I know the feeling all too well. You spend months planning a holiday and as the time draws near you start looking at weather reports from a whole host of different sites only to find that rain is predicted during that time. You can’t help but feel that a dampener has been put on the whole trip.

The last couple of days have been rather wet here, with some much-needed rain settling in at a good and steady rate. Some people know from the get go that they hate getting rained on, and no matter what I say here nothing will change that. But, if you have traveled from far away, your time in the bush is limited and you don’t want to miss out on anything, then here are my suggestions for surviving a safari in the rain.

Mentally Prepare

There are some days where it is clearly evident that the rain is not about to stop anytime soon, yet sometimes we still try and trick ourselves into believing that it will. The sooner one comes to the realization that they will get rained on the better. It will prevent frustrating hours of staring into the sky wondering whether it will or won’t stop and whether you should go out now or a little bit later. Bite the bullet and head out. It might not be the type of drive that you had imagined but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Summer Rainbows

Unexpected beauty. The sun makes a rare appearance on a rainy day as it creates this exquisite rainbow over the bush. Photograph by Simon Collier

My best advice before heading out on a game drive in the rain is to eliminate any expectations and be open to anything. Accept that that you will get wet and look out for unique sightings that you won’t see in dry conditions.

For example, the recent rains have triggered some amazing termite emergences. This means that winged termites (alates) burst from the earth and fly upwards looking for a mate to start a new termite colony with. The birds capitalize on this as it is an easy feeding opportunity; only the other day a group of us sat in the rain watching this happen for ages. A whole host of bird species perched in trees around a bare patch of ground, dazzling us with their aerial antics as they took turns swooping down to snatch unsuspecting alates out of the air.

Practically Prepare

Suit up and be ready to take it on! The undesirable thing about being out in the rain for most people is the getting wet part. There is that horrible feeling of water slowly soaking through your clothes bringing on the inevitable coldness. Don’t even get me started on wet socks! If you suspect that it might rain then get kitted out. There will always be ponchos on the vehicle – which make a big difference – but if you know that you are traveling over a potentially rainy time than I would invest in a good rain suit. Add to that some wellingtons/gumboots and maybe an umbrella and you are good to go. Shower caps are also very useful if you don’t want to get your hair wet and I promise we don’t judge!

Also, a lot of the stress about rain on safari is because of what it will do to cameras and electronics and you can’t relax if you are worried about getting these wet. I have a waterproof bag which I can put everything in the moment its starts to rain and this works great, although a lot of gear these days is built specifically robust and can handle a light smattering of rain.

Rain also provides unique photo opportunities so you don’t necessarily want to put your camera away completely but there are some great waterproof covers that allow you to take pictures whilst keeping your camera covered. Alternatively, a plastic bag can also be manipulated into a cover to provide an impromptu solution.

Predators will often make use of rainy conditions to hunt as it dulls the senses of their prey making it easier to sneak up on them. Photograph by Talley Smith

This Nyala had no idea it was being stalked by a leopard as the pouring rain drowned out any warning sounds.

Stay Positive and Act like a Child

The rain makes for a very different safari experience and provides a chance to explore the bush in a different way. Some of my best sightings have been in the rain. It may be a little trickier to find animals as their tracks get washed away but the animals are still out there and sometimes even use the rain to their advantage.

One of my most memorable game drives didn’t even involve any animals. I was driving a very enthusiastic group of adults who, upon coming across a delightfully muddy wallow, asked me to stop the vehicle so we could inspect it a bit more closely. Once on the ground one particular gentleman reached down and scooped up a giant handful of mud and proceeded to deposit it on the head of his good friend next to him. What followed was a full-scale mud war involving everyone choosing sides, embracing their inner child and flinging mud as if their lives depended on it. Needless to say the Amarula/hot chocolates around the fire back at the lodge went down a treat, and the story of that afternoon continues to be told today.

Rain provides some unique photographic opportunities such as this. Timing and patience was key to capturing the inevitable head shake of this male lion as the rain built up on his mane. Photograph by Trevor McCall-Peat.

The four Majingilane males in the pouring rain. Photograph by James Tyrrell

 

Another example of predators, this time the Tsalala Breakaway Pride, hunting in the rain. They spotted an approaching herd of buffalo and with relative ease they were able to get close enough without being seen or heard to launch their attack. Without the rain they would have most likely been spotted earlier on. Photograph by James Souchon

Having seen how desperate this land was for water during the midst of the drought and watching the subsequent transformation that the recent rains have caused over the last few months has been a true privilege. Having said that, there’s no doubt that rain can be frustrating at times, especially when you have been planning your dream safari for a year. We can’t guarantee that there won’t be rain on your game drives but we can definitely guarantee that you will still have lots of fun and unique experiences if you are open to them.

About the Author

James Souchon

Field Guide

James started his guiding career at the world-renowned Phinda Game Reserve, spending four years learning about and showing guests the wonder of the incredibly rich biodiversity that the Maputaland area of South Africa has to offer. Having always wanted to guide in the ...

View James's profile

10 Comments

on How to Survive a Safari in the Rain

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Dina
Guest

Hi James, we experienced rain and indeed it can be great but more when you have thunderstorms!
We are leaving for Botswana Tomorrow , must say that I hope for some sunny days..Warm regards

Tony Goldman
Guest

Thanks,James for a lovely article as going on safari in the summer carries a real rain threat and if you are prepared it takes the edge off and you see different things as you noted well.In addition there are excellent rain covers not only for cameras but also for the expensive long lenses and they are not expensive.One last thought is that if you forget you can always use a garbage /trash bag which works very well for all photo equipment.

Gillian Evans
Guest

Hi James – you are spot on! Heading out to you in 3 days and yes we have been scanning the weather reports and seeing a fair amount of heavy rain forecast and feeling a bit downhearted! But – waterproof trousers and jacket packed! Lens and camera covers packed! We’re coming prepared (apart from the gumboots!) and the sun may even shine and there are often great opportunities as the sun breaks through the clouds for a great photo! Looking forward to it! What a difference from this time last year when the ground was tinder dry!

Judy Guffey
Guest

Ah…if only ponchos in the vehicles weren’t one-size-fits-all. Wearing one ona 5 foot tall frame is not fun….but I’ll still go out. Should remember wellies also. An udea to rent? Like camera equipment? Just a thought from a guest who leaves my heart in Londolozi when I depart the reserve.

Lea
Guest

Great article James. You are right, so you get wet – you can always change when you get back. The animals do take advantage of the rain and wind, so you never know what’s around the next corner. Thanks very much.

Carole Househam
Guest

Everything looks very different to when I was there last year, like you say it was tinder dry. Enjoy the different experience with such a different flora look to last year at this time.

Byron
Guest

Good advice James. To keep positive and see it as an adventure is key.

Bev Goodlace
Guest

My recommendation is to just enjoy the fantastic rain. I prefer to wear slops when it rains during a game drive – easy to dry and no wet socks. So happy there have been such good rains.

Jill Larone
Guest

Great blog, James! You just have to embrace the journey, no matter what the weather. It will be the most incredible experience of your life, guaranteed!

Sibu
Guest

We are visiting the Kruger next Summer and rain has always been my biggest worry. That has now changed, thanks to this article, in fact, I wish it could rain in one of our Safaris. Thanks James !!

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