Someone says safari and instantly our minds fill with a very particular series of images.

We see four-wheel-drive vehicles traversing dusty roads and fording streams. And we think of mosquito nets dangling daintily over high beds inside canvas tents, see ourselves wearing khaki clothes, and we imagine what it would be like to view all the wonders that the vast wild continent has to offer.

safari animals©delbars

(If you are less romantically inclined you might, of course, first consider the Apple Safari web browser but we can’t help you with that!)

With the advent of increasingly adventurous travel around the globe, a safari no longer needs to be traditional. It has come a long way from its firm connections with unbridled hunting and extreme exorbitant provisioning with little or no regard for the communities living in the countries visited. It has also divorced itself from big game hunting almost entirely.

But if we travel back almost two centuries we can pinpoint the origin of the idea that developed around seeing African animals on safari.

Safari: a traveling etymology

In 1858 a word was used for the first time in the English language by the explorer Richard Francis Burton. It was a foreign word for a very familiar concept, and it had made the jump from the Kiswahili verb ”kusafiri’ which meant ”to travel’ and this was a second adventure for the word as it originally transitioned to Kiswahili from the Arabic “سفر” or “safar.”

African safari animals ©David Clode

At the time when the word ‘safari’ started to gain traction in the English speaking world, the idea of overland expeditions in Africa was not a new one. Missionaries and explorers had been taking trips to Africa since the turn of the century. With colonization came a broad spread knowledge of the mysteries and marvels that Africa held. By 1863 Jules Verne’s first novel ”Five Weeks in a Balloon’ mentioned English travelers on a mission to spy safari animals.

The genre of safari adventure novels and films was established with the safari featuring in sound films from Trader Horn (1931) forwards.

African Safari Animals© fxxu –

Thoroughly Modern Movement

Safari can now be used to refer to a style of travel, to a style of clothing or even interior design and architecture.

The word that initially referred to taking a long journey continued on its own journey. From its origin where it was used for trips primarily concerned with trade through the journeys that were all about hunting in East Africa. In the present day, it offers a glimpse into the past through the opportunity to experience traditional ways of life and introduces people to the wildlife, the culture and the landscape of Africa.

A modern safari is no longer the unbending experience of a traveler observing Africa. It has even outgrown the luxury concept that bloomed in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, sending the cost of an African safari through the roof. Today it has redefined itself to fit with the personality of every member of the trip and many experiences that no-one would have dreamt of a century ago are now enjoyed daily in Africa.

In this latest incarnation, the logistics might be much smoother, but the untamed wilderness and incredible African wildlife encounters remain unchanged.

Our century has also seen the fruits of earlier far-sighted attempts to protect the wildlife and the communities surrounding it from disappearing.

Safari Animals© Hu Chen –

Safari of the future

As we start talking about traveling as far as Mars and travelers are purchasing tickets to circumnavigate the globe in space, the spirit of our popular safari is once again undergoing a metamorphosis. The safari of the future is looking beyond Africa and returning to its roots as a long journey.

When you are planning a journey to the corners of the world that offer access to spaces that are still unconditionally untamed. When your travels take you into the world of wild creatures. And when you look forward to meeting the human communities that live inside or on the edges of these incredible places… you are going on safari in the real sense of the word.

You can take a safari to India to meet tigers and see the Taj Mahal. Maybe you dream of a safari into the heart of the Amazon of South America. Or you want to wander down under and safari through the mountains and waters of Tasmania.

Wherever your dreams take you, we create trips that are always filled with the wild wonder and adventure of an authentic safari.