The David Attenborough effect

The unintentional effect of popular wildlife documentaries has been to raise people’s expectations on safari to unrealistic levels. It's not all drama and crisis in the bush. Sometimes the real joy is experiencing Africa at peace.

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We love David Attenborough. It is important to state that from the outset because this article is not intended to criticise in any way the work of such a great and lifelong conservationist, naturalist, communicator and enthusiast. Rather it is the unintentional effect that popular wildlife documentaries have had on people’s expectations on safari.

In a bygone era safaris went at a much slower pace, lasting several weeks, meandering slowly through the bush from one fly camp to another. Now, air travel and good communications means that we are able to visit for just a few days. This can, sadly, lead to high expectations with visitors wanting to see an unrealistic level of animal action. It’s what guides sometimes refer to as ‘the David Attenborough effect’.

What we see on television is usually the result of many hundreds of hours of patience and expertise brought into sharp focus by state-of-the art camera equipment. We see the results of many months’ work edited into an hour of viewing. We are often seeing animals in extreme crisis and it is all very dramatic.

If drama is what you are after then traveling during the high season is advisable. Lower water levels will lead to greater concentrations of game species around rivers and ponds. There will be larger collections of game and more intense interaction between species. But even then, patience is required and you will be fortunate to see the level of action you see on television.

In reality, the African bush can be a very peaceful place, alive with a myriad of wildlife species living their lives in a state of comparative calm. A good safari guide will be able to bring this to life, explaining what is happening, the lives of the various mammals, birds, reptiles and insects as well as the trees and plants which surround us. Relishing and experiencing the bush in its natural state is so rewarding and it is little wonder that many experienced safari enthusiasts become dedicated bird watchers.

It is for this reason that some actually prefer to travel during the green season. With good water supplies, game is spread more widely so opportunities for seeing large mammals in action will be less predictable. But that does not mean that you will not see moments of high drama and, in the context of the comparative peace of the bush, these may feel even more special to witness.

This article has been read 369 times

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