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To be wild or not to be wild

What’s your threshold? It may seem like an unusual question, but when it comes to heading out into the wilds of Africa, it’s actually quite an important one.

Because what you can handle – or perhaps more crucially, what you can’t handle – can be pivotal in making your safari experience one to remember rather than one to dread or have nightmares about!

Being taken out of your comfort zone, no matter how adventurous you are, is often a daunting experience, especially when you add potentially dangerous animals to the mix.

You therefore have to be completely honest with yourself when in the planning stages of your safari as to what, precisely, your understanding of “wild” is and what is going to scare the living daylights out of you and what is otherwise cool.

When it’s your first time out, that’s often hard to do, because you have no idea how you are going to react when finding a rather large elephant virtually sitting on your tent’s doorstep while sauntering back from a cooling dip in the bushcamp pool….

So gauge your reactions to things you are familiar with – spiders, bugs, snakes…all of these things come in abundance in the average wild corners of the African bush.

There’s a good reason to believe that if you can’t handle a moth back home in the safety of suburban life, then one potentially ten times bigger in a tent in the middle of the bush is going to upset you, somewhat!

Golden orb web spider!

When it comes to bugs, or “goggas” as we call them here in South Africa, it’s always puzzled me how the smallest things phase the biggest people – I have seen hardened safari veterans who are happy to approach breeding herds of elephant on foot and sit in the middle of a pride of feeding lions without turning a hair felled by a tiny caterpillar or menacing looking solifuge the size of their pinky finger.

Personally I find all things creepy and crawly fascinating, and for those of them that bite – mildly irritating.

Biting insects are a force to be reckoned with in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and in the tropics the main culprits are the mosquito and the tsetse fly.

So a good question to ask yourself is how you react to insect bites and are you going to come over all faint the first time something takes a bug-sized mouthful?

Higher up the scale, and downgrading from 8 and 6 legs to four, there are, realistically, quite a few dangerous beasties out in Africa’s beautiful wild places.

And in most truly authentic bush and safari camps which don’t have fences or any other deterrent, those beasties are at liberty to stroll through your safari camp at will.

Lion, leopard, hyaena and elephant are all regular visitors to by far the majority of the camps I know, and that fact alone is a contributing factor to what makes a safari special for me.

But for others, it may have a negative effect. So you need to be sure of what you can deal with, what you are prepared to deal with, even, and what you are not.

Ultimately, taking the wild side of things gives you a marvelously authentic African experience, and if you are open to new experiences, and love a thrill or two, then go for the total immersion that a remote bush camp will give you.

If, however, you prefer Africa a little more diluted, with air-conditioning and wildlife at more of an arm’s length – then there is no shame in that, as long as you admit it and book yourself the trip of a lifetime to suit it!

Whatever your choice, and your threshold, there is nothing to compare to the magnificence of the African bush. Enjoy!

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