A safari by foot or a safari by arm chair?

Or would you like to do both?

The very word safari means different things to many different people.

To a rifle owner it probably means a dusty hunting trip, man or woman against beast. To a Tanzanian businessman it means a trip by bus to a town perhaps three hours ride away to buy or sell a commodity or two or to visit a relative at his home village 500kms away on the other side of the country.

To many people today a safari comes to life on the pages of a web site. Images promise grand colonial luxury where your own personal butler waits on you. The ever-smiling safari guide awaits your group at dawn. Scenes of pristine African landscapes seduce you; lions surround the safari limousine and chilled wine is set up with two crystal glasses, white linen beneath on a rustic driftwood table. Every image is dreamlike and you return to the web to surf for more. The need to return to African Safari web sites grows and you find yourself hooked, drawn in. So perhaps you do some research by finding friends of friends that have made the pilgrimage to that other world.

The world of the African Wildlife Safari.

Photo by Paul OliverThere’s no need to bring a gun! Paul will handle that

Then you notice that people live in Africa as well and you now find photographs of enticing looking tribes people dressed in bright cloth holding, yes, sharp looking spears.

“I want to be there.” You scream. You imagine yourself at that rustic table toasting your safari day with those glasses of wine and that picture of you and the warriors in the can ready to be mounted when you get home.

You now book your safari. So what if it costs a packet and that you will be joining 14 others on your trip. It all looks so wonderful.

At a dinner party there is often a safari expert or two these days and you find yourself listening to a debate about what a real safari is as the old safari hands compete to outdo each other with stories of what they saw and did and how good their very own private safari guide was.

“But my guide spoke five African languages.” Says an English chap.

“We saw a caracal.” He continues. “I am sure you didn’t”

What is a caracal you ask yourself?

Then you pluck up the courage to ask a few questions of these expert sounding dinner party guests, as you are going on safari in twelve weeks time and really do need to know a little more.

You gingerly state that you are going to Tanzania and will be spending two nights in each of five National Parks and visiting a ‘Cultural Boma’ - whatever that is?

The safari hands turn on you and say that you have booked a silly trip and will be spending all you days traveling on a main dusty road in a convoy of three vehicles with strangers from god knows where. That you will visit a set up situation with the Maasai Boma visit as everyone just drives in and takes pictures. You are horrified to hear that the drivers keep their radios on as they drive chatting to the friends and when you find the lion pride lo and behold there are the drivers friends, each a driver of the 14 safari vehicles surrounding the lions packed with guests.

You start to panic and then thankfully you remember that you didn’t pay the deposit for your safari yet. You turn to the safari hands and ask.

“So tell me about the real safari experience and how on earth, looking at the hundreds of web sites, can I tell what is real or very commercial? How do I know that the guide or facility or the locations I want to go to are the very best?”

They really enjoy giving you advice and as one of them has been on seven Tanzanian safaris you take notes.

“The very best safaris are as part of a small group of up to six people. I prefer camping trips that use remote camping sites well away from the main routes in the parks and if not camping I like to stay in the smaller lodges, lodges with a maximum of forty to sixty beds.”

“But I’ve never been camping don’t you get eaten by lions or hyenas?” You protest.

Calmly the English chap who saw the caracal states:

“Today’s luxury safari camping safaris are very stylish with beautiful large tents, wonderful beds with linen, exquisite food and wine and there’s absolutely no danger from the wildlife. In fact I believe the closer to the wildlife you sleep the more thrilling the safari. And why go to Africa for a safari that doesn’t thrill you ? Under canvas and off road! That’s the key. That’s the safari for me.”

Under canvas and off road, yes that is what I want, well you think you do!
You write it down and thank your new safari friends and ask them for contacts both near home and in Africa.

The Maasai are fascinated by our hairThe Maasai are fascinated by our hair

Racheal is a hitRacheal is a hit