(An opinion piece from our Head Guide – Brandon Smith)
Over the last ten years’ social media has become a way of life for most of us, eager to share our daily thoughts, voice our opinions on any and all social platforms about any topic that ignites our passion.
We can follow brands, venues, services, countries, national parks or any other place of interest.
We can search a destination anywhere in the world in seconds and have the road mapped out in front of us in the blink of an eye.
Book flights, accommodation and car hire with never before seen ease and efficiency.
One of the most popular topics for people to share on social media platforms is life experiences of any kind, be it the birth of your child, your birthday, wedding day, a trip to the local pub or date night to the fancy restaurant you’ve been dying to go to and of course one of the most popular experiences shared on social media is travel.
The husband stopped at the door, red faced, luggage in hand so his wife can take the perfect snap of their well-manicured hotel room before they settle in to take a million more photos of the view, the painting on the wall, the closed champagne bottle, the open champagne bottle, the black eye from the cork that got away.
Every tiny detail of our travels is documented like never before and shared instantly across the globe for family and friends to share in our experiences.
But is the desire to take the next selfie and the urge to make the next Facebook post for your followers getting in the way of truly immersing yourself and enjoying a once in a lifetime experience?
Yes, it is!
Social media has changed the face of safaris in a big way over the last 10 years. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it, in some ways – others not so much.
I’m all for the selfie with the Giraffe or the Elephant bull in the back ground and I’m all for sharing those selfies and all your photos of Lions and Wildebeest on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or whatever other platform you choose.
I’m all for capturing that special or rare sighting on film and uploading it to YouTube for the whole world to enjoy.
This element alone has transformed safaris today, in years gone by a safari experience was an image in your mind, a dream of a magical wildlife haven brought about by images here and there in the odd magazine or a documentary on TV or coffee table photos of friends and family that had been lucky enough to have been to Africa and the tales they had to tell of their adventures.
Today we’re peppered with the best images taken from travelers all over the world on their safari adventures and this can lead to unrealistic expectations and valuable information imparted by dedicated guides as well as once in a lifetime sightings and moments being missed because of noses stuck to viewfinders or phone screens.
Unfortunately, social media has also developed a culture of constantly seeking something new, sharing the same experience on FB just won’t do!
This has led some of us not all of us but some of us to miss out on priceless moments.
Years ago on safari with travelers from all over the world people appreciated every aspect of nature no matter how big or small, every guest on game drive embraced every single moment and were only too thrilled to take full advantage of the opportunity to disconnect from the outside world.
Now days although there are many travelers that do embrace the total magic of an African safari in the Kruger National Park, there are others who completely miss the point.
In a zoo you walk from one enclosure to the other seeing one animal at a time, huddled into a corner in a grotty looking enclosure on display for everyone to shuffle past while taking a quick snap.
This is not what a safari is about, going on safari is a once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy the natural environment in all of its unspoiled splendor.
If you come on safari with the expectation that you’re going to make all your buddies back home jealous with a thousand photos of Lions and Leopards, hunting, making kills, mating, climbing trees or lying on rocks, if you are only interested in seeing general game once and if you’re only satisfied with sightings that include a big Elephant so close to the vehicle that you can see its eye lashes, unfortunately for you, you’re going to have a bad time.
If your guide is about to show you a Giraffe ruminate and you tell him or her to move on because you’ve seen this animal today and you want to see a Lion roaring right next to the vehicle so you can film something new for the soul purpose of a few likes on social media then you’ve completely missed the point and it’s not your fault, it’s the fault of the world we live in and our constant desire to share our lives with others on social media.
Fortunately, there’s hope for you yet, safari experiences can be enjoyed to the maximum, all you need to do is put the reasons you went on safari in the Kruger as a first priority and sharing it on social media second.
When you go on safari in the Kruger National Park remember that you went to experience nature untouched, you went to immerse yourself in a miracle that few have the opportunity to enjoy, you went to get away from the real world – so do that!
If you see Elephants bathing too far for the zoom on your camera lens put the camera away and enjoy the elephants, how many times will you be there again, in that moment, in that place with the few wild animals left in the world to enjoy in their natural environment? Enjoy every moment, every detail and every encounter like it’s your last because chances are, it will be.
Stop chasing after the next photo and the next new thing because those moments are few and far between and appreciated to the fullest when you’ve taken the time to enjoy the smaller moments in between.
There are a thousand things to enjoy about the Kruger National Park while on safari.
If you’re lucky enough to have a guide who wants to show you everything they can and impart as much knowledge and information they can, don’t spoil that opportunity for yourself, you’ll probably have a far better experience than most if you realize your guide hasn’t stopped at your 5th Zebra sighting today just for you to take another photo, he might have some really interesting information to impart about a specific behavior that is unusual or something else you’ll miss completely when you shout ‘go, we’ve seen these today!’ from the back of the vehicle or you look in the opposite direction when an interesting bird is pointed out to you.
When you’re on safari try not cheapen your own experience in search of nothing other than the next Instagram selfie, you’ll get loads of selfies believe me but if that’s all you are after, you’re going to feel disappointed and to be honest I really can’t blame you.
If you immerse yourself in every aspect of nature, you’re going to feel alive in ways you’ve never imagined before, your senses enthralled, your emotions on high and after it all, You’ll have even better experiences to share, your own experiences, not your phones or your Facebook feeds, be sure not to miss the real life moments while fumbling to pull your phone out of your pocket, never forget the reason you came on safari, was it really for that selfie and your next Facebook post? I doubt it very much.
Next time you’re on safari, let your guide do their job, let them interpret nature for you in every detail that they know how, let them show you the interesting aspects about a termite mound or teach you about the medicinal uses of certain trees and plants, take a moment to watch the impalas rut and marvel at how an elephant uses it’s trunk to manipulate its food, enjoy all the birds and smaller invertebrates as much as you enjoy the massive Rhino bull and the Lion with his huge mane, take as many photos as you want to but don’t forget to enjoy the moment and don’t spend every sighting with your back turned to every Giraffe to take your hundredth selfie.
Get into nature – get away from the real world.