| The present high season in East Africa is close to an end. The clients that
I have travelled the bush of northern Tanzania with during February have seen
a good share of big cats and, for this time of year, unusually many elephants.
The migrating herds of gnus and zebras have spent much of the month in the plains
of south-eastern Serengeti,
on the border to Ngorongoro Conservation Area,
where we have seen them in vast numbers. To me, it has been one of the best migration
seasons so far. |
The clients have now returned home, pleased. Most of them
have high expectations when arriving; this safari may be the most expensive tour
that they'll ever do, and they expect an experience out of the ordinary.
So it feels good, when saying goodbye to them after their safari, to hear them
say: 'It has been a lot better than I had expected.' Many of them say that. In
exactly those words.
neighbours at home went to Kruger National Park in South Africa, and had a good
time, seeing a lot. But they didn't see the lion, they said. I refrained from
telling them about those clients of mine that summed up 75 lions during their
week on safari in Tanzania.
| A prime safari region |
I'm afraid they don't
say that because they've had me for a guide, but because they have been on a safari
in a prime safari region, maybe the best one there is. Northern Tanzania and southern
Kenya have it all. The Big
Five. An abundance of wildlife. Many cats. Many elephants, hippos and giraffes.
The vast migrating herds. The typical savanna scenery. And so on.
no doubt have a very good safari elsewhere in Africa, too. But hardly to a region
this rich in wildlife and this accessible.
Safari guide Henrik Hult
It is true, though, that Tanzania and Kenya have
many visitors, and that safari vehicles sometimes are seen massing around trophy
animals such as rhinos and big cats. I experienced this recently, when close to
40 jeeps and minibuses lined up around a hunting lioness in Serengeti. But such
scenes are not the full truth. Most of these gatherings of vehicles are seen in
areas close to where a lot of tourists are staying. The hunt, which ended with
the lion eventually killing a waterbuck, took place in Seronera in central Serengeti,
which is the heart of the park. Due to poor grazing, central Serengeti wasn't
quite up to par during February, so many safari guides took their groups to Seronera,
where you can usually spot cats even when game viewing in general is slow.
Similar scenes can be seen in other areas that have too many lodges and camps
in relation to the size of the game driving areas. The Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania
and Masai Mara in Kenya are such places. In Serengeti, it happens in Seronera
but not much elsewhere in the park. My groups saw cats on a number of occasions,
including lions, leopards, cheetahs, servals and wild cats, with no other vehicles
around, in other areas.
Good safari guides
It's much up to
companies to plan their safari itineraries well, allowing for good game
driving even if the normally good areas should fail. And it's up to the local
operators to employ and train good driver
guides, who don't have to rely on safe bets, but are confident and skilled
enough to bring their clients to alternative areas and find the animals there
on their own.
or Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association, was started some ten years ago,
as an initiative to increase the skills among Kenyan driver guides. To be a member,
you have to pass an examination, showing you're competent enough to provide a
good guiding service to clients. Out in the bush, it's sometimes evident that
also Tanzania would benefit from having such an association, stimulating driver
guides to become more professional, and maybe even preventing some from entering
the parks at all.
One day this winter, a female
rhino and her calf attracted the attention of a number of vehicles in the Ngorongoro
Crater. The rhinos were clearly planning to cross a bush road, but many of the
vehicles kept moving to stay as close as possible, parking wherever the animals
approached the road, thus blocking the passage. The rhinos were most cautious
and couldn't pass. This didn't stop until another vehicle drove up next to ours,
parked there and effectively blocked the road for vehicles behind us. As the road
ahead of us was thus left clear, the rhinos took the opportunity to cross right
Some of the drivers that were blocked from continuing their rhino
chase obviously didn't know, or respect, the most basic park rule: don't disturb
the animals. I had never heard so many car horns in the bush before, or heard
such verbal abuse of a colleague.
The driver guide who had stopped next
to us, helping the rhinos and attracting the wrath of his colleagues, replied:
'I know what I'm doing. I'm a professional guide.'
Very true. The others
should learn from him. Those who don't shouldn't be allowed to bring clients into
the parks at all. A proof of competence, such as KPSGA's in Kenya, would be a
good thing for Tanzania, too.