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Safari in Africa
By Michael Russell.
It is thought that safaris as we
know them now, i.e. hunting wild animals, started as long ago as the
nineteenth century, the term being coined by Captain Sir Richard
Francis Burton, the English explorer, when gentlemen of a certain
class took pleasure in killing beasts in their natural habitat, in
order to prove their manhood and bag a trophy for the library wall.
Nowadays, thankfully, there are
few amongst us who would consider slaughtering the wonderful
creatures of Africa as a sport, but we still like to experience the
adventure of hunting them down in order to watch them in the wild.
Most people are keen to see the
“Big Five” - elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo, lion and leopard. Why
the graceful giraffes and antelopes and cheetahs, the fastest
creatures on earth, are left out of this revered group is a mystery,
but that’s the way it goes. In addition to the mammals, there is
also a fantastic array of colourful bird life as well as butterflies
and insects, so never a dull moment on safari.
Uganda is much improved, having
recovered from the depredations of Idi Amin and you can risk
Zimbabwe if you want but the best safariing is to be found in Kenya,
Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa. Within these countries, there
are many different game parks or reserves, each with a special
character or attraction and often a different group of resident
animals. For example, the Serengeti National Park/Ngorongoro
Conservation Area is famous for the enormous herds of wildebeest,
zebra and antelope where the calves are born before the grazing runs
out and the herds move on. In Kenya, Tsavo East National Park is
renowned for the largest herds of elephant in the country, whereas
the Masai Mara is home to all of the Big Five as well as most other
species as well as being the best place to see the migration south
of the wildebeest, zebra and antelope back to the plains of the
There are also many types of
safari to choose from. You can travel by small purpose-built
mini-bus which holds about eight people, by jeep, by elephant or
horse or even, for the adventurous, on foot (accompanied by an armed
guide, of course).
You can stay overnight in
luxurious lodges (very welcome after a hot dusty game drive) or
permanent camps (nearly as luxurious), in tree-top eco-friendly
hotels or join in setting up camp on the more rugged safaris. You
can also book a beach holiday and just take a half-day or a night or
two away, booked locally.
The most important part though,
is not your mode of transport or your accommodation, but the
animals. The thrill of the chase, the news from your driver that one
of his colleagues has just seen a lioness with her cubs, right by
the trees over there, the excitement of actually seeing in the wild,
a beast which you many only have seen previously in photographs or
at best, behind bars in a zoo.
You may see sociable elephants,
usually to be found in large family groups, if you’re lucky, with
babies in tow. You may see black rhino, but he probably won’t see
you - they have extremely poor eyesight but a great sense of smell.
Then there are tall, elegant giraffes, munching from trees far out
of reach of the other beasts, dainty antelopes, big cats, ferocious
or playful and so much more.
Put these fabulous creatures
together with the vast beauty that is Africa and the sense of the
dangerous and the exotic and you have the experience of a lifetime
so go and shoot a few animals (with your camera, of course).
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