An African sa­fari

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL2009 -

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?

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