Want to learn more about what a Safari is really like? Sign up to receive my blog posts from my recent journey to Dubai, Botswana, Cape Town, Kruger and finally the sites in Johannesburg. Each blog post will focus on a particular aspect of Safari, and to start with, I’d like to share a story:
What Makes a Safari Successful?
Imagine you’re sitting in an open-air Land Cruiser on Safari. There are only four of you in the vehicle, and Tony is your guide.
Tony drives along the sandy paths through the Khwai private reserve in Botswana. He takes you to places where National Geographic film their documentaries. David Attenborough and Morgan Freeman travel to these exclusive locations in the Okavango Delta. This is a haven of abundant wildlife teeming with elephants, wild dogs and leopards. You’re not anywhere; you’re in an exclusive location and Tony knows how to give you that experience.
Tony was my guide a few weeks ago, and from his open vehicle, we cruised past the mopane bushes where the majestic Kudu antelope stood still, their white stripes camouflaged in the thickets. The leaves were turning yellow as fall approached in Botswana. “This year we have a drought,” Tony said. “We’re waiting for the waters from Angola to flow into our delta.”
Tony leaned over the side studying footprints in the sand. He stopped the vehicle, found a stick, then circled a footprint. To me this faint footprint was impossible to identify. It could have been a lion, a leopard or a hyena. I had no idea how to differentiate footprints: I only know human shoe prints.
“This is a leopard footprint,” Tony said, climbing back into the driver’s seat. He steered through the scrub and suddenly brought the vehicle to a halt. He saw something, but my untrained eyes didn’t see a thing. “There she is,” he said pointing to a distant mopane tree. Between the yellow leaves, I identified leopard spots and Tony continued, “She has a four-month old cub.” He scanned the surrounding golden, grass which resembled wheat fields ready to be harvested. Then Tony turned around to face us and whispered, “There’s her cub.”
I borrowed his binoculars and saw the mother leopard asleep, camouflaged by the golden mopane leaves and he cub about 65 feet or 20 meters away. I knew that cubs were vulnerable to predators, and just like a parent, I assumed that the mother would be next to her baby.
We sat in silence, waiting for some action. Tony said, “This cub is not used to people. She is not habituated, and we want her to get used to us.” At first, I wasn’t quite sure why, but then he explained that they don’t want the wildlife to be skittish, and to run away from humans. We were able to spend one-hour studying the mother and her cub, and noticed, with time, how the cub grew more confident. She started approaching our vehicle, just like a curious child. It was such an unbelievable sighting, and just as the cub got close to us, the mother approached, making sure that her baby was safe.
The beauty of having our own guide on a private concession, is that we could spend as much time as we wanted, studying the wildlife. We were not sandwiched between several other travelers in our vehicle vying for a chance to see the leopard. We were alone and had the privilege to experience a leopard and her cub, without the noise of ten other vehicles surrounding us.
It’s about the quality of your Safari experience.