During my recent Zoom Vacations tour to southern Africa, I posted a number of photos on social media while on safari. My Facebook friends couldn't believe how close we got to the animals, and some suggested that it couldn't be real.
Truly, when you see the photos, it is kind of unbelievable. While in our safari jeep, we could literally get within a few feet of lions. Apparently, while in the jeep, the lions and other animals view us as kind of one big moving blob. I imagine that they look at us in the same way that we consider clouds in the sky. They are just kind of an innocuous thing that doesn't really have an impact.
Our safari rangers instruct us to always stay seated, and not stand up even to get that amazing Kodak moment. I have been on safari drives in the past, where someone did indeed stand up, and it is amazing what happens. The animals who normally pay no interest at all, suddenly look up with attention. This is especially true with the big cats.
Other animals do give a little bit of notice, even when we are sitting in the safari vehicle, but it is not like they run away. They may walk away as we get closer, but they do not treat us like predators. It's more like when you move out of the way of someone who is approaching you on the street. The cats for the most part act like we are not there, even when our safari vehicle is driving loudly on the brush right next to them, and our ranger is speaking to us
Safari vehicles have been around for these animals' whole lives, and they learn that it is nothing to fear. This is similar to the experience that I had when I went to the Galapagos, where the animals have simply not been taught to fear of humans. This enables people to get very close to the animals without them running away nor attacking.
With all of this in mind, I am always a little bit confused why there is any kind of allure for big game hunters to come in and kill animals, as if it is some kind of daring accomplishment. To my understanding, for the most part, it is the same animals they are hunting who move freely throughout large parts of Africa, who have learned that these vehicles pose no threat. Even if I am wrong, and these animals are totally different beasts somehow, I still don't understand the desire.
Being on safari and seeing these beautiful animals, never once have I thought "Oh, that giraffe is so incredible. I want to kill it," or "This Leopard is so scary, beautiful, and majestic: hurry up, get it." Yeah, I don't get it. On safari, if anything, my travelers gain a new appreciation and respect for wildlife. We see firsthand the animals' fight for survival. The last thing to enter our minds is to destroy what we find so beautiful and inspiring.
The thing is, being on safari is more than just fun or interesting: it can be somewhat spiritual. Experiencing the balance of life, untouched, and seeing how we truly are all connected in the circle of life is truly beautiful. Also, being on safari isn't just about seeing animals. One of the biggest highlights for our group was the night where we stopped our safari vehicle in the middle of the African bush, and gazed up at a million stars. Several of my travelers commented that they had never seen so many stars in their lives.
We sat there in the darkness, mesmerized by the Milky Way, listening to the sounds around us: A rustling in a nearby bush, the call of another animal in the distance, and of course the melody of crickets and other insects. I am trying to remember the last time I felt so much at piece.
On safari, our rangers often say that you can take the animal out of the bush, but you can't take the bush out of the animal. Well, time and time again on the safari experiences with my group, I see that you can take the man out of the city, yet you can indeed take the city out of the man... at least for a moment.