The usual African safari may be all good and well, considering the typical steps: fly in, take the jeep for a spin, get pictures of the big five, enjoy sundowners and fly out. Sure that does sound like a nice trip, but African safari travel could be so much more than an album of zebra photos. Opening up unseen landscapes, intimate cultural experiences, birding safaris and even horse-riding with giraffes generally sound incredibly interesting.
Many African countries are working with local tribes to conserve the wildebeest population by signing agreements to lease cattle grazing land and former cattle ranches for conservation. The profit gained from African safari trips are used to not only reimburse the tribes for their land, but also keep the conservation lands open to the wildlife. Kruger park camping safaris end up saving the environment and being a lot of fun; it’s a symbiotic relationship with synergy. Results have proven positive helping curb destructive grazing and have reopened wildebeest migration routes.
Again, African safari lodges would in the past allow the occasional photo-op with decorated ‘tribesmen,’ but more and more safaris are offering something vastly more meaningful. Instead of a simple photo, local guides are now introducing visitor to native through translation and a tour of villages across Africa. Getting intimate with the local schools, elders at court and traditional healers exposes both sides to a bit of an African cultural safari. There are even facilities for 8-day initiation trials where adventurers can join in on hunts that the young men of the area participate in to come of age. This is definitely no hit-and-run cultural experience.
Some luxury African safaris have done away with jeeps altogether; the Zambezi queen is an eco-friendly boathouse that uses solar powered heating, low-emission power output and jet propulsion ensuring no damage to the riverbed and surrounding ecosystem. Falling asleep in the luxury of this floating hotel to the sounds of Africa, which have been a lullaby for millennia, can only be described as breath-taking; one of the many reasons one takes on an African safari to begin with.