What to expect
A luxurious African safari can really only be described as the ultimate vacation. When taking the luxury version of African safari travel you really have the opportunity to get the best of both worlds. You will be able to get out into the wild to observe the animals and being pampered and catered for throughout your journey.
To give an idea how a day in the life of a safari lover looks like:
5.00 to 6.00 am - Wake up with the animals
Most game-viewing activities occur early morning and late afternoon, when the light is rich and animals are not hiding from the hot midday sun. This highly logical behavior forms the basic structure for safari camp life. You'll be woken in your tent or chalet by staff bringing tea or coffee and a basin of hot water for washing. Alternatively, hot drinks and rusks might be served in the dining area or round the fire before the morning's game drive or walk.
6.00 to 9.00 am - Morning game activities
The guides will show you the best of the area. Be sure to ask if you have any special requests to see particular places or species. Water and soft drinks - sometimes coffee and rusks - are carried on board. On cold winter mornings, the game drive may occur a little later, after an early breakfast, when the day is warming up.
9.00 to 10.00 am Breakfast
Breakfast is the first self-control test of the day. Large amounts of good food will be laid before you, but as safari life is relatively inactive (unless you're on a walking safari), several days in camp can feel like a premeditated assault on your waistline. Expect a buffet of cereals, fruit, toast, and "The full bacon-and-eggs Monty," cooked to order. Usually this is served at the lodge, although some camps, especially in East Africa, will vary the routine by including a bush breakfast. Staff will set this up during your game activity. In southern Africa there is an increasing trend towards having longer morning game activities prior to a brunch, a real feast to see you through to afternoon tea.
10.00 to 12.30 pm - Free time
Tempting as it may be, you can't go wandering off into the bush on your own. Most camps or lodges have a small library containing reference books about the bush and wildlife, and possibly novels left by other guests, but it's advisable to take a couple of your own books. This is also an excellent time for bird watching, as camps are usually constructed in the shade of trees. Many also overlook waterholes and there may be a hide you could sit at. You'll be surprised how good the game viewing can be at this time. It may seem like a void at first, but you soon appreciate having this free time structured into your day.
12.30 to 1.30 pm - Lunch and siesta
Meals are at set times due to the obvious logistical constraints of preparing feasts over a fire in the bush and of keeping prepared food fresh. Lunch usually comprises a buffet of salads, often with hot options, bread baked in the coals and a choice of puddings. Meals are the main chance to mix with other guests; potluck dictates how agreeable they are. Some camps arrange a special honeymoon meal as a one-off treat, so newly-weds can eat in a private (but safe) spot surrounded only by wilderness.
3.30 to 4.00 pm - Afternoon tea
Mid-afternoon, staff will wake you by knocking discreetly. If you have a bucket shower, they may bring warm water now so you are fresh for afternoon tea. You're likely to be offered cake or biscuits (as if you haven't eaten much today), however if you have had a large brunch in late morning, a spread of savories may be served.
4.00 to 7.30 pm - Game viewing
Evening game drive or walk - a chance to search for a particular species you haven't yet seen, or perhaps follow the progress of a pride or herd spotted earlier. Guides usually find a scenic viewing spot for sundowners. Dusk is short and darkness comes quickly in Africa, so by the time you're driving back to camp, you'll probably be using a spotlight to pick out animals' luminous eyes and shadowy forms. You're likely to return to the lodge about one and a half hours after dark.
7.30 - 10.00 pm - Dinner time
There'll be about 15-30 minutes for getting changed and having aperitifs round the campfire. Dinner is usually candle-lit and can be al fresco or within an open-sided dining area. Three courses, with grape, is the norm, possibly including some game meat like impala or ostrich. There may be a choice of two dishes and most lodges are very good at providing a wide-ranging menu during your stay. The food in most camps is excellent, but do tell the camp manager if you have any specific dietary requirements or dislikes. Dress codes vary between camps; smart-casual is usually appropriate.
10.00 pm- late - Winding down
The most interesting conversations take place over digestifs around the fire. Revelry can continue into the night if people are feeling boisterous (staff will stay up as late as you want), but often it feels natural to sleep early, following the rhythms of the bush. In unlit camps, guests may be given torches or a lantern for finding their way to their tents, or they may be escorted by guides. By special request, or if there has been an interesting sighting in the area, there may be a night drive. An informed guide may give you a lesson in Africa's incredible stars. Fall asleep to the chorus of the bush. And while animals generally don't pass through camp during daytime, they may well do so in darkness, keeping you guessing as to which footprints will appear overnight.