An African safari
THE Oxford di c t i onar y descr i bes a “ safari” as a “ hunting expedition i n Africa” or a “sportsman’s or traveller’s caravan”. Today every visitor to Africa who wants to get out and view the Big Five sees themselves going on safari.
I am sure many of our local readers passing through one of our busy airports have seen the typical “on safari” visitors resplendent in a designed safari suit with millions of pockets and sporting a wide brimmed hat with what can be hoped is a fake leopard skin band.
Having recently visited many of our fine private game reserves and having rubbed shoulders with a host of excited visitors, it is interesting to hear their comments and reasons for visiting Africa and especially why they are “on safari”.
To many of us l i vi ng i n t hi s f i ne country it may sound ludicrous that a visitor will spend huge sums of money to rough it in the bush and, possibly after a few days, have seen very little. Wild animals have their own agenda and often do not do what we want them to. Game often just disappears for days on end. Yet the visitors keep returning, hoping to get close to the animals they have seen on the Discovery channel.
Bouncing around on the back of a c onverted 12-s eat er s af ar i vehicl e, wrapped in blankets and shivering in the chill of an early morning or late afternoon game drive, visitors get high on just the distant sighting of a herd of impala.
When they really get close to one of the Big Five then their hard-earned money has paid dividends and they have the photographs to brag with upon returning home.
Thanks to the well-trained trackers and guides employed by many game reserves, visitors also go home with a myriad true African stories. A really good guide has them eating out of his or her hand.
Upon returning to base, after a few hours’ bumping around in the bush, they receive five-star pampering, including luxury baths, tents and top-class food.
This is quite different from the days when Livingstone and the other explorers forged their way through the bush, camping out week after week, fighting off continuous bouts of malaria and other tropical nasties, and meeting wild animals while on foot.
Fortunately, living in South Africa and having grown up camping and roughing it, we are still able to get out and visit areas most of the overseas visitors miss out on.
Equipped correctly and with the right vehicle, we are still able to get out into fairly remote areas such as the Liuwa plains in north-western Zambia, Kaudom in north-eastern Namibia and places like the giant Kalahari game park in central Botswana.
Only after visiting these areas and experiencing the real wild while camping rough without hot showers, five-star food and people waiting on you hand and foot, and listening to a lion growling less than a metre from the tent opening, you realise what the visitor is really missing.
But are they?