How to go on Safari
Going on safari is a pretty hardcore thing. You have to book your jeeps months in advance, and really commit yourself to experiencing the jungle in all its beauty. Your day revolves around making it to your safari on time, making sure you’re the first jeep to enter the jungle, making sure you’ve timed your food and water breaks according to the jungle’s schedule.
It can be quite daunting trying to figure out what to pack and what to leave behind on your jungle adventures. Having been on multiple safaris multiple times, I still get stumped and overpack.
It’s important to wear warm, natural colours when you’re in the jungle. Beiges, browns, khakhi, dark and olive greens are your best bet. Bright colours make you more visible to animals and birds and reduce your chances of seeing them. Darker camouflage colours help you blend into the natural environment and can increase your odds. Avoid red, yellow, white, orange, bright blue, bright green and pink. Yes tigers are orange, white and black, but they don’t like it when you try to dress like them. Raaar.
Morning safaris in India usually start at 6am and go on till 10.30am. You need to be lined up in your jeeps half an hour before the gates open, which means you’ll be leaving your resort at 5.30 in the morning, and waking up much earlier than that.
If you’re going on safari October through March, be warned that the jungle is FREEZING in the mornings. Carry a lot of layers that you can throw on, and also remove while in a moving jeep. I was in Kanha in December wearing ten layers at 4.30am and then going down to four layers by 9am. The jungle is always 2 or 3 degrees colder than the temperature in the area, and don’t forget the wind factor as you hurtle up and down in your jeep.
Buffs are great for all kinds of weather. You can wrap your face up when its cold, and use it as a headband when its hot.
When packing warm clothes, try to pack things that are multipurpose, or you’ll end up paying overweight on your flight.
2 thermal t shirts/ long sleeved t shirts
1 very thick/ woolly sweater
1 regular sweater or hoodie
1 wind cheater which you can wear to cut the wind out, it gets freezing in the jungle
1 pair of gloves for the morning rides
1 woollen beanie to pull over your ears or 1 buff
1 heavy jacket
2 pairs of jeans/ thick pants
I can’t stress the importance of closed shoes enough. You may think that it doesn’t matter, that you’re only getting in and out of the jeep, but you’re overlooking a few things. Dust and dirt travel. They don’t care where you’re sitting. Ants can also come in from everywhere.
You can obviously dispense with most of these clothes during the summer months (April to June) but don’t be brave and wear sleeveless clothes in the jungle. Your jeep tends to go through narrow trails at times and the plants and bushes have nasty thorns. You can switch your heavy jeans and pants for lighter linen pants and tracks.
Don’t wear any perfume when you go into the jungle. Animals have a heightened sense of smell and will not go anywhere near you if you smell like a fruit basket or the ‘nectar of a dozen citrus fruit’. This guy right here was checking his own scent :D .
Even though its dark when you start your morning safaris, you want to put sunblock on your face before you leave. The morning sun gets pretty harsh and you can burn quite easily. Essentials to carry with you (not necessarily into the jungle) are:
A packet of tissue or wipes
Tiny packets of washing powder - I used to roll my eyes at this but it makes more sense to rinse a few things out than pack more stuff than you need.
Shower gel - because the tiny soaps that you get at most resorts dry your skin out and then it feels sad. The Dove moisturising body wash is amazing, it helps keep your skin smooth.
Heavy moisturising cream to help your skin recover from its shocking exposure to the cold and dry air, or the hot and dry air. I like using Gutti Ka Tel, its light and really helps keep my skin moist.
Carry trail mix. No one wants to eat at 5 in the morning, but you do tend to get hungry as the sun rises. Most people stop for breakfast around 8.30 am, by which time the animals have finished what the naturalists call their ‘morning movement’. Trail mix is a great snack to munch on while you chase tigers and leopards and keeps you going until breakfast.
I love visiting the jungle, but it confounds me to see people lugging two and three cameras with them, and multiple lenses. I’m sure that I will reach a stage where it’s all about serious photography for me, and I’ll want them too, but for now I’m more than happy with my multifunction camera that allows me to zoom when I want to, and get a wide angle shot if I need to as well.
Binoculars are a good idea for bird watchers. And you will become a bird watcher - it’s difficult not to when you see billions of deer everywhere and not enough carnivores to make you happy. You will need:
A good camera
Torch for when the lights go out in your resort
A smaller point and shoot camera to give to your guide. In the excitement of seeing a tiger, you may not get your shot. The guides have been doing this for years, and are comfortable with the animals and their movements. Chances are that the pictures you'll be showing your friends later are the guides, because your hand shook.