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?”.
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.
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.
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.
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.