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

Virtuozity - - HANDMADE -

"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,"

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