I was chatting with my friend Brian over breakfast recently; we hadn’t caught up for such a long time. Brian is an international pilot and spends quite a good deal of his time overseas. “Where have you been for the last month?” I enquired.
“Africa mate, Africa,” he replied.
I was surprised by this…”I thought you just flew to Europe and the U.K.”
“No. I wasn’t working. I was on safari mate,” he said.
I was surprised..”Safari! I know you’re adventurous but I didn’t think you were that game.
I’ve been thinking of doing a trip like that. How was it?”
“Brilliant mate, absolutely brilliant. If you’ve been thinking of doing an African Safari trip don’t think too long about it. It was simply stunning,” Brian said excitedly. His tone suddenly picked up. “When were you thinking of going?”
“I’m not sure. Have you got any suggestions for a safari newbie?” I asked.
“Sure,” he replied. “Summer time is good.”
“Where did you go?” I asked.
“We went to Bongani on the edge of Kruger National Park in South Africa,” Brian responded.
“It was perfect for us. We stayed at the Bongani Mountain Lodge…” I interrupted quickly.
“Mountain Lodge! I thought it was a safari. Weren’t you supposed to be roughing it?”
“I was mate,” he said. “You know me. Anything below 5 star and I’m roughing it!” We both laughed. Brian had a dry sense of humour.
“Okay,” I said. “Give me an African Safari preparation list. What are the things I should prepare before I go?”
Brian gave his chin one of those pensive mood type rubs. He paused for a while. Meantime I ushered over the waitress..”Two more flat whites please.” Brian looked up at me and in his usual dry Aussie tone started giving me a checklist.
“Don’t get too carried away with taking a heap of stuff with you,” he said. “Travel Light.
In summer you just need light clothing. Winter time, the days are warm but the nights get cold so you’ll need something warm. Don’t go overboard though.”
“What about a hat?” I asked. Brian looked at me as if I was blonde, which I’m not; not by hair color anyway.
“Mate,” he said a little sarcastically. “You’re in Africa. It’s hot. Of course you need a hat.”
I tried to maintain a little dignity..”What about mozzies?”
Brian looked at me a with a little more approval this time. “Ahh! Mosquitoes! They can be a real pain. Definitely need insect repellant. Mate, there are mozzies over there that are so big they’ll pick you up and carry you away.”
Our coffees had arrived. I reviewed what Brian had told me so far. “Light clothing; something warmer in winter, hat, insect repellant… sounds simple so far. Is there anything else,” I asked.
“Oh yes mate,” he replied in a nonchalant fashion. “There sure is. Take sunscreen. You’ll need it. Take loose change when you’re on the road particularly in South Africa. Great freeways but in a four hour drive to Kruger National Park we copped seven tolls!”
“Brutal mate,” I said.
“Yeah, sure was. I thought I was back home in Sydney. I wouldn’t carry a wallet though,” he said taking a sip of coffee. “Why not?” I asked.
“Well, I wouldn’t carry a wallet in an urban area. Let’s just say it’s safer not too.”
“Got you,” I nodded. “Is that it?”
“One more thing,” he said. “Just make sure you have id with you all the time. You won’t believe how many people get caught without their passports on them. On last year’s safari I got taught a neat little trick. One sure fire way not to forget your passport.”
“What’s that,” I asked.
Brian finished his coffee, wiped his mouth and said..”Well mate, before you go to bed at night, put your passport and one shoe in the room safe or somewhere out of sight…”
“What? I butted in. “Did you say one of your shoes?”
Brian still had his mouth wide open. Then told me..”Stop interrupting!”
“Okay. Sorry… can’t help myself,” I said apologetically. Brian continued..
“The reason you put one of your shoes away is because when you’re getting dressed in the morning; when you remember you’ve put one of your shoes away you’ll also remember it’s with your passport.”
“You’re a genius mate,” I said with a grin on my face. “That’s why you get paid the big bucks.”
Brian thanked me. And then said.. “And I’m not charging much for this advice. Just pay the tab and we’ll call it even.”
So there it was. A crash African safari course for newbies from a seasoned safari veteran.
And the best part is; you don’t have to be a “Jungle Jim” type to appreciate it!