SEE THE WORLD WITH FRESH EYES
Finding New Perspective
There is – dare I say it – a modicum of predictability in the average safari experience.
Far from suggesting that once you have undergone one, you have seen all there is to be seen, there remain numerous aspects of a safari that may repeatedly occur, and quite thankfully so.
For example, if you were to visit the Maasai Mara, it is highly likely that you will embark on a game drive, witnessing zebra, gazelle, giraffe and other, more populous, wildlife. Lion, leopard and rhino are far less predictable, but the common game are all but guaranteed.
Likewise, Botswana is known for its high, and vehemently protected, elephant population, so chances are high that, if you visit for your first or twenty first time, elephants will feature in your vacation photos.
For the greater part, this is incredibly beneficial. If you wish to see lion, we at Rothschild Safaris can afford you the very best opportunity to do so. If your dream is to spend African nights under canvas, we can promise it without consternation.
I am grateful to have been born in Africa, my many family holidays immersed in the wonderful wilds of a continent to which my heart still belongs, and yet I still never tire of seeing these familiar sights. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t want for a little more of a second or third African safari experience. Nor, indeed, do I suggest that your first safari should be in any way conventional.
Every visit will offer something new, of that you can be sure, but what if you wish for a vacation like no other? Through our many years of safari experience, both visiting Africa and sharing its landscapes with our clients, we have discovered that, even if returning to the same locations, you can experience a safari for the first time all over again.
Here are a handful of ideas for shedding new perspectives on even the most familiar of surroundings:
Travel By Foot
For the greater part, the safari mantra of ‘don’t get out of the car’ stands firm. Your safety far outweighs the benefits of exiting your vehicle and you should always heed the words of your guides to the absolute.
However, certain private reserves not only allow you to walk the earth, they are safe for you to do so, some even without a guide. I have often said that you haven’t experienced Africa until you have done so by foot. A game drive has numerous benefits, including close encounters with animals that might possibly view you as a menu item should they happen upon you alone in the bush! However, taking to the grasslands by foot offers a perspective unachievable in the comfortable and protected confines of a 4×4. Without the gentle rumble of an engine, the squeaking of a carseat as you adjust for the perfect shot or nature’s sounds muted by your metallic surroundings you are able to discover absolute immersion.
Wherever this is allowed, your safety is assured and it isn’t without stringent measures that a walking safari experience can be undertaken. However, regardless of the distinctly herbivorous nature of what you may encounter, a certain thrill remains in the vulnerability of your circumstances.
Even though you might have visited the region on a past vacation, doing so by foot will illuminate your surroundings in a whole new light.
Such Great Heights
If you have watched Robin Williams’ iconic movie Dead Poets’ Society, you might recall a scene in which he invites his students to stand on a desk to gain new perspective on otherwise familiar surroundings.
In a matter of three feet, their elevated viewpoint transforms the prosaic classroom, perhaps not into a magical place of wonder, but at least worthy of a second glance.
The African plains are, of course, infinitely more stimulating than the banal surroundings of a 1950s boys’ school classroom. However, the notion that an altered outlook can induce new experiences remains.
Terra firma can be noticeably restrictive, especially when driving defined tracks in search of elusive game. Take to the air, and a whole new world emerges beneath your floating feet. Flight aircraft and helicopters are a fantastic way to navigate Africa’s expansive landscapes but also offer you a remarkable vantage point from which to view the land, and the life, below. Far more maneuverable and able to reduce airspeed and even hover, helicopters can be an incredible and unique way to enjoy a game drive with a difference – a ‘game fly’ if you will!
For a truly captivating safari experience, however, a balloon flight is simply inimitable. But for the occasional roar of the flame, the silence is absolute as you drift on the wind currents over the veldt, the wildlife beneath you not alarmed as they would be by engines and rotor blades. Because it is such a wonderfully novel experience, the level of wildlife lacks importance. Of course, the ideal scenario would feature the Great Migration, a herd of elephant, a lion kill in progress, Victoria Falls and a Zulu village all in one trip, but simply being at that height, the expansive horizons surrounding you, is thrill enough in itself and, though you are sure to see wildlife, the volume becomes all but inconsequential.
One With Nature
Assimilating with your natural surroundings is another means to new perspectives. Guides and drivers are highly talented in placing you close to the wildlife without startling them and, in some of the more visited parks, the game is also familiar, if not comfortable, with its four-wheeled guests.
However, no matter how skilled your escorts, there remains a separation between mammal and machine.
By taking to the trails on horseback, you are able to move silently through the landscape with wildlife accepting the horse and, by association, its human passenger into their environment. As with walking safaris, this unpowered means of travel gives you a far more complete immersion, the sights and sounds of Africa enveloping you in a way that motorized travel simply can’t emulate.
Adding another dimension to this natural safari experience, a camelback adventure through the lowlands of Kenya combines a silent journey with a unique ride, enjoyable in and of itself, but remarkable when in such a stunning setting.
Taking to the waterways of Africa is another way to alter your perspective. From canoes hand-hewn from a single trunk to luxurious riverboats, this tranquil passage through rivers, lakes and floodplains brings a whole new world to light.
In addition to the waterborne fauna such as waterfowl, hippos and crocodiles – though not in a vulnerable little canoe – the game on the banks of the river are less likely to view you as a threat as they drink from the shoreline.
This is particularly beneficial for photographers, your silently drifting craft allowing you a moving hide from which to capture images unattainable from land or by motor vehicle.
A Deeper Connection
It must first be said that we do not condone any form of animal exploitation. We take great efforts and pride in researching our destinations to ensure that animals are never harmed, taken from the wild for tourist purposes or, likewise, prevented from being rehabilitated back into the wild.
There are, however, a handful of incredible organizations that allow guests to interact with wildlife. While we would always prefer to see game in its natural habitat, necessity sometimes requires animals to be brought into reserves for medical assistance or to be raised by hand. Eco and ethical tourism directly funds these ventures, ensuring that the animals are cared for and eventually, as much as is possible, returned to the plains.
These are most certainly not petting zoos but, under strict supervision, guests are allowed to assist with the reserves’ daily routines, including helping with feeding and even bath time. Several of these non-profit organizations – such as Reteti Elephant Sanctuary – also provide vital work in tracking and monitoring game, especially endangered species, protecting them against poachers and endeavoring to escalate their numbers. This allows you to learn more about the incredible work undertaken, how it is benefitting wildlife and enjoy an up-close-and-personal moment with some of Africa’s most elusive and threatened animals.
You could enjoy the same safari every day for a year and you would have 365 unique safari experiences. But with just a little shift in perspective, you can see the world through entirely fresh eyes, the familiar becoming new once more, the experience like nothing you could have imagined.
Talk to your Rothschild Safaris Travel Designer today about adding a unique twist to your next safari experience.