As we sit back and contemplate dreaming of our bucket list, few seasoned safari-goers won’t dream of going on safari again “the way it was”.
Global travel has become easier, air travel more affordable, and organized ground operators more plentiful. More people have the opportunity to visit the outstanding wildlife areas of Africa and the world.
As demand increases, so does the price. This in turn tends to result in an upgrade of services to justify the increase, and to satisfy what those who can afford it enjoy. As a result extreme luxury has become relatively common in the safari industry… accidentally becoming more removed from the real reason for being there. As one sleeps, the sounds of a roaring lion or whooping hyena at night are lost, muffled by the ten-inch thick brick walls of the luxury safari lodge, or drowned out by the purr of the air con unit in your room.
Of course many of these places are wonderfully comfortable, well connected, and serve delicious meals with complimenting wines. They have their place, and many offer outstanding wildlife viewing. However personally, and as a guide, I believe that a safari is not just about viewing great wildlife, it is about experiencing it.
With a discerning ground handler organizing your safari and with the right safari guide, doing a safari “the way it was” is still possible. You can experience the bush, rather than just view it.
Camping in a seasonal camp or a lightweight fly camp can put you in a remote location, where you can hear that roar of a lion at night, or elephant walking past your tent on its way to the nearby waterhole. Your senses work overtime as you listen to unfamiliar sounds and try in your mind’s eye to figure out what it is. Your sleep is interrupted, but you feel alive. You are excited and can’t wait for dawn to break, so you can sit around a campfire, and discuss the options and possibilities of the day.
We may then walk out from camp and track the lions that were roaring all night or track rhino on foot. We could drive or walk out to a pan, and sit tucked under a tree, and wait for the unsuspecting game to come and drink – all before breakfast.
At the end of the day when you sit under the star-lit African sky by the glow of the campfire, soaking in the memory of the days´ events, with an iced gin and tonic, or a glass of wine from the Cape in your hand, the world’s problems seem far away and somewhat inconsequential.
The experiences of this type of safari will not only appeal to your primeval instincts, but they will your greatest memories in years to come.