Rain or Shine: Mak­ing the Most of an African Sa­fari

Mak­ing the Most of an African Sa­fari

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL - By Des Langk­ilde.

Tourists come to South Africa for two things – sun and sa­fari. But do they un­der­stand that in or­der to see the Big-5 in their nat­u­ral habi­tat it’s bound to rain at some point? So how do lodges help guests un­der­stand that rain is nec­es­sary (and wel­come) and how do they keep them en­thu­si­as­tic when they find that their 3-day sa­fari is go­ing to be a rainy one?

To find out how they make the most of their guest’s sa­fari ex­pe­ri­ence on rainy days, I in­ter­viewed Rob Grad­well, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Lal­i­bela Pri­vate Game Re­serve in South Africa’s malaria-free East­ern Cape prov­ince. “Well firstly, we don’t can­cel game drives when it rains. Some of the best game sight­ings that our guests have ex­pe­ri­enced have been on drives in the rain. View­ing preda­tor species, in par­tic­u­lar, is best while rain is fall­ing. The rea­son for this is that big cats hunt more suc­cess­fully in the

rain as plains game turn their backs to the an­gle that the rain is com­ing from. The rain also damp­ens sound and de­creases smell.

“Sec­ondly, from a guest com­fort per­spec­tive while on sa­fari in the rain, we have re­cently re­placed Pon­chos on our game view­ing ve­hi­cles with brand new fleece-lined rain­coats.

“Our rangers and lodge staff go to great lengths to ex­plain to guests how im­por­tant rain is in Africa and how es­sen­tial it is for the flora and fauna. We also brief our guests on the unique photo opportunities that can only be cap­tured in wet con­di­tions. For ex­am­ple, when the earth is wet af­ter a down­pour, fly­ing ants burst from the earth in their thou­sands, while birds take ad­van­tage of this as an easy feed­ing op­por­tu­nity. Then there’s the chance to pho­to­graph a rain­bow – well worth en­dur­ing a few hours’ on sa­fari in the rain,” says Grad­well.

I then asked Ver­non Wait, Lal­i­bela’s Mar­ket­ing Di­rec­tor what guests do on rainy days in-be­tween game drives.

“Like most game reserves and lodges in South Africa, our lodges have com­fort­able lounges with a wide se­lec­tion of cof­fee-table books, nov­els by pop­u­lar au­thors in var­i­ous lan­guages and board games for guests to en­joy. Then, of course, there is the plea­sure to be de­rived from sit­ting be­side a roar­ing open hearth fire, while sip­ping on a South African sherry or Amarula Cream, or a freshly brewed cof­fee – all of which is pro­vided com­pli­men­tary as part of our all-in­clu­sive rates at Lal­i­bela.”

And what about guests who have young chil­dren?

“Mark’s Camp has a well-equipped play cen­tre where chil­dren are kept busy on dry or rainy days with a num­ber of fun and ed­u­ca­tional ac­tiv­i­ties, such as rhino T-shirt paint­ing, mak­ing African masks, paint­ing, mak­ing photo frames, mak­ing wind mo­biles, and a whole lot more. Also, on a com­pli­men­tary ba­sis, we pro­vide ex­pe­ri­enced child­min­ders to take care

of chil­dren while their par­ents re­lax. Spe­cial meal times for chil­dren un­der eight years of age, with food more suited to young pal­lets, also en­sures that par­ents can have more adult time should they choose,” says Wait.

I should men­tion at this point that chil­dren have their own game drive ac­com­pa­nied by a Chil­dren’s Pro­gramme Co­or­di­na­tor - read more here.

What pre-trip tips would you give to guests who know that they will be ar­riv­ing over a rainy pe­riod?

“Be Pre­pared! A lot of the stress about rain on sa­fari stems from what wa­ter may do to their ex­pen­sive cam­eras and elec­tronic equip­ment. We rec­om­mend that guests bring along a wa­ter­proof bag in which to put ev­ery­thing the mo­ment it starts to rain heav­ily. Al­though a lot of gear these days can han­dle a light spat­ter of rain, it’s bet­ter to be safe than sorry.

“Also, as with when it is not rain­ing, we en­cour­age our guests to elim­i­nate spe­cific ex­pec­ta­tions and to be open to any­thing. Ac­cept the wet con­di­tions and look out for unique sight­ings that won’t be seen in dry con­di­tions. The joy and en­thu­si­asm felt by rangers and lodge staff are dif­fi­cult to ig­nore and this of­ten rubs off on guests. It is not un­com­mon to hear guests talk­ing about their “crazy ranger” who got them to dance in the rain at sun­downer time on the game drive,” con­cludes Wait.

From my own ex­pe­ri­ences of game drives in the rain, I’ve found them to be ex­hil­a­rat­ing, as the field guide per­forms feats of driv­ing on muddy roads, coax­ing the Land Cruiser up steep in­clines as though he’d been do­ing it all his life. Of course, he mostly had been. It’s all part of the ad­ven­ture of a sa­fari in the rain.

For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.lal­i­bela.net

Mod­el­ling the new fleece lined Pon­cho rain­coats equipped on Lal­i­bela's game view­ing ve­hi­cles are Ta­nia Botha, Kim Fryer and Candice Ruste­berg.

This per­fectly-timed photo of chee­tah in the rain was cap­tured by Ir­ish wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher Paul Mcken­zie.

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