Five things to Remember when you are on Safari
by Leon van Wyk
In compiling this little list, I have chosen not to make it a list of items to remember to take with you, but rather a list of attitude or mindset pointers that will contribute to the positive outcome of the safari for yourself and those around you.
(1) Always be respectful
“Men are respectable only as they respect.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
As a privileged visitor to a special wild place on the planet, it is important to always behave in a respectful manner. You need to be respectful towards your fellow safari-goers, your guiding team and the environment. Keeping cell phones on silent, keeping your voice low, refraining from any kind of littering and just keeping an overall low profile are some of the ways in which you are expected to be respectful. Your impact on the environment should always be minimal and should never be negative.
(2) Be prepared
“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.” – Eliyahu Goldratt
When you turn up for the start of a game drive, walk, boat cruise or any other component of your safari, it is essential that you are properly prepared. This means appropriately dressed (including suitable footwear, hat, and layers of clothing which can be removed or added as the weather changes) and equipped with the correct gear / accessories in a state of readiness. Binoculars should be clean, camera should be clean and fitted with a fully charged battery (also carry a fully charged spare battery), you should have more than enough memory space (gone are the days, for most people anyway, when rolls of slide or print film needed to be carried with you), and everything else which you might plan to use should be fit and ready for use. As conditions of light change, for example, you might want to change your camera settings accordingly. You never know just when that unforgettable piece of action or stunningly beautiful scenery or sky will present itself for capturing, and you want to be ready to give yourself the best chance of securing a memorable image.
(3) Live in the moment and enjoy it
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” – Buddha
While it is very rewarding to take memorable photographs or video clips during your safari, this should not be at the expense of living in the moment and enjoying yourself. Too many people spend too much of their safari time peering through a camera lens, taking huge numbers of photographs, and not enough time actually experiencing what is going on around them. By all means, take plenty of photographs, but please also take time out from photography and indulge in just enjoying the experience. Watch behaviour and interactions, enjoy the smells and sounds as well as the visual delights. Allow all your senses to get involved, relax and appreciate where you are and what you are doing. Get those binoculars out and open up a whole new close-up appreciation. Your safari is going to pass by so quickly, and surely you don’t want to remember it entirely for what you saw through the lens of your camera.
(4) Remember, you are not at the zoo
“Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
When out on safari, there are going to be times when the game-viewing is exceptional, but there will also be times when animals seem to be scarce, inactive or just hiding. Try not to have unrealistic expectations of seeing the Big Five on every outing or seeing predators on the hunt on request. Don’t be upset if sometimes everything seems to be quiet. The animals are out there, doing their thing, and sometimes “doing their thing” means doing nothing! Searching for animals should be a major part of the experience, and it is so much more satisfying to find what you have been looking for after a lengthy exercise, which might involve tracking or following up on other clues. Invariably, your guide wants you to see good game, and will make every effort to increase your chances. Trust your guide and tracker and get involved with them in the whole process of finding game. It would not be nearly so much fun if you always knew exactly where to go to find lions, or that the elephants would be guaranteed to be at a certain water hole at a fixed time every day. If you want to be certain of seeing a particular animal, you might as well go to a zoo…. there is reward in the search and that is what safari is all about!
(5) Their survival depends on YOU
“We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” -Native American proverb
By being on safari, you are playing an important role in ensuring that the ecosystem you are visiting is being preserved as such. Most safari destinations are heavily dependent on the funding from paying guests in order to remain as close to their natural state as possible, and to remain viable. Give that fact some thought and feel good about it! A safari is by no means an inexpensive undertaking. If at first you feel like swallowing hard when paying for your safari, think again. Give yourself a pat on the back, knowing that you are contributing directly to protecting Nature. Our planet’s truly wild areas are under ever-increasing pressure from a burgeoning human population. We simply cannot allow natural ecosystems to diminish further and place more species under threat of extinction.