Thursday, May 2, 2013

Safari Life

“Everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is worst of all.” 
-Brian Jackman, journalist

I have had a few people ask me about bush camps and safaris.  Hopefully this is because they are planning their visit soon; I can't wait for my next chance!  Though they vary slightly from place to place, there are many similar characteristics between most safaris on this continent.  We've gone on a few safaris, but we'll use our recent amazing experience at Camp Somalisa as an example...

The term safari previously was used to mean hunting for large game, but almost never means that now.  Meaning "long journey" in Swahili, the word safari  now typically indicates an overland journey to observe or photograph wildlife, usually in Africa or Australia. Though getting out of a vehicle to hike is sometimes involved (unless you have a three year-old that looks like snack food), the vehicle (or another mode of transportation like elephant, airplane, or horseback) is an important part of the journey in modern times.  Safaris can also be a form of Eco tourism in which "normal" people like me can become educated on the ecosystems and animal kingdoms of indigenous regions. The use of professional guides (ours, a hilarious encyclopedia named Ray, is pictured below), the vehicle, our shelter, and a distractingly boastful shotgun on the front of our jeep all make for a safe trip in an area of the bush no ignorant person like myself should find themselves in.

Remarkably congruent to the early safaris of the 1800s, many safaris typically follow a similar schedule every day. Safaris start with rising at first light.


A quick breakfast around a campfire


is then followed by leaving camp to scout out animals and flora of interest.  Early mornings can be chilly!

Though we returned to camp each day after about four hours of traveling over the grasslands, 

some safaris call for an energetic day of walking before lunch and a hot afternoon rest. We didn't put our little lunchable at risk by walking around much.

Tea times were observed at our camp in true British style.  We often stopped at a watering hole, getting out of our jeep to stretch our legs, enjoy some snacks, and scout out busy dung beetles.


After our afternoon rest and tea, we took in another four hour trek before returning an hour after dark to one of our favorite activities.  


Like most on safaris, we enjoyed a formal dinner before chatting with drinks in hand and a glowing campfire in front of us to light our exhausted discussions of the day's sightings.  Though the lion kill was an amazing, happy topic of conversation, my favorite story originates with Jonas' fascination of dung beetles... 

As we neared our last turn before arriving back at the bush camp, I pointed to a large (think flattened tennis ball) dung beetle taking flight in front of the vehicle.  "Ooh," I said, pointing for Jonas to see.  "A dung beetle!"  All five of our heads turned in a synchronized motion and watched as the beetle zipped in front of us, headed peacefully toward a tree. We ooed happily  for Jonas' sake and smi-ZAP!   The beetle was suddenly snatched up and eaten by a swooping bird right in front of our eyes.  Guide Ray said that still counted as us witnessing a kill, though we laughed a lot over that stretch.  It may have been the smallest kill ever spotted from a safari jeep!

Somalisa Acacia's unfenced bush camp of platform tents was a truly amazing respite from our long safari journeys. Though it was never separate from the gritty wildlife of Hwange, it was restful luxury nonetheless.

For more information on the bush camp, please visit my other blog, where I will admit that I may have let my three year old get about five feet from a wild bull elephant: