Up close and personal with Africa’s great beasts
With African wildlife very much in the news for all the wrong reasons, Virtuozity heads to Namibia to get up close and personal with the animals to find out what a proper, animal-friendly safari feels like
"Safari holidays don't do a good job of selling themselves. They focus on the animals and often don't mention the rest of the package that comes with it."
With the whole world now apparently on a hunting expedition for a US dentist, accused of killing a Lion in Zimbabwe, the focus of the world is very much on Africa, its animals and the industry around it. Of course, for most people who visit Africa, the only shooting being done is with a camera and the most they bring back with them is a Springbok hide, donated by the local people who actually eat the animal as part of their own ecosystem.
The old saying goes, take only pictures, leave only footprints, and for most of us that’s true. The safari industry is worth millions of dollars to the southern African countries, bringing in tourists, professional photographers and employing thousands of people to look after them during their stay.
But safari holidays don’t do a good job of selling themselves. They focus on the animals and often don’t mention the rest of the package that comes around it. Yes, the animals are central to the whole thing, but for every budding wildlife photographer, there’s a family that might just want to go to the beach.
Don’t be fooled, most Safari hotels can offer you the sort of luxury you’d expect from a destination resort, with the added bonus of possibly seeing a dentist-free lion. It is quite possible for the whole family to go ‘on safari’ and have an amazing time, fulfilling everyone’s wish list, no matter how diverse.
One advantage of Namibia is that it isn’t (yet) as popular as Kenya, Zambia and the better-known safari destinations in Africa. Much of its tourism comes over the border from South Africa, and it also hosts a lot of Germans, due to the fact that Namibia is a former German colony.
The big five are mostly located in the northern Etosha National Park, which is a little bigger than your normal idea of a park. Measuring in at more than 22,000 sq kms it’s massive and you can obviously wander around it for days and still not see everything. Dotted around the park are a variety of lodges, many with cheap accommodation, areas for camping and motor homes. But there are, of course, a number of very high-end luxury resorts, catering for the more discerning traveller.
If you are travelling with family (safaris probably won’t suit kids under about 10 years old), there are a few things you should know. Firstly, you don’t have to go on safari every day. The best time to see game is at first light, so pre-dawn starts are common. However, that’s not always a good recipe for a great holiday. Pick your days and build in some proper R’N’R and family time. The top resorts have pools and places to soak up some African sun, so use them. It doesn’t have to be a military operation.
Also, the early starts often leave you with the rest of the day to recover, so go back to bed, read a book or listen to that podcast you’ve been meaning to enjoy for months. Internet is very limited, so enjoy the peace and quiet.
Finally, build in a day or so at each end of the safari in the capital, so you can ease yourself back into the modern world. Stepping straight back into an Emirates A380 after a week of living in the wilderness might be a bit much for some.
Either way, if you like wildlife and getting away from it all, a safari makes an excellent holiday and Namibia boasts friendly people, a relaxed attitude and crowd free animal spotting.
There is something truly magical about being metres away from a pride of lions or seeing an Elephant crossing the track in front of you. Life is about experiences and a safari is one that shouldn’t be mixed.
"The top resorts have pools, so use them. It doesn't have to be a military operation,"