I mean literally survive! If you have read my blog posts about Zambia, you will know that I had some very hairy moments whilst wild camping. I came pretty close to not surviving the experience several times. Therefore, I may not necessarily be qualified for passing on any words of wisdom but you know what they say, you learn more from making mistakes, eh?
Wild camping in the African wilderness is a pretty amazing experience. There's nothing but you and raw, beautiful nature. Camping here feels like you are in another word. There's no light pollution so the stars are spectacular and you can fall asleep to the sound of lions roaring in the distance or hippos bellowing in the river. When I camped in Zambia, I loved every minute of it and I would do it again, hands down.
As you'd expect, camping in such a wild place has its dangers. I'll share with you some of the key tips I learnt on how to survive.
1. Avoid going to the toilet in the night
My weakness. I always need to pee in the night. Every single bloody night! This exposed me to some interesting experiences, like the time I nearly bumped into a hippo whilst finding a nice place to pee. Needless to say, the hippo was not happy and chased me back to my tent. That was a close call and had I been any slower, well, I hate to think what would have happened.
I was also informed by our guides that there had been a case where someone had visited the toilet in the night and met a lion on the way. Sadly, he didn't make it.
So, don't risk going to the bathroom in the night. If you are going to be going wild camping, try to train yourself not to need the loo. It can be done! After my hippo experience, I didn't go again and didn't even wake up in the night anymore. Hoorah!
2. Camp with a Guide
I was so grateful that we had guides with us whilst we were wild camping. Sometimes accidents can happen, and at least you know they are on hand to help you. The guides carry riffles with them just in case of a worst case scenario, which thankfully didn't happen when I went. But, you never know when it may happen.
3. Keep with the Group
The African wilderness isn't the safest place to have a stroll. One day, we went for a walk through the bush with our guides. It turns out a group of several lions were following us the whole time and this was the only walk through the bush I'd had. Had our group been smaller, or had one of us strayed from the main group, the lions may have been bolder and come out of hiding. When walking with the group, the guides are there again to best advise you on how to stay safe.
4. Avoid Swimming in the Rivers
As tempting as the fresh-flowing water may look, it's actually super dangerous. Below the surface lie crocodiles and hippos. Therefore it's best not to attempt swimming or even dipping in the water.
When I went wild camping, I also canoed down the Zambezi river. One of the first things we were told was not to dip our hands in the water or even hold them out over the side of the boat. You never know when a crocodile is lurking beneath your boat and they won't miss the opportunity to have an easy meal. How delightful!
If you stick to your boat, it'll be plain sailing.
5. Respect the wildlife
All animals rarely cause trouble if you keep your distance. The only incident I had was when I accidentally got too close to some hippos whilst canoeing. I just didn't see them! A large hippo bellowed beside the boat. We canoed as fast as we could, paddling frantically to escape. The hippo opened its huge jaws behind us and tried to grab the end of the boat in its mouth. Thankfully, it missed and we lived to see another day!
We came across hippos frequently during our expedition down the river and didn't have any other problems because we just kept our distance. If you give them or any other animal their space, they should be chilled and make lovely company.
So there you have it! I hope this guide comes in handy if you ever decide to go wild camping in the African wilderness. If you take note of the points above and follow the advice of your guides, you should have a great camping experience.
Have you ever been wild camping in Africa?