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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.