While we usually encourage a digital detox while on safari, it’s also undeniable that technology can enhance your experience. Here are eight apps that we recommend you download before you leave for your trip.
1. Audubon African Wildlife
Created in affiliation with the well-regarded field guide of the same name, this app lists 164 mammals, 284 birds and 24 reptiles, and includes in-depth descriptions of appearance, habitat and behavior. Unlike most field guides, this app uses high-quality photographs instead of drawings, and there’s a handy search function. Most importantly of all, you can access all the information without an internet connection.
2. Sasol eBirds of Southern Africa
Since it was first published in 1993, the Sasol Birds field guide has become the go-to reference manual for birdwatchers, and the app is proving to be just as essential. Beautiful illustrations of 950 bird species are included, along with 630 recorded bird calls, and the search function is particularly good – specify habitat, color, beak shape or size, or just the generic name of the bird (eg woodpecker). You can also use the GPS feature or add a pin to a map to be shown the birds you can expect to see in that particular location. If your safari is in Kruger National Park, there’s also an app, Sasol eBirds of Kruger National Park, with 500 species listed.
3. Sasol Young Explorers
Get the kids involved in learning about the wildlife they’ll encounter with these apps, which manage to blend educational storytelling with fun games and quizzes. Recommended by the New York Times, they’re suitable for kids age 3-8, and the moment there are two –mammals and frogs – with a third one, on birds, on the way.
4. Star Walk 2
The night skies you’ll see on safari are phenomenal, and Star Walk takes it one step further – some amateur astronomers consider this app to be the best thing invented since the telescope. Hold your phone (or tablet) up to the night sky and the app will project the stars, satellites, constellations and comets in front of you onto the screen in real time, giving the names of each as well as relevant information.
5. Madiba’s Journey
This app features 100 historic landmarks and tourist sites significant to the life of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s much loved hero, from his birthplace in a village in the Eastern Cape to the Mandela House Museum in Johannesburg, where he died. Find each site on a map, click for information and audio commentary, and create your own customized itinerary; opening hours, phone numbers and ticket prices are also included.
Take an immersive audio tour through Cape Town or Johannesburg with the aid of VoiceMap, which uses commentary from journalists, tour guides, writers and passionate locals. The app uses GPS to pinpoint your exact location so as to give you relevant information but can also be used offline, thus saving you from unwelcome roaming charges. There’s currently only one tour in Johannesburg, but Cape Town is well represented.
7. Xe Currency
Making conversions into African currencies in your head can be a bit tricky in some countries – $1 is currently 2,281 Tanzanian shillings, for example – so download this app before you go to convert currencies quickly and easily. Conveniently, it can also be used off-line using the last saved exchange rates.
8. Wi-Fi Finder App
Wi-Fi coverage is not particularly widespread in Africa, and roaming charges using your provider are usually astronomical. This very useful app identifies the nearest public Wi-Fi spots around your immediate location, including where it is (for example a hotel or restaurant) and if there’s a fee.