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Why You Should Take Your Smartphone on Safari

Travel Technology | Josh Lew | October 22, 2015

Why You Should Take Your Smartphone on Safari

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Many travelers go to Africa to get “off the map.” They want a wilderness safari, a desert expedition or a trip to remote jungles where rare gorillas are more numerous than humans. You might think that planning such a trip would involve relying on gruff, khaki-wearing guides and Land Rover-driving trackers.

That might be the case. Safaris in Africa are big business, and there are many skilled guides and world-class outfitters that can provide you with the kind of adventure you are seeking. More and more often, however, all you have to do when you want to find out where to see the most wildebeest on any given day is to glance down at your smartphone.

A growing pool of travel apps

You might want to get away from the technological world when you go out to the savannah for a safari, but your trip could actually be better if you bring your iPhone with you.

A wealth of new apps aimed at travelers in Africa have just come onto the market. These tech tools can help tourists find wildlife in real time and locate the continent’s best wineries and the most interesting historic sites in any given destination.

Track wildlife sightings in real time

One app, called Africa:Live, can be used by people on safari to both get up-to-date information on wildlife sightings and to share their own safari adventures with the community. Users can connect their social media accounts so that they don’t have to make any extra posts in order to participate. Another app, called HerdTracker, gives real-time information about the annual wildebeest migration that brings so many camera-toting safari-goers to East Africa each year.

few apps, such as the African Safari Wildlife Guide, are designed so that information can be downloaded when you have a signal and then used offline while you are actually out in the bush finding the animals.

Not just for safaris

The African tourism app scene isn’t only focused on wildlife. Sideways, a new offering named after the hit indie film set in California’s wine regions, helps tasters seek out the best wineries in South Africa’s Cape Winelands. The well-known international audio guide provider, VoiceMap, includes walking tours in major African cities like Johannesburg.

So even if you are traveling to Africa to get away from it all by staying in a safari tent on the Serengeti, it can pay to stay plugged in.

A vibrant scene for coders and developers

That such apps are coming out of the continent is no surprise. Africa has become a hotbed for programmers. These coders might not produce the next Facebook or Twitter, but they are developing tech tools that have very immediate real-world applications. Forbes highlighted a Kenyan app called iCow that helps dairy farmers in East Africa track the status of their herd. Info is sent over SMS, so the service is cheap and there is no need for a data connection.

With all this tech activity, we can expect to see a growing app marketplace in Africa, specifically in tourist-related niches.

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