Pay special attention during a Game Walk. Keep close to your Guide and your voice down. If an animal you approach looks hostile make sure you are not in the way of its escape route. Give the animal a clear birth and don't make any noise to further aggravate the situation.Walk away slowly. If you encounter an animal that doesn't like your presence move back slowly and quietly.

  • Get off the your phone! For the most part you will probably not be able to get a decent signal anyway. Chatting on your phone,updating Facebook or editing images during a Game Drive is remarkably rude. Save the images to edit later, also if you are using your Smart cell phone to take pictures, please remember to turn the camera app sound off and always ask your Guide before taking images of endangered species, the Nature Reserve very well may a privacy policy pertaining to the geotagging of images which may present a potential poach risk to the animals.

  • Manage your expectations! You can not expect to see the Big Five the very first time you go on a drive. Animals are unpredictable.Your Guides will do their utmost to find the animals you are interested in but there's no guarantee you'll see everything. Make sure you communicate which animals you’d like to see and what you may have seen on previous drives to better your chances. Respect your fellow passengers wishes to stop and spend time looking at animals they are excited about.

* Tipping! Don't forget to tip your Guides, and camp staff while on Safari. Tips make up a big percentage of the staff's salary, ask your tour operator for guidelines if you are unsure of what is fair, obviously for outstanding service and experience there is no limit to tipping, and gratuity will never go unappreciated.

Lastly keep in the mind the difference between visiting a Private Game Reserve and the public ones. The difference isn’t to do with luxury (though that is usually the draw card to some of the private ones), the difference is due to the fact that the private ones can go off-road when you’re on Safari while the public ones (e.g. Kruger National Park) don't allow. This means a private game reserve drive allows guests to get as up close as possible to the wildlife.

There are an abundance of Nature and Game Reserves in South Africa and the Eastern Cape region is very popular choice for those opting for an African Safari experience. Some of the most spectacular award- winning Game and Nature Reserves in the Eastern Cape are:

Kwandwe Game Reserve

Addo Elephant National Park

Amakhala Game Reserve

Kariega Game Reserve

Shamwari Game Reserve

For more information about Game and Nature Reserves and other world class attractions in the Eastern Cape area click here: At Sheilan House Port Alfred we offer our guests luxury 4 star accommodation perfectly situated close to many of the best Game Reserves the Eastern Cape has to offer.

We are more than happy to facilitate a day visit to a local Game Reserve or arrange transport from one when you are ready to move on and explore Port Alfred- often referred to as the heart of the Sunshine Coast. Book directly with us! Sheilan House [email]( ) or call: Cell phone: +27 82 894 1851 Phone: +27 46 624 4