Every guide and safari leader has a set of rules for spotting the most and best wildlife. Most of the rules are intuitive and not easily expressed in words. Here is my humble attempt to give each of you a leg up when on safari whether in India or Africa or in your own backyard.

  1. Enjoy all the wildlife/scenic wonders—no matter how small or big.
  2. Rise with the sun and go to bed when it’s done. Animals are most active at dawn and dusk so adjust your sleep pattern to fit the animals. You should sleep from dark to pre-dawn so you are ready when the animals are.
  3. Look for motion, odd shapes or color. You don’t have to focus on seeing an animal, just the glimpse of something out of place, then you can try to identify what you saw.
  4. Call “stop” even if you are not sure. Tell the driver to stop when you think you’ve seen something. Worry about what it is after the vehicle is still. Tell others where it is once the vehicle is no longer in motion. Use the clock to tell the direction and approximate distance away. You will probably stop the vehicle for a “lion shaped” log or a “tiger looking” rock a few times. Don’t worry about it. The one good stop makes up for all the near misses.
  5. Look shallow, deep, up in trees, down the stream beds and behind you. This is the best way to catch the rare sightings. The more you move your eyes and head, the better chance you will get a glimpse of an animal hidden in, or behind something.
  6. Vehicle jams are great clues. The more vehicles, the rarer the sighting. Try to get a feel for the direction the animal is moving and position your vehicle there. That way you will get prime pictures even if the area is full of vehicles.
  7. When watching an animal, look on the opposite side of the vehicle every so often. Animals attract animals and I’ve often gotten better pictures when looking in the opposite direction.
  8. Don’t stop looking until you are in the lodge. Animals don’t know borders and some great opportunities are lost when people put their cameras away early.
  9. When you do land a great animal sighting, keep your voices low. Animals can be skittish and loud noises can cause your rare sighting to disappear.
  10. Talk to your driver/guide about what you are interested in seeing before heading out. It will help them in planning their routes and optimize your sightings.