As much as we try to bring the African bush – and Londolozi in particular – to people from all over the world, we have to accept from the outset that we are doomed to fall short.
Crazy videos, unbelievable photos of some of the rawest scenes in nature and as descriptive writing as we can attempt, but nope, it’s just not going to cut it. Whatever we do, we can only appeal to your senses of sight and hearing. Touch, taste and smell are – at least for now – beyond the realms of digital media.
So where does this leave us? Fortunately, the two sense that we can target are also the two which will receive the vast majority of stimuli when actually out on safari. It is an overwhelmingly visual and auditory experience.
The reality though, is that much like a pinch of saffron will add the final touch to the ingredients of an award-winning dish, so too will the subtleties in your other three senses provide the synergistic finale to your African Safari experience.
We can show you a video of a leopard scent marking and calling in the chilly dawn, his breath steaming on the cold air, but sadly we can’t enhance it with the tingle on your cheeks from the winter’s morning, the dryness of the air and the faint scent of buttered popcorn from the leopard’s urine.
Wild dogs could be running amok across a clearing, impala fleeing for their lives before the pack, but as bouncy as the video might be, we can’t replicate the heart-pounding excitement of racing after them in the Land Rover, clinging onto the bars above the seats , your hair whipping across your face.
We can play as many audio clips of lions roaring as we like, but we can’t digitally recreate the feeling of sitting with the lights out, the southern stars emblazoned across the sky above you, with probably Africa’s most iconic species rumbling the vehicle with the sheer volume of his bellowing.
The smell of the potato bush as you return to camp in the evening, the warmth of a hot water bottle under your blanket in a winter’s dawn, the ice-cold gin and tonic on a summer’s evening with the cicadas shrilling or the grainy texture of Africa herself as you place your palm in the track of a lion, your hand suddenly appearing puny by comparison… these are the minutiae that complete the picture.
The real magic of an African safari lies in the fact that it is an ensemble of the most astonishing depth. It is far more than simply the sum of its parts, and many of its subtleties will ultimately go unappreciated, so seemingly insignificant might they be, but every piece of the experience out here, from the dung beetle buzzing past to the distant whoop of the hyenas, serves to deepen the connection that only Africa has to offer.
I guess that what I’m saying is it has to be experienced to be truly understood, as cliched as that might sound. It’s the truth though…