There is something called safari etiquette. Most people, especially tourists are totally unaware of it. They may be first time safari goers or repeaters, they keep on making the same mistakes and then complain that they did not see anything much during the safari. Ask any seasoned wildlife photographer, traveler or guide and they will tell you that a lousy tourist spoils the jungle ambience.
Here are tips taken from experienced travellers as what to do and what not. Do read these tips carefully to avoid those mistakes and act like a pro.
Dos & Don’ts
# Do not talk – Some people forget that they are in the jungle where the ears say all – both to animals and to people. Do not speak loudly and do not raise your voice at all. Do not talk unless necessary. You can talk all you want when you return. Best is to keep quiet. Animals get disturbed with chatter and will leave the spot. Not only will you but also everyone else will miss the opportunity to spot animals. So be still and silent.
# Keep your phone silent – A phone ringing in the serene forest is an absolute joy killer. Keep your phone silent. Try not to take calls unless it is an emergency. Playing music is a strict no-no.
# Do not wear bright clothing – No red, pink, orange, yellow or any bright shade. Green, olive, brown and greys are best in dull shades. Camouflaged dressing suits very well too. Black and blue are alright but must be in deep matte shades. Remember that many insects are attracted to blue and black colours also. In other words, wear natural colours so that you mix easily with the surroundings. Animals feel comfortable among natural colours.
# Talk to your guide – Many people do not converse with their guide. This is a mistake. He is the one who knows every little thing in the forest and safari. Talk to him, listen to his stories. He will help you get the feel of the place best.
# Do not get down from the vehicle – Many people get excited to see the wild animal and want a closer look. Never, ever get down from the car unless the guide allows you to. It is the jungle and as a layman you never know what danger will come from which side. Plus you will also disturb the animals and they feel threatened.
# Pay attention outside – Some people would go on a safari and all this time keep scrolling the phone or talking to each other. In front, a rare antelope passes by. A gorgeous hornbill just flew above your head. But you missed it. So look all around and listen to the sounds of the jungle.
# Expectations – Many tourists go to a safari and expect a lot. Do not make that mistake. Spotting animals is a matter of luck. Do not keep one animal in mind. Also do not blame the guide or push him to show more animals.
# Look around – A forest is so beautiful and raw. Enjoy this beauty. Listen to the chilling sounds of the forest – these are unmissable. Maybe you would miss that big beast, it does not matter. It just gives you an excuse to visit again.
# Carry a compact bag – Carry your valuables, water and other necessities in a compact bag which is easy to keep an eye on and carry. This way your full attention is on the safari and not distracted. Plus it should not take too much space in the vehicle as you would be sharing it with other passengers.
# Care about the local people – Your guide and driver or the people you meet will probably be of a different culture than yours. Respect their culture and do not treat them lower to you. People who live in the forest have more common sense and survival skills than you do. A phone will not save you from a wild beast in the jungle but listening to the people there will.
# Carry mosquito repellent – It is safe to carry a small bottle or tube of repellent that you can use in case there are mosquitoes and insects. But use only when and as needed. Slapping mosquitoes in a quiet jungle will distract you and push the animals away.
# Carry cash and medicine – This is common sense. Carry medicines and cash as per your requirement as neither is available inside a jungle safari. Keep some bandage and some first aid stuff with you.
Read a travelogue: My safaris to Gorumara and Chapramari forest and more
# Do not feed animals – Wild animals should remain as wild animals and no petting or feeding should be done. The reason is that it makes the wild animals lose their natural habits of hunting and foraging as they start a habit of getting fed by tourists. Mother Nature has given them enough food and let them stay that way.
# Do not make sounds at animals – Do not call them. Do not make animal sounds. You should not disturnb them in any way. Do not try to get their attention in any way. Let them stay as they are. You just watch, enjoy and click pictures.
# No littering – This is a big NO. Some safaris will even fine you a good amount for this. If you have anything to throw away, keep it with you or in a bag. Throw it later when you can in a dustbin. You should keep the place as natural and clean as you found it.
# Do not make odd requests – Safaris generally have a guided path for all vehicles. It is made due to safety concerns and also for not disturbing the animals. Do not ask or tempt your guide to break those rules and take you somewhere else. Many people want to go deeper into the forest. Not only is it dangerous, your car can get stuck, wild animals may attack you. Worse, you will be caught and fined and even jailed for breaking the rules.
Also do not ask to get too close to the animals. They should not be made aware of tourists’ presence in a troubling way.
# Protect your camera – In some safaris, one can find the forest climate quite unpredictable. Just make sure that you have an appropriate bag to protect the camera in case of a drizzle or extreme temperature.
# Wear proper clothing- Before you go to the safari, ask or research about the temperature of the forest. Generally it is a lot colder than you would guess. Plus there may be wind. Wear or carry the necessary clothes. Try to wear comfortable cotton clothing which will keep you at ease for a long time. Also note your shoes – wear sneakers or boots that will keep you easy to move. Do wear socks. Heeled or fancy footwear is not recommended at all.
# Do not wear deo – Avoid any perfume or deodorant. Animals are very good at smelling from miles away. Your strong artificial smells can interfere in their natural scents and draw them away from you.
# Do not flash – Although it looks tempting but do not flash your camera. It is very unsettling for animals and it hurts their vision.
Going on a safari can be a wonderful experience if we just follow common sense and these little things. Do you have any more recommendations? Tell us in the comments.