October marks the end of the monsoon in India and humans begin trickling into the national parks to witness tigers in their natural habitat. Meanwhile in Africa, the hubbub of visitors to the savannas of East Africa quietens. An India safari in the jungle or savanna safari in Africa are completely diverse experiences but each offer important insights into protecting these wild kings.
Imagine an expansive, empty stretch in front of you that is shimmering hazily in the sunshine. Only a few baobab trees in the distance can be seen rising from the glowing orange earth. A warm breeze brushes your skin as you drive along in your jeep.
But wait! You see a few black dots appear to the right and so your guide maneuvers the vehicle in that direction. With your binoculars you can see that it is a small zeal of zebras, whose white stripes become visible as you venture closer.
You continue onwards through this immense landscape, after watching these graceful animals for a while. You discover wildebeest, giraffes and the bare heads and bumps of hippos in glistening waters. Further along, as you venture up a slight incline, you discover a lion resting, probably after a breakfast of wildebeest.
The sun has only been up for a few hours but it is already the ideal sleeping conditions for this satiated king. This is the Serengeti and Masai Mara.
Imagine the mist rising and disappearing as the morning sunshine breaks out, reflecting in the thick, dense green foliage around you.
Your nostrils are alive with the leafy humus scents of fresh dawn. On India safaris, you’ll find that the jungle is alive with sound and movement, as an array of birds and monkeys sway the treeptops and boar and fowl scuttle about in the undergrowth.
With a hot water bottle and woolen blanket on your lap to avert the morning chill, your vehicle slows to a halt and the engine is switched off.
The birdlife twittering around you is explained in a hushed voice by your naturalist who keeps pausing mid-sentence as he watches for subtle movements and calls. Suddenly, he hears what only an experienced ear can hear and swings into action!
The engine switches on and you again jaunt along the narrow path towards the activity. Deeper in the jungle, the sambar deer are on the move as the black-faced langaur monkeys inform them of the big cat prowling around.
As you bump along the earthy track, he slows to point out a fresh paw print of this jungle’s king, before you carry on. A few metres along, there is the tiger hiding amongst some bracken, carefully watching with his muscular limbs poised protectively over his breakfast.
A safari in East Africa and India safaris cannot be compared. The landscapes and wildlife are outright opposites. Some prefer the thrill of the tiger tracking, the encircling trees of India’s jungles and the boundless hidden nature. Others might argue that the Out of Africa experience is the ultimate safari.
Most of our wildlife enthusiast guests who have tried both tell us that you simply shouldn’t compare and we would have to agree. To experience both safari styles is to appreciate just how diverse the habitats of our natural world can be.
Why do we go on safari? To remind ourselves – away from our city concrete playgrounds and organised ornamentals – just how raw and real life is. To remember how other creatures can rule the world just as much as we, yet they only use their energy and predatory might as required, respecting the delicate eco system around them the rest of the time. We learn that there is a harmonic balance within these landscapes that seems to work for every creature.
We go on safari to find compassion for these big cats and a desire to protect them from our own impactful human behaviour, be it poaching, logging or littering. We come home and tell our friends how amazing it was to be up-close – really close – to nature and just how exhilarating the wild side of life truly can be.