Beauty and the beasts in Botswana
As a boy camping with my father on safaris deep in the African bush, there were no tents; we just slept by the fire like cowboys in the open under the constellations. Supper was sweet tea and biltong and we used a tin bucket for a shower. When it rained we simply moved underneath our parked Land Rover. One morning we woke to find tracks circling us, where a big lion had come close enough to blow on our toes as we slept.
That old Africa rubbed off on me and I still like safaris to be the real thing — under canvas, by the campfire, gin, tall tales, fresh air and carpet-creeping between tents. Safari is an art and it’s for real people, not celebrities climbing Kilimanjaro. For me, watching a dung beetle at its Sisyphean task or the scent of wait-a-bit thorn blossoms (which some Africans say is a medicine for heartache) or the squawk of a go-away bird in the heat of the day — these are encounters I’d swap for a herd of elephants (although I like elephants too).
If you agree with me, then go on a proper safari — not a canned safari. Head to Botswana, which is 98 per cent mellow, the Africa of Alexander McCall Smith, democratic, well-run, just two million people,