Interspecific comparisons in the natural world appeal to me. They aren’t always relevant or in any way appropriate – for instance there’s not much to be gained by comparing the life cycle of an African elephant to that of a three-banded plover – but it is nevertheless important to appreciate how different creatures fit into the grand scheme of things.

I bring this up because of a comparison that was recently made in a discussion with four fellow rangers. By recently I mean about 3 minutes ago, and the four rangers in question are Shaun D’Araujo, Kevin Power, Pete Thorpe and Rob Jeffery, who are seated in seats 59A, B, C and E respectively. I’m in 59D.

We’re in an Airbus A350, flying at Mach 0.85 about 39000ft above the central Indian Ocean, and the differences between this and our usual modes of transport – which are converted Land Rover Defenders that we drive along dusty tracks, at around 20kmh and at 3ft off the ground (maybe 5ft if we’re in pursuit of wild dogs) – could not be more apparent.

The usual mode of transport the rangers of Londolozi are used to.

The Airbus is a largely aluminium tube with over 250 other people in it (assuming the flight is full, and we suspect it is because we tried to sneak into business class, but they closed the curtain on us p.d.q.), when we’re usually in in an open Land Rover with a maximum of 7 other people (6 guests and a tracker).

Our aircraft cabin is pressurised – rather important for our survival – when usually the only pressure we feel is that of trying to find the leopard all our guests are hoping to see.

The comparative speeds and altitudes of the two means of conveyance I’ve already mentioned, but funnily enough, as far apart as the two are on the modes of transport spectrum, it struck us that there are some marked similarities.

Ok not so much in the actual machines themselves, but in what they can represent in the industry in which we work.

Both Airbuses and Land Rovers represent the excitement of a journey. A journey to safari and the actual journey of safari itself.

Land Rovers represent so much more than just a mode of transport, much like their aerial counterparts.

In the aerial one you are destination bound. There is anticipation, there is the unknown. What will happen at the other end? Of course people board ’planes for different reasons, but I’m focusing on a flight you take to go on holiday, specifically to a safari destination.

In a Land Rover there’s more of the same. The unknown. What will you see on your game drive? What will that lion pride do next?

Both have their moments of excitement, although watching lions on the hunt is thrilling in a good way, severe turbulence as you hit the Jetstream, not so much.

Preferable excitement to being buffeted around miles above the earth’s surface.


Half the excitement of a ‘plane journey is just boarding the thing in the first place.

Both can come with their moments of disappointment, as evidenced by an unsuccessful three-hour leopard tracking effort, at the end of which the spotted cat’s tracks simply melted into the impenetrable reed-thickets of the Sand River, or comparatively the in-flight chicken meal I just opted for over the pasta, which tasted of cardboard.

I blame Kevin for putting this whole Land Rover vs Airbus idea in my head in the first place, but seeing how we five are so thrilled to be in this completely foreign mode of transport together reminded me completely of the look one sees on the faces of first-time visitors to the bush.

There’s a slight sense of awe, mixed in with a bit of disbelief, and ultimately, I know that throughout this aeroplane we’re on, just like throughout Londolozi, there are small groups of individuals who, like us, are not currently concerned with the destination, but are just thrilled to be along for the ride, and will leave what happens to when it happens.

That’s exactly how it should be.

Filed under Safari experience

About the Author

James Tyrrell

Photographic Guide/Media Team

James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills were well developed, and he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team as a result. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the photographic skills ...

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on Why an Airbus A350 and a Land Rover Defender are Essentially the Same

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Callum Evans

That is such a hliarous comparision, although now that you explained it it kinda makes sense (a little)!!!

Marinda Drake

Whenever I go on a game drive, if it is on a landrover at Londolozi or driving to Kruger entering the gate the excitement is always there. If it was the first or the 1000th time it is the anticipation of finding something out in the bush. It is also the peace and quiet you experience.

Ian Hall

Yes, they still make Airbuses sadly we are still waiting for the replacement Defender. Oh yes and I have been in a Defender driving through a river and bush following Wild Dog at Londolozi.

Denise Vouri

Bingo! All that you’ve written is so true. The journey aboard a sleek silver tube is the beginning and end of a much anticipated holiday, the former filled with dreams and expectations, the latter providing time to re-live some special moments that are still fresh in all one’s senses.

For me the 33 hour voyage to Joburg is a bit of a marathon, a steady trek with a prize at the end of some quality time in nature’s wonderland and I wouldn’t change a single hour of the journey.

Wherever you’re going, enjoy the experience!!

Julian Mellor

And a few more comparisons:
They’re both made out of aluminium, but you wouldn’t want to push either of them by yourself.

You can fix one of them yourself on the fly, but if you tried to fix the other it would probably stop flying.

One is low-tech and has kept going since the 1940s. The other is hi-tech but has only been going for 3 years.

Unlike the hi-tech one, the low-tech one is no longer being built. However, in 40 years time, the low-tech one will probably still be running, while the hi-tech will be completely forgotten.

And finally, an elephant has driven a landrover, but never flown an airbus.

Landrovers are definitely about the journey!

Micky Sadoff

Where were you flying to?

James Tyrrell

Hi Mickey, we were on a surfing trip to Indonesia via Singapore.

Darlene Knott

How interesting! Where the heck are you all headed? 😂 Home I hope! Enjoy your holiday.

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