Contrary to popular belief, bucket lists aren’t only for retired folk who are keen to SKI (‘spend the kids’ inheritance’). Today, youngsters are more switched on than ever before and after spending hours watching BBC or Lost Planet documentaries, many can’t wait to come to Africa and experience the thrill of seeing a leopard in the wild or elephant family at play for themselves.
It is the question safari guides across Africa dread the most: 'Will we see a leopard?' The answer is tricky because although Panthera pardus is found from the lush Cape Winelands in the south to the rolling hills of northern Kenya, the leopard's mastery of camouflage and stealth makes it extremely elusive.
Weighing as much as three family cars, you’d think that an elephant would make a racket when moving through the wilderness. Instead, they have the unnerving habit of appearing out of the landscape without warning, strolling unstoppably towards a favourite waterhole, riverbank or fruiting trees.
You follow a narrow hiking trail through the lushness of a tropical rainforest, wiping sweat from your eyes and feeling grateful for your gators. Suddenly, a tracker returns from scouting ahead and excitedly halts your group - it's time to drop your backpack and move forward slowly with nothing but your camera and the thrill of anticipation. Grinning, your guide turns and whispers the words you've been waiting to hear: ‘There they are.’
It’s impossible not to like giraffes. Their languid manner and slightly puzzled expressions have entranced us since one was shipped to a disbelieving Italy in the 1400s. It is an animal so peculiar in appearance that its scientific name - Giraffa camelopardalis - reflects its perceived similarity to both a camel and … uhm … a leopard.
Elephants love their mud. They squish it, fling it, ride it and learn from it. What's not to love? Watch as these elephants face their daily dose of mud and the fun, creativity and challenges that come along with it.
This morning, we woke very early to take a walk through the reserve, but there were too many signs of lion and a large herd of buffalo near camp, making it unsafe to go on foot.
In the early days of African safaris, the “Big 5” referred to the five most dangerous and challenging animals that a trophy hunter could hunt. In modern African travel, photographic safaris have transformed the way people encounter wildlife. Today, we use our digital cameras to "shoot" elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard, taking nothing but their images for our trophies.
Africa has never really lost the aura of mystery that surrounded the "Dark Continent". Early explorers carried home sketches of creatures so fantastical that the good citizens of Holland, England, France and Portugal came to believe that Africa was a land populated by myths and legends where anything was possible. Today, Africa is still an unfamiliar destination for many travellers, which gives rise to naive questions that are, in the glory of hindsight, quite funny to an experienced traveller.
Guides say that if you see 1% of what sees you in the African wilderness, you are very, very observant. This is mostly because every living creature makes use of camouflage, whether to hide from predators or sneak up on prey. It is also because guides know that our over-stimulated and under-utilized city senses are pretty much good for nothing in the jungle.