Four o’clock in the afternoon in Botswana’s Okavango Delta and a drum is tapping out a heartbeat. But this is no call to war: the drum’s beat is soon replaced by the sound of clinking china. It’s time for high tea.
Driven by the expansionist turbines of Queen Victoria’s British Empire, the 19th century saw more progress in mapping and surveying Africa’s mysterious interior than the previous three centuries combined. The interior was extremely dangerous for Europeans, who succumbed to malaria, dysentery and sleeping sickness, or died violently at the hands of indigenous people.
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.
In the early days of African safaris, the 'Big 5' sadly referred to the five most dangerous and challenging animals that a trophy hunter could hunt. Thankfully, 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.
Deciding to take a trip to Africa for a safari adventure is an enormous proposition, involving considerable research into which country you would like to visit, where you want go, which season to visit, and what exactly you want to gain from the experience. And that is before you have looked into booking flight tickets! With such a range of options as to where, what and how, booking a safari can be a bit overwhelming: once you've chosen a particular country, you need to decide between the cosseted pampering and luxury of a top-end lodge, with magnificent accommodation and an accompanying price tag, through all the mid-level options to an overland adventure tour where you help out with daily chores.