“There is something about safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne — bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive.” – Karen Blixen
(Danish author best known for “Out of Africa”, her account of living in Kenya)
No matter how much you read, how many friends you consult, and how well you plan for a trip to Africa, nothing will quite prepare you for just how it will take you in, fill you with wonder, leave you breathless, and truly change you.
There are a thousand superlatives for this great continent and such diversity between countries and experiences. Common questions my clients often ask about Africa are whether they should visit South Africa or East Africa, what is the best time of year, how can we catch the Great Migration, is it safe, what is the food like, at what age shall we take the kids, but most importantly, I am always asked: What is Safari life really like?
The people, in general, are so incredibly friendly, genuine, interesting and interested. My clients always come back remembering names and telling stories about the people they encountered along the way. Often saying goodbye to the team at a safari camp – your tracker and ranger, the guards, the chef, servers and housekeepers -will bring tears to your eyes.
In some part of the bush you have the opportunity see tribes – to see how they live, and see their homes, how they gather water, cook, and even dance and sing, maybe purchase the jewelry they make. You will see Masai Warriors walking across vast plains on their own – even young girls going to get water – with just their spear as a weapon. There is wildlife everywhere. They are incredibly brave and this is magnificent to see.
The vast landscapes, the acacia trees, the sky with truly so many stars that it will capture your mind forever. Never in your life have seen skies so vast and so flooded with bright stars. It is unimaginable.
You will arrive by light aircraft and safari jeeps to the most gorgeous lodges, tents, manors – Each completely different and unique and a wow. Such luxury and oh so remote! Every evening, every morning is a new exploration. Afternoons are for down time – swimming, reading a book, and finding a game, writing about your experiences. Time stands still and it is magical. You have long forgotten the fervid pace of home, the daily news, the sounds of urban life. You can hear yourself think and breathe. You may comment to yourself, that you have never heard such silence. It does not exist in our world. That said, the night is always full of unfamiliar sounds – hyenas, rhinos, hippos, a lion, a leopard, an impala flying by at the speed of light.
Life is relaxed in the bush, but there are RULES – this is not a game, it is not the zoo, this is the wild. You will be advised to not stand up in your open air vehicle or you can startle or upset an animal. Never leave your room or tent before dawn or after dusk without being escorted by a brave Zulu, Samburu or Masai warrior – they are employed at the safari lodges and they have grown up in the bush. They will escort you with their rifle to the bar, to dinner and then back to your tent again when it is time to sleep. In the morning, they will wake you often with the wonderful greeting of “Jambo” (“Hello” in Swahili) as they leave a cup of piping hot coffee and a biscuit.
The lodging options on safari are incredible and there are swimming pools and pool tables and ping pong – small things to enjoy your idle time between game drives, as you sip a glass of wine and take a moment to replay the adventures and wildlife you have encountered that day. There is no chance to feel bored, but I am sure you will learn to appreciate the downtime between game drives and between meals. Each meal is an event in itself.
The food is part of the experience and most guests are blown away with the gorgeous and fresh food and sweets – so carefully prepared for them everywhere they travel and throughout the day. There are so many wonderful meats to eat in Africa and each is more delicious then the next, and so lean. You will likely really enjoy impala, and warthog, springbok and ostrich. The vegetables, salads, fresh produce are so beautiful and delicious. And lovely soups and stews and homemade jams are pure comfort!
There are so many wonderful little extras, such as your ranger pulling out a spread with tea and cookies for the morning break on safari, and cocktails and snacks pulled as the day closes for sundowners on the plains. You are there with your ranger and your tracker and you know that all around you the animals are getting ready to prey and find their dinners, but you are safe and you are relaxed.
I can’t do justice to describing the thrill of a game drive, but a few moments that have stuck in my mind are watching hyenas surrounding our BOMA dinner in the bush, turning on the jeep lights and seeing the silhouettes of a dozen massive hippos coming out of the river, coming upon a den with three lionesses playing with their cubs just outside of a cave, having an angry and frustrated alpha male elephant charge our vehicle as we sped away, coming upon a pack of wild dogs and seeing their loyal and communal social structure at work, being surprised by an impala who came running and springing 10 -15 feet in the air close to where I was standing, enjoying a cocktail, when a herd of 20 – 30 elephants of all shapes and sizes, trotted by.
This is Africa, real, wild, authentic! It is impossible to describe – it must be discovered. There is no way to know exactly what the safari experience will be from day to day so no need to try to control it, just let Africa happen.
Laura Madrid travels frequently to Africa and sends many clients each year. In general, an African Safari should be booked one year to six months in advance as the best lodges are very small and do sell out early. To find out more about more about the where, what, and how of your next African adventure, contact Resort to Laura Madrid.