For someone on their first African safari, and indeed, someone visiting Londolozi for their first time, the wildlife experience is second to none. This experience, and the manner in which one would experience a game drive can however be a surprise, and even a little frightening to some, and that is totally understandable.

A question we as rangers are often asked is “Why don’t these animals attack us?”, “Are we safe to be this close?” or “Why is it that these animals seem so relaxed with the vehicles?”.

Let’s discuss…

It goes without saying that safety when out on game drive is every ranger’s first priority. The focus of the experience is to enjoy it, to capture unique moments in time that can be shared with friends and family for generations to come, and of course, after all, the purpose is to have FUN, but to do so safely! Our rangers and trackers are an extremely experienced team with an excess of 250 years collective experience among the tracker team, and more than 150 years amongst the guiding team, and are consequently well equipped to ensure that an experience is enjoyed safely.

ellie-vehicle

Elephants in particular have very clear body language that will tell you if they are unhappy with something. A respectful distance is always maintained by the Londolozi guides and trackers, and a close encounter will only occur when it is the elephant that has decided to walk past the vehicle.

With this being said, both trackers and rangers are constantly monitoring each animal’s behaviour, and are always on the lookout for any signs or signals that indicate that an animal may not be entirely comfortable with our presence. Subtle movements, which may go entirely unnoticed by many, are providing rangers and trackers with information about the animals’ state of mind, which then allows each ranger to make a decision about how to approach an animal and to establish a comfortable distance from which to enjoy the sighting without bothering or stressing the animal.

piva-vehicle

The big cats in particular have for the most part grown up seeing Land Rovers, and as a result are relaxed in their presence.

In every situation, it is important to remember that we are merely on-lookers into the daily lives of these wonderful animals and should as such not lose sight of the fact that we need to respect them in their natural habitats. This often means giving animals the neccessary space that they require in order to allow them to continue with their natural movements as if we were not present. Perhaps this is why we are often asked why it is that animals seem so comfortable around the vehicles. It is merely because we show them the relevant respect they deserve, so as to not interfere with their movements or natural behaviour in any way. Animals who therefore walk within meters from the vehicle, which is an amazing and exhilarating experience for all, and allows for phenomenal photo and film opportunities, do so on their own terms, and not because they have been provoked to do so. It is therefore not a dangerous situation to be in, because the animal is relaxed and does not feel stressed or threatened in any way. The vehicles and the people in them do not represent either danger or a meal.

leopard-vehicle-2

Guides will always park off to the side of a road to allow the animal right of way.

Another important element to keep in mind, is that many of these animals have been viewed (particularly animals that have long-established territories in the area) from a young age, and for many years, and have therefore come to learn from very early on in their lives that the noise, and presence of the vehicles pose them no threat. In addition to this, the rangers request to have cell phones and tablet devices switched to flight mode, to remain seated, and to limit noise levels, are all attempts to ensure that we do not disturb the animals in any way.

Being able to drive off-road also sets us apart from other national parks where one is limited to driving on the roads only, and this allows us to get closer to the action that would otherwise have to have been viewed from some distance away, or more commonly missed entirely.

At the end of the day, the wildlife experience at Londolozi is incredibly special, and in many opinions unrivalled in the African safari industry. The ability to view wild animals in their natural habitat within reasonable, safe proximity, is something that makes Londolozi such an extraordinary place to visit.

About the Author

Alistair Smith

Guest contributor

Alistair guided at Londolozi from late 2016 to late 2017. Despite only a short stint here, he made a great impression on the guests he drove and formed a great bond with tracker Euce Madonsela. His photography is excellent, and is a passion ...

View Alistair's profile

14 Comments

on How Close Is Too Close?

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

GM Majingilane
Guest

great would love to visit londolozi just hope Matimbas would still be there or the Golden Mane Majingilane look forward to your blog posts everyday Rory shared his video of sighting of the incredible Hairy Belly at Londolozi

barbara jones
Guest

Wonderful article. Africa is so blessed to have all these beautiful animals. I can’t wait til I can visit Londolozi!

Geert van Mourik
Guest

So for any people with bad intentions, just drive up in a Landrover.. Safari is bad for the animals, it is unnatural (look at the leopard being run over a few months ago). Rangers bring guns ‘just in case’. So, someone wants to look at a lion, it gets agitated, attacks and get shot..

It has a lot to do with earning money.

Annette
Guest

Can’t be too close. Those “scary” moments make us feel alive. Definitely not at a zoo. Personal view, tricky for a guide!

Jeff Rodgers
Guest

A great article particularly for those that have not as yet experienced the thrill of an up-close encounter while on a game drive.

Senior Moment
Guest

It was very noticeable how the good driving and respect paid dividends with good game viewing. Also patience, the ability to kill the engine and not the moment means that animals are more relaxed.

Dianne Riddel
Guest

Very interesting Alistair and well written. Thank you for sharing your experience as a ranger and what a game drive entails…you are so right about the 1st time out in the bush is such an exilirating and somewhat frightning experience. It takes a very special ranger and tracker team to make it the “Londolozi Experience” . I will never forget my 1st experience on a game drive. I will be with me until I die.

Eugene Bernard Dopheide
Guest

Well said, excellent article, lovely story!

Lynne
Guest

It is always such a pity when one is enjoying the sighting of animal in say KNP with one’s engine switched off when along comes a noisy Diesel vehicle who never bothers to switch their motor off, just leaves it running! Thank you for all the interesting Blogs !

Alison Smith
Guest

very well written article Asti!thank you for sharing!

Jill Larone
Guest

Great write-up Alistair! I remember asking Mark and Lucky why we didn’t look like dinner as one of the big Majingilane walked right past our Land Rover, clearly noting our presence but not concerned at all that we were there. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget!

Marion Vollborn
Guest

ui that’s me! 🙂 oh please, I would like to have the video

Wendy Hawkins
Guest

As my son is a Guide & I have driven with him & others, it is respect & space that the animals need & shouldn’t have to “ask” for it!! Thank you Londolozi for the love, respect & space you give the wild there! Keep the blogs coming

Diane
Guest

My friend and I will be visiting Londolozi at the end of April this year . It will be our first trip there and we are thrilled for the experiences in the wild. I have dreamed of this all of my life . God has blessed us . As for me, the closer respectful distance , the better . I want to hear them breathe….

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