I am not sure if is only me on this one, but the private safari guides that enter the Kruger on a daily basis from lodges and towns outside the National Park for one day game viewing experiences frustrate me enormously. I have no problem with the fact that they are in radio communication with one another as this serves as a useful tool to let each other know what animals have been spotted and on which roads. With the recent explosion of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, real time sightings information is available for all other visitors too. What I do have a problem with is how the guides behave once they have heard these updates. This is when my hackles rise!
On countless occasions I have watched these large safari game viewers come motoring past me, well over the speed limit of 50km per hour in hot pursuit of a sighting. One can compare them to vultures descending on a carcass so as to not miss out on any scraps. For the fear of being disrespectful to one of nature’s finest scavengers, maybe the better comparison might be that of tow truck driver racing to the scene of a road accident in the big city. All to try and secure business for a scrap yard, ultimately resulting in good commission.
Apart from breaking the speed limit on the way to a sighting, once they arrive, they often manage to jostle and bully their way into the best position blocking opportunities for smaller vehicles behind them. These private vehicles also have visitors that are just as excited to see a lion for the first time as the guests sitting in these game viewers. Before I rant any further, I would like to state that my objection is certainly a generalisation and it should not be assumed that every single guide that operates in the Kruger National Park behaves like this, but from my observations, unfortunately, many do. The sad thing is that because of this, I personally reconsider which camps I will stay at during peak holiday periods and steer clear of any entry and exit roads to avoid the hustle and bustle of these insensitive “Ferrari Safari” guides. There is a lot more to a whole safari experience than only seeing the Big 5.
Working in the industry, I understand that rangers are often under enormous pressure from some naive guests to deliver on unrealistic expectations set by brilliant marketing teams worldwide. Not only that, but it seems to be an industry standard to pay poorly as it has become know that the unbelievable lifestyle alone attracts “good” people, even if they don’t last long. Being able to watch and appreciate the sunrise each morning in the knowledge that you are in the middle of 2.2 million hectares of natural wilderness. To breathe the fresh air. To watch the circle of life and to see the seasons change. To be able to experience the watch the survival of the fittest and resist the temptation to interfere. To be able to work with like-minded people who are as passionate and concerned about conserving the environment. To delight guests from all corners of the globe by allowing them to admire the animals and assist them with subjective interpretation of their behaviours. To be able to share unbelievable past experiences. In my eyes… that is what being a game ranger is all about. Certainly not about ignoring the interests of others, pushing ethical boundaries and chasing the BIG 5. This is what often leads to generous gratuities. Greed seems to be what this bizarre behaviour boils down to.
In conclusion, and contrary to the subject of this article, it must be said that I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to meet and be taken on safari by many of these guides while growing up. I have fond memories of wonderful times spent with friends and family in the Kruger National Park. Perhaps I wrote this entry to see if any others share the same frustrations as I do. Maybe by reporting some of these actions to Park Authorities we can eradicate unwanted and unethical behaviour in our National Parks. What are your thoughts?