As we are quickly approaching the peak summer season for safari travel, our attention is focused on ensuring our clients are super well prepared to travel to ensure they enjoy every minute of their safari experience. While we usually encourage a digital detox while on safari, it’s also undeniable that technology can enhance your safari experience and provide practical assistance as well. Here are several apps for your consideration so have a read through and see what might appeal to you. In all cases, we recommend you download the app to your device before you leave for your trip.
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.
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 has proven 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.
Sasol Young Explorers
Get the kids involved in learning about the wildlife they’ll encounter on safari 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 ages 3-8, and at the moment there are two – mammals and frogs – with a third one, on birds, on the way.
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.
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 are currently tour guides for Johannesburg, Cape Town, Cape Point, Cape Winelands, Durban, Hermanus, Karoo, Overberg and Port Elizabeth.
Travel Africa Magazine
As one of the only magazines dedicated to travel in Africa (first published in 1997), they aim to inspire, inform and entertain anyone with an interest in Africa. Whether you are new to the continent or an experienced safari-goer, there’s always more to learn, new places to discover, fresh experiences to have, strange and wonderful wildlife to see, and absorbing people to meet. The magazine is ‘chock-a-block’ with content on destinations, culture, wildlife, conservation and history. In the editor’s words, “Each of us has our own moments that stay with us, and we love to try and connect with these in the pages of the magazine.”
And here are some more practical travel apps:
If you have not yet discovered this very useful communication app, you don’t know what you are missing. WhatsApp is an internationally available (free) private instant messaging and voice-over-IP service owned by Meta. It allows users to send text and voice messages, make voice and video calls, and share images, documents, user locations, and other content. It’s the most reliable and consistent method of communicating, particularly internationally.
Making conversions into African currencies in your head can be a bit tricky in some countries – $1 is currently 2,346 Tanzanian shillings, for example – so download this app before you go to convert currencies quickly and easily. Conveniently, it can also be used offline using the last saved exchange rates.
Wi-Fi Finder App
Wi-Fi coverage is not particularly widespread in the more remote areas in Africa that you will be traveling, and roaming charges using your provider are usually pricey if you do not set up a special plan. 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.
When it comes to flights, it’s better to stay on top of things like delays, last-minute gate changes, and emergency announcements. With this app, you can track the real-time status of flights thanks to the integrated tracking map. You will also receive status alerts for flights that you are traveling on. This app is especially helpful if you have a tight connection or want to pick up friends and family at the airport.
While English is spoken in all the countries we travel to in Africa, it’s always a welcome gesture to communicate with the local people you are visiting in their own language. Just point your camera and instantly translate what you see. Download a language to translate without an internet connection. Talk with someone who speaks a different language with relative ease.
Typical weather apps provide weather forecasts for a particular city or region, but Weather Underground gives hyper-local area information. Check current conditions or forecasts with data points from 250,000+ personal weather stations across the globe. The app provides interactive maps with radar, high-resolution satellite imagery with information about the weather forecast, humidity, wind speed, cloud cover, visibility, and temperature. The app also alerts users of extreme weather conditions like flooding and cyclones.
If you struggle with understanding what 28C means in terms of what to wear or pack to be weather prepared, then we recommend downloading an app that will do the conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit quickly and easily. It will also handle conversions with kilograms, centimeters, liters and all the rest.
You can search for all of these apps in the Apple or Google Store and download to your device. Most are free of charge while some are available at a minimal cost. If you are a user of digital apps that have made your travel experiences that much more streamlined, efficient, and enjoyable we’d love to hear from you. Send us your suggestions to [email protected] or give us a call on 800.700.3677.