Going on a safari holiday is perfectly safe but there are important guidelines to follow to get the most out of your trip…
..and some examples of what happened to people who didn’t do as they were told….
- Don’t get out of your vehicle. To a lion or leopard, a safari vehicle is just a large, harmless creature. It doesn’t look tasty and smells terrible. In fact there’s nothing about it that makes a carnivore think of food. Get out of the vehicle and you suddenly become a creature with a head, body and limbs, in fact just the same as all other prey. Shame nobody told this to the Japanese man who, impressed how docile some lions were as his vehicle stopped only a few yards away, decided to get out for some close-up…
- Don’t run (not straight away anyway). If you are caught in the open by a dangerous animal, don’t run. Even a Rhino can reach speeds of 30 mph and can turn quicker than you. Think about it, antelope run (a lot quicker than you can) and still get caught. With a rhino it is best to scarper but try to distract this fairly blind creature. A stone thrown to one side to divert or an item of clothing discarded to distract is a good start. Then climb a tree. Although not like a Honeymooner in South Africa who used his (now ex) wife as a ladder to escape a charging rhino. If it’s a lion, don’t turn your back but try to maintain eye-contact, making yourself look as big as possible. Piece of cake.
- Don’t wander around outside at night in your camp/lodge. Some lodges and camps are fenced, keeping the animals out and you in. (With the exception of monkeys and baboons). Most however are open, allowing the animals to wander freely around the grounds grazing. Many lodges and camps are built by rivers, the home to hippos that kill more humans every year than any other animal. Why? At night they come out of the water to graze and should you bump into one on the way back to your room you are unlikely to win. Most lodges have guides to escort you back to your room. Even rangers get caught out by this – 2 were killed and eaten at Nakuru National Park in Kenya for going out alone at night for calls of nature.
- Don’t bring babies with you. Babies and very young children are not a good idea. On a more mundane level, they will shout out and scare away the game. More seriously, if they cry it can attract the big predators that are perplexed by the noise and attracted by the possibility of young, tender meat. Your guide will get you away before it becomes dangerous, but it can be a bit alarming to have a pride of lions head your way in attack formation.
- Don’t be fooled by the “cute little animals”. The smaller creatures may look cuddly, but they live in a tough environment where it’s a cute creature eat cute creature world. Don’t try to stroke them or offer them food – your hand will look just as tasty as the ham sandwich you are offering. I still have the scar from a Rock Hyrax on Mt.Kenya who took a fancy to my thumb.
- Don’t wear bright colours. Some animals have excellent eye-sight and the sight of you bumping towards them in your favourite 70’s psychedelic retro tee shirt is not something they will hang about to see. Dress in plain earthy colours to blend with the terrain. That way you will not scare the animals away and you will look more intrepid in the photos.
- Don’t bring food with you in the vehicle. Most game animals have a sense of smell 100’s if not 1,000’s of times better than ours. It’s highly unlikely that a lion is going to come after your cheese sandwich, but baboons and monkeys will be in and out of the vehicle before you know it and if your camera and wallet happen to be in the same bag, tough.
- Don’t leave your boots/shoes outside your tent/room at night. To a snake they look like a burrow, are pleasantly warm and probably smell like rotting flesh after a few days of game-viewing…
- Don’t sit in the back row of seats of the safari vehicle. It’s very bumpy and you will bang your head on the ceiling.
- Don’t shout or talk loudly. When you finally spot that elusive leopard don’t yell “Over there” at the top of your voice. It will have gone before you can point it out to the rest of the party and they will think you made it up. Keep your voice down.
That’s it. Most importantly, have fun. Safari is a wonderful experience and to find out more about a typical day on safari click here.