Safari Still So Good
For me it was Kipling, for my boy Madagascar, for others it could be a postcard or a billboard. Many will be seduced this autumn by Disney's new feature African Cats, but for any safari fan (and few only do it once) there is always something that ignites their African evolutionary touch paper.
I spoke to someone the other day and they pleaded poverty. "I wanted to do it right: I have been to a dozen lectures, seen every National Geographic documentary ever made and my son is called David after Mr Attenborough, but I could never afford it, now I go every year and it has marched all over every past holiday". This is not unusual.
I am lucky to travel there most years and people often ask "doesn't it get boring?". The frank answer is no. The light is different, the vegetation, the company but critically the animals. My own favourite is the Masai Mara but I can wax enthusiastically about gorillas in Rwanda, the carmine bee eaters and primary forests of South Luangwa, the granite outcrops and herds of the Serengeti or the hippos and elephants of the Lower Zambezi.
Research is a good thing, critical in fact, but don't do too much. Today there are webcams at waterholes, there are a million online links and countless galleries and Facebook bush tales that elicit that vicarious safari glow. But they don't take you there.
This summer I am guiding a couple who have been to Antarctica, Spitsbergen and Kenya with me, they are coming to Kenya again. They don't even bring cameras, being there is enough, being woken by bush babies or the lonesome lament of the ring-necked dove is beyond cyberspace. Newborn gazelles or fresh-faced impalas beat Facebook any day and a million wildebeest wins over a million YouTube hits.
Personally I miss the distant rumble of lions at night, the keening of excited jackals and 'those' skies. I am longing for my fix, like many others, a self-confessed addict.
There is an old Ndebele saying 'Once your feet are in the mud of the Zambezi banks, you will always return'. It could have been written about the whole of East and Southern Africa.
By Paul Goldstein