Why a safari is worth it

Pet Tales
by Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.

This is the deal that is offered. You make the decision whether to do it or not. You will receive a wake-up knock on your door at 5 a.m. in the morning. A light breakfast - juice, coffee, cold cereal - will be available at 5:30 a.m., but you must be ready by 6 a.m. to depart. You should dress warmly because at the start it will likely be cool. However, that warmth should be achieved with layers of clothing because by mid to late morning it will be quite warm, requiring some shedding of outer layers. Rain ponchos are available to help stay dry, if sudden cloudbursts of rain should occur. Blankets to wrap yourself in are likely to be needed at the start of your journey and they also are supplied.

Now you will be riding in a safari Land Rover, a jeep-like vehicle. It will be a rocky ride. The seats are not very cushioned and the vehicle's shock absorbers are rather rudimentary. You will certainly have no problem 'feeling the road', if you like that feature in an auto. There is a windshield, but that is all. The rest is open air, though, there is a canvas roof overhead. The wind will be blowing in your face. However, road conditions are so terrible that usually you will moving at only 10-12 km/h, so the wind speed won't bother you much. Unfortunately, when moving slowly it's better for your warmth, but it allows biting flies and other insects to be a bit more of a nuisance. Also, you must remain alert, because occasionally the branch of a tree or bush may try to swat you in the face as your vehicle passes by. Some of these branches have many needle-sharp, two centimeter long, spiny thorns along their length. They can really be nasty. Also, your driver is going to have other things on his mind. He's going to be looking outside the vehicle much of the time, his eyes will certainly not be on the road, at all times. Hopefully, he will avoid any serious pitfalls.

Now, it's not really a road you will be traveling on. It's more a trail with two tire tracks where vehicles like yours have passed before. It's a long and winding trail. It twists and turns constantly. There are many ruts and potholes, some may be water-filled. Also, if you're lucky, occasionally your driver will go 'off road', where the terrain is even more rugged and unpredictable. Better hold on tightly to the rail in front of you, at times, to avoid injury. It's to be hoped you don't have back or neck problems or get car sick. The landscape is quite unchanging - dry, scrub bush of the acacia family, low trees and occasional larger varieties. You will travel like this for approximately 4-5 hours. Oh yes, after your ride, you will end up where you started, you won't really have reached anywhere new.

Alright, this is why people subject themselves to the above. You are guaranteed to see wild impala. It's almost certain you will see giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and several other species of antelope living in an environment native and natural for them. You will see many different varieties of wild birds. Depending on the exact location you will likely see elephants, possibly rhinoceros, hyenas and hippopotamuses. Wild cats are a bit more difficult to find, but let me tell you about a morning I experienced a few weeks ago.

We were on a drive early in the morning in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The day before our driver had found a likely, leopard kill site. This particular morning we located her some distance from that location, resting, after again feasting on leftovers at that site. It was an awesome experience to see such a magnificent creature up close and personal, 3-4 meters away. Many photographs were taken. Leaving that spot, a short drive away, we came upon a small pride of lions - 2 adult females and 3 lion cubs, about 2 months old. It was fascinating to watch their family interactions. One cannot help but marvel at how similar they are to our domestic felines in manner, movements, behaviour and actions. Leaving this lion location we hurried to an area where a cheetah had been spotted. When we reached that vicinity, we spotted her. Then came the bonus. Trailing along behind her, came three little cubs. Their little voices were squeaking and chirping, as they tried to keep mom in sight through the tall grass.

There you have it - the pros and the cons. You decide. Do you want to go on an African safari through a national park or game reserve or not?  You already know my answer to that question. Barry Burtis is a local companion animal veterinarian. Past Pet Tales can be found at www.baycitiesanimalhospital.ca