When Good Safaris Go Bad…


the sun will rise…

I’ve gone wild for the fabulous guests I’ve had this past month.  Like, really wild.  They’ve been awesome and are probably some of the best I’ve had. Tick bite fever aside, I’ve been on a pretty big high this last month. But as I’ve learned, safaris can’t always be cookies and fairy lights all the time.  They should be though, right?

Well, the safari I’ve just concluded proves that safaris can suck. Not only can they suck, but they can be hurtful and downright abusive too. From the outset, my last safari was miserable. It stayed that way throughout and finally culminated in the senseless deaths of countless caterpillars. I won’t go into details, but it made me question everything we do as guides. Are the ecological benefits of what we do, really enough to justify the damage we cause? Because sometimes I think they aren’t.  How much environmental harm is done just so that somebody who doesn’t want to be there can photograph the back of a buffalo’s head with a camera phone?

Is our ecological impact really worth it?

I’ve turned to ‘friends in the know’ these past days and put the same question to them. And the general consensus seems to be that as safari guides we’re the lesser of many evils. Unintentionally, we cause damage and harm to the animals and environments we love every time we lead a safari. But if we weren’t there, then who would be? Another less ethically-minded guide? Or worse, no guide at all? Or even worse, people intent on destroying our wild? Because it could happen.  All too easily. It’s something I’ll be left thinking about for a long time to come.

That safari is over (thank goodness!) and I’ve donated the income I’ve made during this awful safari to the Lepidopterists Society of Africa, who do brilliant work in butterfly conservation. You can find them at http://www.lepsoc.org.za. Take something vile and turn it into the most beautiful thing possible. Dirty money, transformed into butterflies. Yeah, that works for me 🙂

So let’s end this on a lighthearted note. I’m always looking for a positive, so the following is a list of actual things I did to cope with my bad safari, as it was happening…

Top 5: Guide’s Guide to Surviving a Bad Safari

1. Pick it Up: Keep tabs on every time a bad guest does something to upset you. For each instance, stop and pick up a piece of garbage from the roadside. Use their negativity to clean up the environment. Win!

2. Drinking games! Carry a flask of hot chocolate. Every time they shout ‘STOP!’ take a swig. Double it up when they shout STOP when you’re already stopped. With the engine off. I’ve had so much hot chocolate in the last 48 hours that my teeth feel like they’re disintegrating.

3. Breathe: It’s what we do best. Zone out. Meditate on each breath.  Notice the infinite colours your eyes are picking up at every given moment. At least until someone shouts ‘STOP!’

4. Thought Experiments: Imagine you can confiscate each of their cameras. What would you do with them? Because I’d donate them to science. Have you ever wondered how close you can get a Canon lens to an active volcano before the glass shatters? I certainly have. Or what depth can you sink a Nikon body to the bottom of the ocean before the pressure is just too much and it collapses in on itself?  I wonder… And really, how does a Samsung bridge camera cope in zero-gravity? Why not send it on a space mission and find out?  NASA’s next launch happens to be in just a couple of days, on March 22nd.  I even looked it up.  That’s how serious I was.

5.  Good old medicinal uses:  Start talking about the medicinal uses of trees. All the trees. The guests aren’t listening anyway, and it’s great practice. “So those trees that are obscuring the nyala you’re attempting to photograph with futility, are Magic Guarris. You can use them to treat constipation… diarrhoea… yep, not sure how that works either… abdominal pain… convulsions… toothache… leprosy…” See how far you get before someone shouts “JUST GO!”

Until the next safari, LOVE.

we’re all equals here…

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