A Safari in Layman’s Terms

A Safari in Layman’s Terms

Marloes Elbertsen | Before I give you a description of the ins and outs of what is a safari, you need to know a little about me. When I was a young kid, my parents believed that children needed to learn how to take care of other living species. Both my brother and I got a small kitchen garden and a kitten. For a little girl, it was perfect to come home and cuddle with the cats, feed them and learn about their personality. However, my love and respect for animals grew instantly during my first safari. After my second and third safari, I really got to learn about the actual behaviors of the animals and their struggles.

After each safari experience, I came home with loads of stories that were never-ending. I almost pushed the photo books in the hands of whoever came close. Eventually, when I started begging my family to go out into the world to experience this marvel, my parents surprised me and booked a ticket to Uganda. However, my mom told me she was struggling with the fact that she will go into a Park and disturb the animals purely for her own pleasure. I was honestly dazed. Didn’t I tell them all these stories about the why’s and how’s? Weren’t they the ones teaching me to never forget the interest of the animal – starting with my own kitten?

Mom, I appreciate you for giving this a thought. But you need to understand that most safari parks wouldn’t exist or at least would be less inhabited without the safari industry. Let me explain how this works from A to Z.” As only my mom does, she got herself a notebook to write down any questions in case something came up. Nice, now I felt like I had to do some weird school presentation. Deep breath.

Ok, let’s take the Masai Mara as an example so I can explain this better. The Mara is a wild area with mostly savannas (grasslands). In the Mara you will find the Big Five (elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and the buffalo) plus millions of other creatures like birds, giraffes, zebras and many more. To ensure the livelihood of these animals, it has been named a ‘National Park . Basically, this ensures that the government will protect the area. As you understand, there are many threats to the animals. Think about poaching, diseases, extinction and natural influences like fire. Therefore, we pay entrance fees for the parks, so that the rangers can research the animals and protect them from all these threats. Without tourism, it will be difficult to fund this and as it has been proved before, animals left to these threats face terrible outcomes. The same goes for the gorilla permits which you can get in Uganda to visit the great apes. These permits you have to purchase where only small groups a day can visit the gorillas. The money you pay for the permit will be used to protect the gorillas and further train the guides. As a bonus, you receive the best possible experience.”

My mom is clearly relieved and excited to go. “So let’s book something. What do you suggest?” she asked.

Ho! Wait! “Mom, there are millions of options. It depends on your budget and what you like to do. Dad has a bad back, so he might want to spread out the traveling throughout the day. How it works is that you will go on a game drive. A ‘National Park’ is not a zoo and you can’t just go somewhere and expect to see a lion. That’s why it’s called a game drive; you hope for the best and drive around to see as much as possible. However, most animals show themselves during the hunting time which is early in the morning and in the late afternoon. During the day most of them sleep to avoid the heat. So you can do the same. One game drive early in the morning, you go back to your lodge to relax a bit and have a nice lunch and about all the things you have just seen. Then late in the afternoon, you get back into the van for another game drive. In the evening you go to bed early to prepare yourself for the next day. Myself, I like to be in the vehicle as much as possible since I like driving around the park and talk a bit, do some napping, take some pictures and still look around to find that family of giraffes.”

Again, my mom knows what she wants. The relaxing part also seems to excite her. So far so good!

But mom, there are many other options as well. I really like to do a walking safari where a ranger will take you out for a walk through the park.” I start laughing when I see her face. Although I try to explain to her it’s absolutely safe, this might be a bit too much for my dearest mother. “What would be really cool is if you guys go on a cultural tour in between the game drives. Meaning you will visit one of the surrounding villages and learn about their way of living, traditions and you can even buy some of their crafts to help support them. I’ve done it myself and it’s really a surprising experience. That’s the fun part about a safari, you can put in as much diversity as you want, and kind of tailor make your own holiday. Depending on your budget, you can go really low and get a small tent next to a nice fireplace and find the true “back-to-nature” experience. On the flipside, there are very luxury hotels with fine dining, swimming pools and high-end services. But of course, this is for a much bigger wallet. Also, you can drive there yourself or you can fly in. Both are a great experience where you’ll see the country from different angles. You can go to a specific park for three days and travel to another one from there or you spend a full two weeks at one park. You can choose to go on a private safari or join others on a shared safari. Again, all is possible and really depending on what you desire and can afford. The one promise I can make you is that all of the options are perfect. The experience itself is mind-blowing and a game drive will never be tiresome. Every single game drive brings new excitement.

My mom took a glimpse at me. I smile. We both know this trip is going to be a great one!