I visited 5 of the best safari parks in Africa. The trip was filled with surprises, and there are a few things I wish I'd known before leaving.

  • I visited five of Kenya's best safari parks to see some of Africa's most famous animals in the wild.

  • There were many aspects of the safari that surprised me despite the research I did before my trip.

  • I was surprised by many things, including how long I spent sitting in safari cars. 

Seeing some of Africa's most famous animals in the wild has been on my bucket list for years. With adventure travel on the rise, I decided to take the plunge and make the 20+ hour flight to Africa to visit some of Kenya's best safari parks.

Masai Mara is arguably the most famous for big-cat sightings, but Amboseli National Park, Crescent Island Game Sanctuary, Nairobi National Park, and Hell's Gate National Park are also must-see reserves teeming with wildlife.

I did lots of research beforehand but found I was unprepared for many things I experienced while on safari — and there are things I'll definitely do differently the next time I go.

From what I should have worn to what seeing the animals was really like, here's what surprised me most about going on safari in Kenya.

I sat in the safari vehicle for about 8 hours every day

Elephants cross the road in front of a safari vehicle, as someone records a video on their iPhone.
I spent about eight hours in the car each day.Lara Walsh

Between a morning and afternoon game drive, I spent about eight hours in the car daily. It was shocking to see the low number of daily steps on my Oura ring.

I started doing yoga at the end of the night to loosen up my hips. My airplane pillow also helped me stay comfortable, especially during the seven-hour drives to other parks.

My shoes were off for most of the drives

In hindsight, I should have worn sandals on my drives. Most safari vehicles have small windows and a top that lifts up, and you're frequently standing on the chairs to get a better view.

We took off our shoes when we got into the car so we were ready to hop up on the chairs at a moment's notice.

I had lots of early mornings and bedtimes.

The shadow of a building and trees at sunset with a purple-and-orange sky.
By the end of the day, I was exhausted and ready for bed.Lara Walsh

The best times for safaris are in the mornings and at dusk, and sometimes, we had 4 a.m. start times. The lack of sleep, paired with the heat, made me eager to get to bed early.

I'm not a morning person, but I preferred the early drives for the animal activity (and incredible sunrises) we saw. We used the less-ideal safari hours during the day to nap, do other activities in the area, or drive to other parks.

Many animals can be difficult to spot due to distance or camouflage

A lion walks across a grassy area.
We used binoculars and a camera viewfinder to see animals that were further away.Lara Walsh

We had our fair share of close-up sightings, but many of the animals we wanted to see were far away and sometimes not immediately obvious to the naked eye.

We ditched our iPhones and used binoculars and someone's camera viewfinder to get a closer look.

A pair of binoculars and a camera with a zoom lens are essential for getting the best view (and pictures) possible.

There were long periods of time with minimal animal sightings

Three giraffes walk in a grassy area at sunset.
During a safari, you can't control what animals you'll see or when you'll see them.Lara Walsh

Safari drives can be frustrating because you can't control what animals you'll see, how far away they are, and how long the sighting will last. But being patient can be rewarding.

During one dusk drive, we spent three hours searching for a pride of lions without any luck. Finally, as the sun set in the last half hour, we stumbled upon three female lions napping, a leopard, and giraffes.

Many of the animals are sleeping during the day

I expected to see animals moving around or hunting, but many were resting during the day. It was only when dusk approached that they started to slowly stake out a spot by the grazing herds.

If I go on safari again, I'll book a night drive so I can see how the lions and other animals act during their peak hours of activity.

My view was largely out of my control

Safari vehicles drive down a dirt road, with gazelles grazing in the grass on each side.
There were often traffic jams along the safari route.Lara Walsh

Whenever a less common animal like a lion or cheetah is spotted, a traffic jam of safari vehicles speed over and line up, vying for the best view.

What you see — and sometimes, if you see anything at all — can depend on your driver and what vantage point they can get.

People in safari vehicles hold up phones to take pictures of a giraffe.
I spent a lot of time moving around the car to get a better look at the animals. Lara Walsh

Your view can also depend on your position in the car. I spent a lot of time scrambling around to catch a sighting (and a photo, if I was lucky).

Prey is plentiful, but seeing any action is unlikely

A gazelle crosses a dirt road. Lots of animals are in the grass in the background.
I saw lots of gazelles on my trip.Lara Walsh

Gazelles and impalas were everywhere, so it was surprising to learn that the lions might not eat for days.

Our driver told us the best thing he's seen on safari was a cheetah hunting a gazelle, and then a pride of lions swooping in to steal his meal. However, these kinds of sightings are rare.

Predators need to consider everything from the direction the wind is blowing to the length of the grass when trying to sneak up on their prey. Many hunts are unsuccessful, so seeing one in person is unlikely.

Read the original article on Business Insider