“Life is a journey, not a destination” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
While the concept of an African safari has transformed over the past hundred years, the experience has yet to lose the timeless glamor and romantic appeal associated with days gone by.
Glamor and safari. Two words often used together, but the combined meaning may be slightly different than you might think. Once upon a time, the word “glamour” was less of a superficial glitz, and actually referred to “magic.” Originally from Swahili, the term “safari” means “journey”. Thus, when we talk about the glamor of a safari, we are referring to the travel magic.
There’s a reason why many of the most sought-after safari establishments are located in remote corners of Africa. Not only do these remote areas offer some of the most untouched and pristine wildlife reserves, but they also fulfill the subconscious desire that many travelers possess to experience what it is like to have to journey to get somewhere. In an age of air travel and instant gratification, our souls can be found yearning for this change of pace. The concept of being able to take your time while traveling and being attentive while enjoying the journey may be a luxury in modern society, but it is a necessity on safari.
Many lodges and camps have managed to weave the original romance of a safari, with the contemporary luxury expected by today’s travelers, into their accommodation offerings. Think canvas tents, four-poster beds with flowing mosquito nets, and décor reminiscent of an era of unapologetic opulence – all combined with the contemporary conveniences and comforts of a five-star hotel. However, the establishments that really succeed are those that also honor the traditional and timeless elements associated with this bygone era of travel.
The original safari experience
Walking is the undoubted original means of transport, and so walking safaris are among the most traditional safari experiences one could wish to take part in. With nothing but the soles of your shoes separating you from the earth, sensitive to the laws of nature, long-forgotten instincts are awakened and there’s no better way to embrace the spirit of nature. Africa.
Guided by experienced and passionate professionals, bush walking offers the opportunity to properly engage with the natural world in the most timeless way known to mankind. Multi-day walking safaris often involve sleeping in tents at night, or sometimes just sheltered from the night sky, which creates an undeniably romantic setting.
Take some air
Biplanes and hot air balloons are both glamorous and romantic, as they are extremely impractical for modern commercial travel, making a safari one of the only times when traveling this way is possible. It’s a throwback to the golden age of leisure travel that can’t be recreated anywhere else.
Getting a bird’s eye perspective of any landscape allows you to appreciate the vastness and really soak up the scenery, but few areas can compare to flying over the golden plains and rolling hills of the Maasai Mara. . This experience is especially magical during the migration, when you will see millions of animals grazing below, and maybe even a river crossing!
Horseback riding is another example of an authentic mode of travel where its impracticality in today’s world has only added to its glamorous appeal. Once used as the primary means of transportation, it is now generally associated with wealth and the luxury of having free time. Horseback safaris are not only a throwback to this old-fashioned and elegant activity, but they also offer an incredibly immersive way to explore areas of terrain that are too difficult to reach on foot or by vehicle.
Wild animals also tend to be less deterred by the presence of humans on horseback, as they would by us on foot or in a vehicle, allowing riders to have a more intimate wildlife viewing experience. with minimal disruption of animal behavior.
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Electric Bikes – A Modern Touch
Although the idea of e-bikes may be far removed from anything originally involved in game drives, the reasoning behind the introduction of this activity is sound. For decades, traditional 4×4 game vehicles have been the go-to option for wildlife viewing. However, the impact of this began to be felt years ago, particularly in areas such as the Mara where too many vehicles, combined with overgrazing by livestock, has caused widespread erosion. Guided e-bike tours are another fun and interactive way for guests to get out and experience the wilderness while helping reduce carbon emissions in the region.
A safari might be one of the only travel experiences still available to travelers where the journey is just as much a part of the experience as the destination, and the timeless “glamour” that comes with it is part of what makes that experience still so popular more than a century after its original conception.
Calvin Cottar is director and owner of Cottar’s 1920s Safaris. Cottar’s 1920s Safaris is an award-winning luxury 1920s safari camp and private bush villa located in the famous “seventh” natural wonder of the world, the Maasai Mara in Kenya, and owned and operated by the oldest established safari family and continues in Africa.
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