Safari was originally as simple Arabic word meaning journey. But when we hear it today, we think of a whole lot more. We think of a civilised way of experiencing the wildest places on earth - of luxury in the heart of the wilderness.
modern day african safaris
The African camping journey is now aimed at younger people and those less attached to comfort, in the form of the 'overland expedition'.
The upmarket safari, however, has become a holiday where you wake in the comfort of a gorgeous safari lodge and spend the day out spotting game - before returning to a swim, a Gin and Tonic and a dinner around a table. Although safari lodges offer a magic you cannot find elsewhere - the animals - they still have to compete with a global travel industry that offers a lot of luxury.
And they do compete. Why else would the Sabi Sabi's renowned Earth Lodge have been voted one of the world's top fifty destinations by readers of renowned luxury publication Conde Nast Traveller? That particular safari lodge stands apart on account of its radical blend of ecological principles and futuristic design. But lodges like those at Sabi Sabi and others around South Africa also liberally play the Old World card. Although the world has left colonialism far behind, the style and ambiance of the twenties and thirties have an undeniable cachet. Hence travellers will also be able to choose the lamp-lit luxury of mosquito nets, silver service and morning tea.
luxurious bush experiences
But at the end of the day, all continents have luxury hotels. Only Africa has the bush. Only Africa has the wildebeest's stampede, the herds of gentle African Elephant, the huge dangerous hippo, the flash of a cheetah, the placid walk of the giraffe. And, of course, the roar of the lion and call of the fish eagle - sounds you will remember for the rest of your life. They will penetrate the walls of your cabin and send a shiver down your spine where it lies against the starched sheets. Gone will be the high fence and the sophistication of dinner as you realise the bush is close enough to reach out and touch. You will walk to the window and inhale air that has travelled thousands of miles across Africa, carrying smells from the Sahara and the Equatorial jungle and grinding them together with the dust of the bushveld. Smelling that, you might not even want to go back to bed.
sublime game viewing
During the day you will see nature at its most beautiful - and its most intense. The sound of a lion pride biting through the bones of its prey is so loud that, even at a safe distance, you will think it's right in front of you. But when they lie dozing in the sun afterwards, you will forgive them their bloodthirsty habits. You may have stopped to watch zebra drink from a river and be marvelling at the stillness of the water when the huge muscles of a crocodile drove it into the air and sent the depleted herd stampeding past you. When the shock has subsided and the zebra stopped struggling, you will find there is no need to mourn him. Life has continued like this for thousands of years and - with a bit of help and protection from us - should continue for a thousand more. The crocodile needs its lunch too.
But at the end of the day, watching Sacred Ibis's fly across an African sunset - an image that can barely be described in a photograph - let alone words - your overwhelming feeling will be one of peace. As you raise a glass and the animals join you at the watering hole below, you will find that The Circle of Life is more than just a song. And when you go home to take up your own daily round again, it might all make a tiny bit more sense.