Safaris are great! The best ones are in the middle of ‘nowhere’ amidst nature, far off paved roads. Zimbabwe and Botswana are excellent choices for the real feel & authentic bush experience. We have to admit it might not always be cheap to get into the deep wilderness, but definitely worth it!
The Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve and Savuti in Botswana as well as Hwange National Park, Matusadona and Mana Pools in Zimbabwe are just some of many great destinations in Southern Africa. There are numerous camps for (almost) all budgets. It can be a pretty difficult decision which one to choose as each and every single one is unique.
How to get into the wilderness?
Guests can either drive to the camps or – much more exciting and comfortable – fly in. We would even say a flight in one of the small charter bush planes is a must! Most of them have space for at least 6 passengers but will not carry more than 12 and surely no more than 1 medium piece of baggage per person plus hand luggage. The reason travelers are restricted to a maximum 10-20 kg baggage weight (depending on the company) is that there simply isn’t more space! And that’s for a good reason. Just imagine a huge plane landing amidst the wilderness, scaring away all the wildlife.
The bush plane pilots are very considerate and the service is attentive and personal – like everything on a safari. They welcome you with a smile and a warm handshake before taking you through the safety briefing. The flights can sometimes get bumpy, but the incredible view from above makes easily up for that! One can spot herds of elephants strolling along, hippos sunbathing and sometimes zebras and antelopes grazing. However, even if there is no visible wildlife, the landscape will blow your mind away. Don’t miss the opportunity to take unique pictures of this aerial vistas due to your amazement. The view you experience during a flight is very different from the usual game drives and walks, all of incomparable beauty though.
At some point you see the rather small airstrip – a short, narrow strip cleared off the many endemic plants. If you look closely, you can already spot the game drive vehicle and the guide from your bush camp next to the airstrip. He is awaiting you and the other adventurers to introduce you to his world. It can easily happen that your guide has to chase off some wildlife to clear the airstrip for your landing.
Your pilot will safely land on this tiny landing strip – it is said that the African bush pilots are some of the best trained pilots! After landing he opens the door for you, lowers the steps and unloads your luggage. Before handing you over to your guide he wishes you a great time in the bush and many sightings. Your guide on the other hand warmly welcomes you and safely stores your luggage in the open game drive vehicle. Most likely you watch the charter plane taking off before you head for your camp and combine this with a first short game drive.
Your Private Hideaway
As you are already in the middle of the bush, you might enjoy your first wildlife sightings on your way to the camp. It’s always good to keep your eyes wide open, although your guide will probably spot the best camouflaged animals before you even take notice of anything.
Once in your camp you are warmly welcomed by the camp staff – maybe even with singing or a welcome dance. With a refreshing welcome drink in hand and a stunning view from the camp’s main area, you listen to the short, but very important safety talk of the camp manager. Make sure you listen well and follow the rules because you are in a wildlife area – and most of the camps are unfenced. And even a few fences will most likely not keep all the wildlife out, but only elephants and tall game. Guides often add with a smile that “the fences are not there to keep the animals out, but to keep the guests inside the camp!”
In general, if you follow the rules, life in the bush is not as dangerous as represented in most Hollywood movies and wildlife is not as bloodthirsty either. However, you do have to be aware of the possible dangers of wildlife encounters. You would not try to pet a wild brown bear either, we suppose… Once briefed, you may roam freely within most camps during day time. After dark and before sunrise, when predators and also elephants are more active, your guide will accompany you to and from your tent. Never leave the camp nor the pathways in the camp on your own!
While your luggage has already been dumped at your room, you might as well make yourself comfortable in your private tent now – be it a typical Meru-style safari tent or a luxury chalet – whatever you have chosen to be your home away from home for the next few days. But don’t get too comfy, there are many activities on offer to discover the area and its inhabitants…
More on the Real Bush Experience coming soon, lookout for Part II.
By Miriam Reiter – The Safari Source