It’s a much misused and misunderstood word, safari… It literally means “journey” in kiSwahili, the language of the vast plains of East Africa which has become an internationally recognised linguistic symbol, as it were, of Africa.
Thanks to Disney’s “Lion King” almost everyone who ventures into Africa knows hakuna matata (“no problem”) and simba (“lion”). But far from signifying the act of travelling from one place to another, safari has evolved a different meaning, and, for me at least, a way of life!
It means packing a lightweight bag with neutral coloured clothing, gathering up binoculars and photographic equipment, grabbing a fetching hat and heading off into some of the last remaining wild corners of the fabled Dark Continent.
Yup, safari is the ultimate journey, where man communes with nature in all of its wild and untamed glory. Or it should be…
Sadly, it’s getting harder to find truly wild places in Africa, and in spite of the amazing variety of safari packages on offer to today’s traveller, precious few offer genuinely authentic experiences. Safari, it seems, has become big business. Especially in Kenya and Tanzania, where turn of the 20th century colonialism gave cause to the likes of Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton to up and move to “Aaafricaaa” and make wearing khaki, pith helmets and “going on safari” all the rage in the “civilised” western world.
Where once the Maasai Mara was untouched by all but the wandering tribe whose name it carries, its vast plains are now ringed by huge safari resorts catering to a mass market, with more in development as I write. After dark, their lights litter the ridges and hills of the Mara, invading and intruding on the rich velvet that is African night. By day they jut out like huge, artificial termitariums, their guests scurrying around in their hundreds, ant-like, in search of the Big Five… It’s all very far removed from what safari means to me. And so you won’t be hearing about these places in my columns, of which this is the first. You will, however, be told about some of the very best destinations in Africa which still hold true to the traditional safari ethics… small, exclusive, touching the Earth lightly and allowing guests to touch, taste, smell and hear Africa at very close quarters, while at the same time conserving the environment, benefiting and educating communities and changing mindsets.
Africa is full of amazing places and some incredible people who live and work on the front-line of conservation, so I’ll be writing a lot about them, while giving you advice on choosing your ultimate safari destinations and how to prepare for your journey of a lifetime in the place where humankind began… Mother Africa.
I don’t pull punches and tell it like it is, so hopefully your weekly dose of “The Bush Babe” will both enlighten and entertain you and more than anything encourage you to explore the magnificent continent I am proud to call “home”.
So, let the safari begin!
The Bush Babe