Coming to South Africa on a photo safari nowadays is a great deal more than mere traveling to view animals in their natural habitat. Of course there is no better success story in the world of preserving nature than here in South Africa - but visitors have been sharing with the lodges and guides at wilderness facilities that they come here, and regularly return, for much deeper reasons.
The feedback we as operators in both the photo and hunting safari industries get from national and private nature reserves is that foreign visitors have undergone a collective rebirth; the majority focus more on ways to commune with nature, to find ways to almost rediscover the appeal of a momentary quietness in life. How many times in years gone by have we observed the bored: "If it is Tuesday, this must be Port, St, Johns?", while nowadays travellers are observers and experience things deeper - maybe in order to reconnect with oneself.
James Tyrrell who is a senior ranger and guide at Londolozi (a private game reserve known for its unusual numbers of large predators - lion, hyena and leopard - and a very popular destination with foreign tourists) says that many guests go back home after their safari with a far deeper appreciation of the importance of wild places to us humans; having experienced food for the soul, but also having gained knowledge of and appreciation for the people who live on the fringes of the national and private game reserves. He states the truism that while Africa abounds with natural beauty, the "economy of wildlife" - as he puts it - is a fragile one, dependent upon a synergy between visitors, the protection of wilderness areas, and the personal, psychological investment into these areas by the communities that border them.
One does not need to only visit the upmarket private game reserves to experience the above - the well-known national parks and many, many of the large private ranches offer the same deeper values - particularly if the visitor is in the know of special lodges and camps inside these areas. Knowledgeable guides who specialise in small groups know where these special place are and in a follow-up blog I shall introduce a few of these. In the mean time, enjoy a few photos of a few special moments we - in who Africa lives - have the opportunity to experrience: