Animals are not hard to spot
And this isn’t because their camouflage is faulty, or because they have become overly accustomed to people during the long period in which they have spent half their lives being ogled at by tourists. Nope, it’s because wherever there is any wildlife of interest, so too will there be a large crowd of 4x4s – and large crowds of 4x4s really don’t require any skill or effort to spot.
Wind is not your friend
Unless you’re driving around from in the comfort of your own car, you will be viewing the park from atop a very breezy Landrover or similar. These are custom-built for optimum animal-spotting – by which I mean they are exposed to the elements on all sides, with only a canvas roof to protect you from rain and sun. This means wind, and dust in your face, and also did I mention there’s a lot of wind? Not conducive to spotting – or indeed seeing – anything. Sunglasses recommended if you want to be able to keep your eyes open (is advice that I should have taken before we set off). And a hair tie if you have long hair.
For God’s sake, bring a jumper
Despite the fact that Mpumalanga is almost perpetually sunny, when it’s dark in the evening or early in the morning and you’re driving along at any speed up to 40kph with the wind in your face, you’re going to be cold in a t-shirt and shorts. Don’t be daft like I was and forget to pack the one thing you’re guaranteed to need: something warm to wear. Layers are a good idea, so you can gauge the weather once you’re out there.
Hydration is not as important as bladder control
Drinking water is good for you. Going over the gravel and bumps of a national park with a full bladder is not. Practice restraint with your drinking… this is what I learnt. One too many cups of tea with breakfast led to a very uncomfortable stretch of time leading up to the lunch stop – and it doesn’t half put you off when your attention could be much better spent on looking out for leopards.
Sleep is not for the weak
There is no shame in getting an early night before a long day of safariing. Else you could find yourself nodding off somewhere along the trails, and missing out on that crucial glimpse of a rhino in the distance. You wouldn’t think that a bumpy jeep ride would be conducive to napping, but at least five of our party managed it – perhaps a result one too many gin and tonics last night. Luckily it was pretty easy to jolt awake and feign alertness whenever we ground to a halt and someone exclaimed ‘Elephant!’ Nobody even noticed…