Just back from two weeks in Southern Africa where he joined African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) board members in advancing African conservation efforts, Bushtracks President David Tett explains why his trip reminded him that African safaris in Africa's wild places may offer travelers an antidote to headline-induced anxieties.
I am in Africa as I write this, in the beautiful country of Botswana, way down in the southern part of this giant continent. The bright African sun shines above, and as I pass through Johannesburg, South Africa on my way to the Okavango Delta on a Botswana safari I see people going to work with briefcases in hand. I guess they have bills to pay just like us.
My naturalist guide Shakes is driving me through the big game savannas of the Okavango Delta so he can feed his family and help conserve these wild lands. It feels good to be with cheerful people who have their ears close to the ground. They pay attention to you, to natural things, the now, and they tell a great joke and laugh loud. It is a welcome departure from the sensationalist headlines I am assaulted with in California, not just in print, but from the people who anxiously echo them around me.
When I look at the risks presented by my travels to Botswana, I see they are much lower than riding my bike through the backroads near my home in California. With events like SARS, terrorism, ISIS, ebola, and economic downturns doggedly cycling though our global village, I see Botswana's villagers quietly going about their daily lives, tending their cattle and subsistence crops, with their kids going to school under a tree breathing fresh air. By contrast my Californian kids are confined to long hours behind a desk while their parents are walled in by headlines.
So as I head out with Shakes and our tracker on a clear morning drive - we are tracking a pack of those African wild dogs - I feel compelled to send a message from behind the headlines. Here live charming African people, stunning wildlife experiences, and secure and serene savannas, so please don't believe in the darkness of Africa. There is absolutely nothing dark about this place. The sun shines bright here while millions of wild animals roam free like the American buffalo once did.
Travelers who have been fortunate enough to experience Africa's magic firsthand know how Africa safaris amid stunning wildlife and Africa's people can enrich our brief lives. So let's travel beyond the headlines. Let's plan our travels with verve and gumption, journey into Africa's clean sunshine, and learn from the people who live there, and know her best.