Safari Etiquette

As all of you who read my blog will know, I’ve got a holiday coming up. And by coming up, I mean I fly out on Thursday night. Most of me, like 90%, doesn’t want to be the guy who blabs on about his upcoming holiday, but right now, the 10% is winning, so I decided to write this little blog today. Okay, it’s not specific to my upcoming holiday – which is an African safari in case you needed reminding – but it is safari-specific. Today, I will be sharing valuable lessons learned on my previous six safaris so that if you ever go on one, and are even luckier to spend a safari in the company of yours truly, you will know what to do and what not to do to ensure an optimal experience for you, and more importantly, for me. Are you ready to grab your seat on the open-top viewer? Good, cause here we go.

  1. Go to the bathroom before you step onto the vehicle. Sounds simple really, but I’ve had tons of drives halted because people need to use the bathroom. Or even worse, they get in the jeep and then want to go. Now I know sometimes when you have to go, you have to go, and I’ve been in this situation and in close proximity to a hippo, but for the most part – use the damn loo.
  2. If a drive starts at 6 am, be there at 5:55 and ready to go. Don’t come strolling over at 6:05 without a care in the world. This safari is not just for you. And when you do show up late, don’t expect to have someone move so you can sit next to your friend, your spouse, the hot guy or girl in the jeep. You want to sit next to someone, be there on time. And make sure you’ve gone to the bathroom too.
  3. There is to be no smoking on the drive. For that matter, there will be no phone calls either. Nothing worse than having the person sitting beside you chatting into a phone while you’re trying to enjoy the sounds of nature. It’s only happened to me once – he was apparently some high-powered businessman trying to broker a deal and had to take the call. Stocks and bonds do not mix with elephants and lions.
  4. When your guide gives you instructions at the beginning of the drive, listen to them and follow them inherently. If he says do not stand up in the vehicle, he’s not doing this to be mean, he’s doing this because it is for your safety and actually provides better animal viewing. Most animals do not have great eyesight. They cannot really pick out details as finely as we can. They’ll see a jeep and it is all just one mass. As soon as you stand, or lean out too far, you break the shape of this mass and can spook the animal. A spooked animal will usually run away, but sometimes, well, he’ll run towards you. And an elephant can easily flip a jeep over. If I get flipped over in a jeep and die because you stood up, I am going to haunt you in your afterlife (if you believe in that sort of thing) and probably do unspeakable things to your remaining living family members. If you don’t believe in the afterlife, I wish nothing but bad things, for example, your son/nephew/male cousin getting a wasp sting on his willy when using an outhouse at a picnic spot. How about them apples, stupid standing-up-in-jeep person?
  5. You know that clicking sound you make when you’re trying to call your dog, your cat, your horse, or the guy at the bar you totally want to take home but you know he’s too stupid to know his own name so you just snap your fingers and purse your lips in his direction … do not do that to wild animals. A) it doesn’t work, and B) you’re a complete puss nugget if you do that. And C) you’re a complete puss nugget.
  6. You know that old adage that there are no stupid questions? Well, that’s not necessarily true on safari. If you stumble across a pride of lions and they’re sleeping, which is what they do on average of 18 hours a day, do not look at your watch and see it is your dinner time and expect them to get up. When they don’t, do not turn to the guide and ask her what time the lions go for dinner. Free delivery rates kick in at 7 pm numb nuts, they’re obviously waiting for that. Geez, what a stupid question.
  7. Under no circumstances do you touch the animals unless the guide says so. Sometimes he’ll pick up a bug for you to touch, or maybe a turtle, but unless it is a domesticated cheetah that seem to be the norm at many lodges these days, you will keep your hands to yourself. And yes, it will be quite hard at times. You’ll be surrounded by a herd of elephants, and they will be completely at ease with you there. Some of the younger ones will venture over to the jeep and their trunks will be sniffing all around you, inches from your face. The common reaction would be to stroke its trunk. In this situation just think back to your days at the Lusty Leopard in the Champagne Room where your best friend bought you your first lap dance. Were you allowed to touch the girl? No you were not. She did all the touching. Likewise, you are not allowed to touch the elephant. A bouncer might not beat you up and throw your ass out of the club on safari, but a very maternal matriarch elephant can do a whole worse to you if you mess with her offspring. On a side note, you also do not want a lap dance from an elephant. Just thought I’d mention that.
  8. It is perfectly acceptable to quietly hum porn music if you see two animals going at it. I said quietly. It’s not acceptable to have said porn music saved on your phone so you can play it in such situations. That is just creepy. No one likes creepy. Dubbing the aforementioned porn music into the video you will likely take of the consummating animals can be done at your discretion. Make sure to tag your videos online as such: #IthinkImfunnybutthisisactuallyjustreallylameanditdidturnmeonseeingthisact
  9. Speaking of tagging photos, you might want to know the exact name of the animal you are tagging, just in case people like me are around to read these posts. I understand it can be hard identifying birds and antelope species, but if you invent an animal, I hope your next trip to the doctor is a painful one #camel lion.
  10. The most important thing is two-fold really, and cannot be stressed enough. And I will not attempt to make any jokes out of it. Firstly, make sure you really want to go on a safari, and don’t just do one to cross off your bucket list. There will be periods where you drive around seemingly aimlessly, passing yet another herd of impala and nothing but impala. This can get rather frustrating; even for the guides. Safari jeeps can be uncomfortable. The roads seldom pathed and smooth. It can be dusty, it can be windy and rainy, and it can be cold and miserable. And on those days, when you’re struggling to stay warm or keep your bum from falling asleep, a failure to see animals will seem like the worst thing in the world. The second point here, and it is directly linked to point one, is that you are not in a zoo. These animals are not behind cages, are not confined to 100 square meters to explore. There is no guarantee that you will see everything you want to see.

    I have done upwards of 48 different game drives and walks throughout my six safaris, and there are still so many things I have yet to see. I have not seen a successful hunt – not even the act of a hunt. I’ve see the aftermath, but never a hunt. I’ve not seen many cubs, and those I did see where a great distance away, barely visible without binoculars. No two drives are the same. If you’re expecting to come with a list and have it checked off before your first drive is over, you’re probably going to be disappointed. I’ve heard tales of people not seeing “enough” animals on a drive and then deciding to cancel the rest of their safari because it wasn’t good enough. If you think that is you, don’t go. The easiest way to sum it up, and if it still interests you is this: You cannot expect anything but you have to expect anything. It’s the uncertainty, the mystery, the not knowing what is out there that brings me back. Plus I do like the fresh air.

So there you have it, a little handy guide to being a great safari guest. Follow these rules (and of course buy me a sundowner) and we’ll get along well on safari.