For choosing the right safari

Safari expe­ri­ence

A safari is not just a hol­i­day. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime expe­ri­ence, a way for peo­ple caught up in the non-stop pres­sures of mod­ern life to take a step back and redis­cover a part of them­selves they have lost touch with. Safari has taken on almost mys­ti­cal spir­i­tual dimen­sion. It’s a con­di­tion of mind, a lifestyle, an atti­tude … It strip away all the unnec­es­sary stresses of life and bring us to the stark real­iza­tion than in a hos­tile envi­ron­ment, all the trap­pings of civil­i­sa­tion are use­less to pro­tect us. Since safaris are about watch­ing ani­mals, rather than hunt­ing them, this activ­ity has become more an obser­va­tion, a search for one­self. Each safari is a new story, unique and incom­pa­ra­ble. It dif­fers not only from one coun­try to another, from one sub­ject to another, but from one day to another. It’s always a new world that comes to life. So, we should talk about safaris only in the plural. Some tourists now go on safari expect­ing to see wildlife in the same way they might visit the pyra­mids in Egypt or the tem­ples of Cam­bo­dia, tick­ing them off on a men­tal list as they travel. This is to miss the point of the safari expe­ri­ence. To get the most out of a safari, you must tune your mind to be in awe of the mag­nif­i­cence of the ephemeral spec­ta­cle that nature pro­vides. The game reserves are con­stantly chang­ing and the herds of ani­mals move around the park. No two vis­i­tors will ever have quite the same expe­ri­ence. It is a real priv­i­lege to see the ani­mals of Africa in their nat­ural habi­tat, a priv­i­lege that demands patience and a cer­tain degree of humil­ity. There are no guar­an­tees with a safari. You may be lucky and see a lot of ani­mals or you may see noth­ing. What is cer­tain, how­ever, is that it is prefer­able to travel alone or as part of a small group, as mush of the romance of the safari is lost if every time the radio directs your minibus to some­where you can find ani­mals, the place is already crowded with vehi­cles. Sim­i­larly, a week spend in a hotel with all mod­ern con­ve­niences is a far cry from the romance of a night under can­vas in a remote cor­ner of the bush. Such moments of har­mony with the nat­ural world are rare and pre­cious. Nature is a place for quiet con­tem­pla­tion. To under­stand its secrets you must free your­self of pre­con­cep­tions and open your mind to all form of beauty. Con­trary to what wildlife doc­u­men­taries might lead tourists to expect, lions do not spend all day hunt­ing, mon­keys often spend hours hid­ing in trees rather than play­ing about the cam­era, and ele­phants rarely fight. It can take sev­eral months of prepa­ra­tion to obtain just a few excel­lent shots or a cou­ple of min­utes of screen time. To cap­ture the most excit­ing moments of life on the savan­nah, you must be pre­pared to wait, and wait, and wait! The only sure way of being there to shoot the moment of drama is to be con­stantly alert, curi­ous and ready to move at a moment’s notice. You need patience, per­se­ver­ance and a healthy dose of luck. In a gen­eral way, Kenya, Tan­za­nia and South Africa offer a very sat­is­fy­ing safari style for those who want to see a lot, com­fort­ably and eas­ily. With the incon­ve­nience that we know. Namibia, Botswana and essen­tially Zam­bia and Zim­babwe offer, on their side, adven­tures more excit­ing, orig­i­nal but also more ran­dom. Any­way, it requires get­ting up early. The obser­va­tion of nature begins right from the sun­rise. Each noise, each track, each smell will be an indi­ca­tion to dis­cover an ani­mal. This is when the game drive starts in a vehi­cle done to with­stand the bumpy trails or cross the tall grass behind a car­ni­vore. It is some­times pos­si­ble to do walk­ing safaris. Some­times by bal­loon! Some­times by boat. I spent twenty years trav­el­ling across Africa, from Mau­ri­ta­nia to Uganda, Ethiopia to Angola to observe wildlife as much as men. I brought back reports, books and exhi­bi­tions. And I put his expe­ri­ence to good use to derive lessons each. The book I did on safaris [SAFARIS, Flam­mar­ion edt.] dis­cusses the advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages of each major coun­try where this enjoy­able and edi­fy­ing activ­ity is prac­ticed. Tan­za­nia, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Zam­bia, Zim­babwe… each coun­try has its own qual­i­ties to jus­tify a visit. This book will help the trav­eller to attach his choice on the des­ti­na­tion that suits him best.

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