14 Camping Tips for The Outdoor Adventurist in Africa
Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa offer the ultimate camping experiences. Spending time in the bush under the twinkling stars, breathing fresh air and listening to nature is therapeutic on both your body and mind.
For most of us living a city lifestyle, a camping trip can be a bit of a culture shock. But if you plan your trip and make sure you have the right equipment, you will have an unforgettable camping experience. Here are some camping tips that will make your Africa vacation a thrilling and exciting experience.
1. Learn more about the campsite
Find out as much as you can about the campsite. You may be staying in the wilderness without lavatory facilities or running water. You should know what awaits you so that you know what to take with you on the trip.
2. Test the gear
If you do a self-drive trip, you need to familiarise yourself with much more than just a ground tent. The vehicle itself will include a roof tent, air pump, water tank, tools, winch, hi-lift jack and kitchen equipment. It’s important that you carefully check and test all this equipment not only to make sure that it works but to ensure that you know how to operate the equipment too. Professional self-drive safari companies will give you a detailed briefing on the entire vehicle making sure that you fully understand how all the equipment works before you head off on your adventure.
3. Find out the natural dangers in the area
You are going for a camping safari into the wilderness, so animals roaming free is expected. While wild animals don’t treat tourists as their food, essential precautions are still a must. The cardinal rules while on safari is never to approach any animal on foot, never feed them and never harass them.
Apart from wild animals what about insects, poisonous plants, and other critters? You need to be prepared. When you know more about the potential dangers, you can act on it. Make sure you put together a customised first-aid kit for unforeseen emergencies. Don’t forget to pack mosquito repellent!
4. Pack a few woollies
Even though you are going to Africa, don’t underestimate the weather. It can be sweltering during the day and then icy cold at night. So, make sure you pack smart. Pack a rain jacket and a warm sweater or jacket to keep you snug.
5. Carry your own firestarter
Starting a campfire does not have to be frustrating. We’re not participating in Survivor here. You can make and carry your own firestarter. Soak a few circular cotton pads in melted wax and let them dry. These make excellent firestarters. Alternately, cover a ball of cotton with Vaseline and place it in aluminium foil. Just slit the foil and pull out a little bit of cotton to light it up and get a cosy fire going.
6. Safeguard your matches
The last thing you need is your wooden matchsticks getting wet or breaking during a camping trip. Place your matches safely in a waterproof container. Also, make sure you carry strike-anywhere matchsticks. These matchsticks can ignite when struck against any hard, rough or dry surface.
7. Always carry good lighting with you
It may sound romantic to sit under the moonlit sky in the wilderness, but trust us when we say that you may find it overwhelming after living in the city. In the dark, shadows and strange noises play tricks on your mind, and that’s something you don’t want. Carry torches, spare batteries, lanterns and headlamps to make your life easy in the darkness of the night.
8. Don’t forget personal hygiene
Carry toilet paper, hand sanitizers, wet wipes (you can never have too many wet wipes!), soap and toothpaste. While you may not be able to enjoy a bathtub and toilet facilities in the wilderness, you’ll want to stay clean. Use a vegetable peeler to cut soap slivers so that each time you use it, you can finish it off instead of wondering how to carry wet soap.
9. Avoid areas around water bodies as your campsite
If you choose to camp in the wild, you may want to avoid pitching your tent near a water body. Predators and prey will come to the water body to quench their thirst, and you don’t want to turn into predator food, do you?
An exclusion to this would be to camp in regions with plenty of water. The Okavango Delta is a good example. Here you can set up camp at dedicated camping areas only which is situated away from any main animals. We do still, of course, recommend you to be vigilant and cautious and never walk around after dark. Every wild animal is potentially dangerous, so it’s always best to avoid direct contact if you are outside your tent or the safety of your vehicle.
10. Select the campsite with care
Never pitch your tent under a tree as the risk of branches falling on the tent is high. Make sure you choose a clearing that provides an unobstructed 360-degree view. This way, you’ll be alerted if a predator or wild animal is approaching your campsite. Avoid riverbeds and waterways, as it could fill up with water in a downpour.
11. Clear the campsite
Use a branch to sweep away rocks and stones from the area where you intend pitching your tent. Check the ground carefully to ensure there are no anthills or critters. Once you’ve found your spot pitch the tent quickly and efficiently. Also, pitch your tent when there is ample daylight remaining. Ensure that the tent door faces away from the wind.
12. Manage your campfire
Managing your campfire is perhaps one of the most essential camping tips you will ever receive. Create a fire ring with stones and ensure the embers stay within the circle. Keep some water handy to put off the fire in case of an emergency. Campfires are one of the common causes of forest fires, and you don’t want to be responsible for starting one!
13. Store food securely
Never leave food outside your vehicle during the night. It’s the number one cardinal rule of camping in the wild. This rule also applies to any used dishes and cutlery, unless washed. Make sure that no food residue is left out anywhere during the night. Keep all food inside closed containers and in a fridge instead. Also, never keep fruits in the tent or vehicle without good packaging (a ziplocked bag will do) -This prevents any smell from escaping. Elephants, for example, can smell oranges from long distances and will damage your tent and vehicle trying to reach them.
14. Leave without destruction
As tempting as it may sound, never take back branches and other plant life as a souvenir of your African camping trip. You may be causing an ecological imbalance by doing this. Also, refrain from feeding wildlife, and last but not the least, carry your rubbish with you. Don’t leave it behind. Dispose of anything that can pollute water bodies, like soapy water, far from waterways. The key is to try and minimise your carbon footprint as much as possible so that the wilderness stays pristine and wild forever.
Now that you are aware of some of the most important camping tips, it’s time to start planning your camping adventure!