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  • Writer's pictureChene Wales-Baillie

Sunrise or sunset safari?

So often as field guides we would be asked by our guests, which is better - sunrise safari or sunset safari? Truth is, there is no better time of the day to be out on safari. Each of the two offer different perspectives but no single game drive is ever the same as another!

Above image supplied by: Great Plains Conservation

Here's our take on it.

Sunrise Safari: There is something special about waking up in the early morning to the calls of the wild and your first sip of coffee, nudging you to wake up as the early start may not be something you are used to. During the night you know that many nocturnal species and in particular, the predators, have been moving around as this is their time of day to become active. You head out at first light, just before the sun rises and the bush coming to life!

Above image supplied by: Singita

Without the knowledge of the night's activity, the morning provides a clean slate, a new treasure hunt to experience. The sunrise safari is thrilling - the cool fresh air hits your face and excitement fills you inside, setting the tone for the day ahead. Your guide and tracker find fresh tracks (footprints) and signs that the animal you are searching for has been there a few hours, or even moments before you and this gives the opportunity for you to spend time in search of it as the sun rises. A question I often loved to ask guests was how they would typically be spending their weekday morning at 6am? Instead of waking up to head off to work, they would instead be here in the bush, surrounded by a playful pride of lions enjoying the warmth of the golden morning light. Nothing can get better than that and there is certainly no better reason to get you out of bed that early!

Winter mornings on safari: A winter morning on safari finds you snuggled up in your warm clothes (always wear layers as it does get warmer later in the morning) with your takeaway hot drink in hand. As you climb on your safari vehicle you will often find a hot water bottle tucked below your blankets, keeping your seat warm and cozy until you head out on drive. The air is chilly but the combination of cold and excitement you will find completely revitalising!

Summer mornings on safari: Summer mornings on safari call for early starts and the earlier you are happy to leave the lodge, the better! Temperatures tend to rise alot quicker in the summer months and most often you will find that animals will want to move into the shade and find a cool place to rest by mid morning, which makes that early morning start even more important.

Above image supplied by: Singita

Sunset Safari: After an incredible morning out on game drive, you may have chosen to do a bush walk and then spent the midday feasting on great food, swimming in a pool overlooking the savanna or lounging around in your luxury tented suite. Around 3-4pm (dependant on season) you would be heading back out on game drive. The afternoon drive is always just as exciting as the morning, because as I said earlier, no game drive is ever the same as another! You may have spent the morning drive with a pride of lions but the heat of the day calls for you to head down to the river or the closest waterhole to see if a herd of elephants, or perhaps a giraffe, are moving down for their afternoon swim or drink before the sun sets.

Above image supplied by: Singita

The sunset safari is also a time where you get to slow down and reflect on the day gone by. Stopping for the quintessential sundowner, where you get to sip on your favourite beverage, chat to your guides, tell stories and ponder over the beauty and tranquility of your surroundings.

After the sun sets and a cloak of darkness falls across the sky, this is a great opportunity to use a spotlight and go in search of some of the nocturnal critters that you may not have seen before. Animals such as a Large or Small Spotted Genet, Bush babies, White-tailed Mongoose or an array of owl species are some of the smaller nocturnal creatures you might be lucky enough to find. The night sky is breathtaking - offering the perfect occasion for stillness in your game vehicle, listening to the sounds of the night whilst your guide points out and tells the stories of constellations across the sky.

The sunset safari closes the curtains to another incredible day spent in Africa!

Above image supplied by: andBeyond

Winter afternoons on safari: A sunset in Africa is in our very biased opinion, the best sunset you will see on the planet. During the winter months is often when controlled burning occurs, this is done in order to reduce the spread of wildfire and to rejuvenate the growth of new plants. It is at this time when a combination of smoke and dust in the air, create some of the most spectacular sunsets one can witness during their time spent in the bush.

Summer afternoons on safari: Afternoon game drives in the summer are beautiful. The bush is lush with green and little pops of colour as wild flowers begin to come alive. This is a time of year when there are also many more active insects and so it is a good idea to keep some bug spray/insect repellant on you. After a hot day in Africa, the sunset finds you relief as the temperature begins to cool and your afternoon sundowner beverage tastes even more refreshing!

Side note: I have tried my best to replicate my sundowner beverage back home after being on a safari and I promise you, no matter how precise it may be to the original, it will never EVER taste as good as it does whilst on safari!

In summary, neither the sunrise or sunset safari are 'better' than the other. Every single game drive, no matter the time or season, will ever be the same and that is what truly makes a safari the best experience you will ever have. However, my best tips for either time of day are to always head out early, maximise your time spent in the wilderness and to soak in and enjoy every moment of it!


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