Authentic Safari


Dec 8th, 2015, 04:08 AM
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Authentic Safari

Hi All,
We're a group of five anthropology students from the University of Copenhagen. We're writing an exam paper about safaritourism and stumbled upon this forum. We've noticed that a lot of you talk about, that you want to go on an authentic safari. Can you help us by explaining what an authentic african safari means to you?
Thanks in advance for your help.
Best Regards from Maja and her research group
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Dec 8th, 2015, 07:54 AM
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Swahili for safari means journey or trip. Many of us use the word safari to mean a trip (boat, vehicle, or on foot) to see habitat and more importantly the wildlife that inhabits those areas.

I don't think I have ever used the word "authentic" in reference to safari. Two ideas come to mind when I think of "authentic" in regards to a safari. The first applies to the idea of seeing wildlife in natural habitat with no restrictions on movement. Here in the states, I have seen safari parks where customers can drive their own vehicles thru areas occupied by African (or representing other areas)wildlife imported and/or bred in the states usually without a guide. depending on the type of park/fauna visitors can feed wildlife. Or, wagons pulled by a tractor take visitors thru areas occupied with game sometimes in large fenced areas.

The other refers to the more traditional "safari" like the explorers and hunters experienced years ago with dozen of porters for long overland treks sometimes with canoes and the like. This type may still be available in some countries with patrons staying in tents. Walking/camping safaris are available often with tents and everything else transported via vehicles that may meet clients at the next camp site, etc. Sometimes clients may fly in and meet the group.

Safaris on which we have participated involved a guide (usually the driver as well), 4 wheel-drive vehicle, covering parks in a particular country to see wildlife. We desire clean, safe accommodations (hot water, electricity for part of the day), reasonable food and proximity to wildlife. We need not pools, spas, recreation rooms, etc. Most of the parks we have enjoyed do not have off-road driving which is fine as we see plenty even being road-bound. We enjoy traveling off-season as often rates are lower, crowds less and yet the wildlife is plentiful. I think for many safari goers much of the above is what is referred to as an "authentic african safari". I may be wrong.
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Dec 8th, 2015, 12:51 PM
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I believe that many people use the term "authentic" inappropriately, when they really don't have a true idea. They have a dream in their head from photos or books or movies. Something ala Ernest Hemingway or "Out of Africa".

For me, authentic means getting out into the bush as quickly as possible away from those activities solely meant to part a travel from his dollar. Victoria Falls comes to mind as a negative example. Visits to tribal villages is another. Its all quite artificial and meant only to attract tourists. I want to be in the bush, to travel slowly, to observe animal behavior, to talk with my guide and learn as much as possible about his life, culture, politics and country.
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Dec 11th, 2015, 09:35 PM
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Good luck with your research!

Authentic means conforming to the original; not false or imitation.

As mentioned above, the word safari means journey. The first, original safaris in Africa were journeys for trade, not to look at animals. That trade tragically included slavery.

Some of the first Western explorers and adventurers go on safari were drawn not only by their love for natural history, but also for the thrill of the hunt.

So if we are true to an authentic safari it would involve a sizable convoy on a trade mission or a hunt.

I would bet most travelers who want an authentic safari would not be happy with either of those.

Depending on their experience or age, authentic could mean recreating Hemingway's Green Hills of Africa (with or without the hunting aspect). If Out of Africa is the inspiration, then perhaps a wardrobe of finely tailored linens and a handsome pilot is part of the dream. From years ago, the Tarzan movies gave people the impression of jungle rather than savannas habitat with never a chilly morning or evening, since Tarzan spent his days in a lion cloth, and Jane not much more than that. Many of current nature shows depict sensational wildlife encounters, which may raise unrealistic expectations of what an authentic experience is.

I think the word "authentic" is as meaningless as someone asking where is the "best" place to go for a safari. It all depends on the individual's definition of authentic or best.

And we have not even gotten into what is affordable because depending on how one defines "authenticity" it could fall outside the budget. So then there is the balance between authenticity and affordability.
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Dec 12th, 2015, 06:43 AM
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"what an authentic african safari means to you?"

About time to actually answer your specific question...

Low luxury, low amenities, but fully guided with a receptive guide and a focus on nature first, with culture where appropriate.

Short-term I hope you all get A's on your exam or the highest mark that is given if you are not on an ABCD scale. Long-term I hope you all get to go on a safari that is authentic by your respective standards.
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Dec 14th, 2015, 09:50 AM
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What a good idea to use this forum for your research!

Here my personal thoughts.

"Authentic" usually means to me "unspoilt by mass tourism" and "like the natives do". For many travel destinations I have a very clear picture what "authentic" would mean, e.g. what I would expect from an authentic fishing village in Greece or an authentic Celtic fest in Bretagne.

However, when it comes to a safari, things get more difficult because I do not know the reference point for authenticism. It is right, "safari" simply means trip.

But, first of all, what kind of natives are the reference for authenticism? Take Kenya. The Masai, the Kikuyu or who else? All these - very different - groups of natives had different styles of living and if they travelled I had nothing to do with the safaris me mean now.

Second, and related to the first aspect, is the question of the time authenticism relates to. The first safaris in the modern sense of the world were done by colonial explorers, traders, hunters, military and administrative people from Europe. An "authentic" safari that refers to these trips would be travelling heavily armed in khaki uniforms with heavy gear and a dozen or so natives carrying the luggage on their backs. Certainly und luckily these colonial times are gone forever.

You remember the film "Hatari!" from 1962? Is this "authentic" safari style? Wealthy Whites living in luxury, wearing dinner jackets at the table, being served by black servants and otherwise going to hunt wild animals?

In the last decades, tourist safaris became popular: You stay in a camp composed of tents, huts or massive hotel buildings in the wilderness. The main point are tours on foot, on horseback or with SUVs into the wilderness in order to see natives with their "authentic" style of living (rather "living museums" where a historic living style is emulated), to watch animals in their natural habitat or to shoot them. I cannot imagine why these safaris should be called "authentic", although most of them do not involve mass tourism.

In some respects, these safaris still have some style elements of the "Hatari!" movie - especially the combination of luxury and nature.

Somebody has written, "authentic" would mean for him or her low-key travelling - simple accomodation. I am missing the criteria why travelling with a high-tech tent should be "more authentic" than staying in a camp which is built of wooden huts in traditional style. It is different, but how can you say one is more authentic than the other?

What I can imagine are "non-authentic" safaris which may come in future: tourists stay in large hotels and watch wildlife that lives in zoo-like parks. Actually, many guest farms in Namibia are fenced and animal population is controlled, although the habitat is natural.

You see, I am thinking while writing. From my future vision, I may derive some criteria for an authentic safari ex negativo:

- An authentic safari requires that nature is widely in original state.

- Wildlife should live naturally in natural habitat.

- You stay in small-scale accomodation with no more than, say, 30 rooms.

- You stay in camps or resorts that blend into the surrounding landscape. Accomodation is made using traditional building styles and traditional materials.

- You explore the wilderness on foot, on horseback or in small, open-roof all-terrain vehicles with a maximum of, say, 8 seats per vehicle (in contrast to large buses or heavy trucks).

Said all this, there is a continuum from "authentic" to "mass tourism". Kichwa Tembo Camp in Masai Mara was quite "authentic" to me, while driving through the Etosha Pan and staying at a pretty large hotel was already borderline of an authentic safari. How "authentic" was a visit to a living museum of the San in the Erongo Mountains? - We walked with them through the bush and listened how they explained how they were hunting and gathering food and making rock paintings in the old times - mostly using past tense, but still with surviving memories and skills. Or is it more authentic to walk into a slum which is the current lifestyle of the native population? (Travel agencies offer slum tours to tourists.)

Take Namibia. The Whites are living there in the sixth generation. Is their style of living less authentic than that of Blacks who immigrated from Kongo ten years ago? And what about those with Indian or Arabian roots whose ancestors came a few centuries ago? Many aspects to think about.

The societies in Africa are changing so fast that it becomes increasingly diffuse what "authentic" means.
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Dec 18th, 2015, 02:51 AM
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Thank you so much for all your answers - it's made for really interesting reading fabric! We can definitely use it in our exam paper.

I have one more question for you if any one can help:
What do you get out of being on a safari? What motivates you to go? What is the goal of the safari?
- I wasn't quite sure how to express the question in the best way, but I hope you get it, even though there's some nuances to the three questions

Best regards and happy holidays from Maja
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Dec 18th, 2015, 04:01 AM
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I find this discussion a bit depressing, as you have typically just lumped a whole continent (Africa) and a whole type of travel (safari) into one.

Aside from the whole vagueness of the term "authentic", what makes you think that there isn't a difference between an "authentic" Kenyan safari, an "authentic" Botswanan safari, or an "authentic" South African safari? Not to mention Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia............

There are distinct differences between the way safaris are conducted in different countries, and there are many different types of safaris and ways to go on safari. And there are many African countries where "safaris" in the sense of a wildlife viewing experience, are not conducted at all- although as someone pointed out, a "safari" in the strict meaning of the Swahili word is simply a journey.

The sorts of questions you are asking suggest you don't really understand the variety of different types of safari that there are and you assume the whole of Africa is the same. You seem to lack basic knowledge that would enable you to pose meaningful questions. I suggest you go and do some more research (by which I mean go and find out for yourself not ask posters on an internet forum to explain it to you).
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Dec 18th, 2015, 05:38 AM
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>>What do you get out of being on a safari? What motivates you to go? What is the goal of the safari? <<

Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat is the main motivation for the typical wildlife safaris. Coming close to animals is very exciting.

In addition, we like

- scenery,
- experiencing nature (e.g. walking through the bush),
- other experiences like deciphering rock paintings or learning the living style of native people in living museums,
- exploring nature with knowledgeable guides,
- staying in camps or lodges which are close to nature, built in traditional style but offer full comfort if not luxury (swimming pool, good food, singing and dancing...),
- meeting native people,
- having a picnic in the bush.

Stokeygirl's post is a bit aggressive. Of course, there are different types of safaris (as described on websites and in catalogues) but there are enough similarities. The "mainstream" safari as far as I have experienced them in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana means

- staying in a camp or lodge in or near the entrance of a nature reserve or national park,
- doing guided tours into the nature reserve (by car or on foot), or
- driving or walking self-guided through the bush (possible in some reserves, in others not),
- watching & photographing wildlife.

There are, of course, more specialized safaris which might involve extended hiking in the bush, boating or canoing, horse-riding, flying over the bush or exploring special aspects like geology, archeology, anthropology etc. Some safaris involve activities like fishing or doing some research.

I consider these types as variations of the basic safari type which has become very common in many African countries.

And there are the hunting safaris (but they are not my thing).
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Dec 18th, 2015, 08:23 AM
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What do you get out of being on a safari?

Exhilaration--vague, I know, but the term has to be all encompassing because of the variety of safari locations and activities, as mentioned by stokeygirl.

What motivates you to go?

This must be divided into the first trip and subsequent trips.
*1st trip--curiosity, interest in wildlife, wanting to fulfill a lifetime dream.

*subsequent trips--I know I'll be "blown away" by what I encounter, even though I have no idea just what I might encounter. It is the thrill of the hunt--not with a gun, but with your senses, camera, heart, curiosity.

In a Behaviorism sense, I know a huge reward of some type (wildlife, culture, a combination) awaits. It is the typical positive reinforcement model. I go to Africa, I feel rewarded, I want to repeat. Like the mouse hitting the lever to reward it with cheese. Fortunately, the likelihood of being positively rewarded with a feeling of wonder and awe by taking an African safari is very, very high (100% for me), so each trip is a further reinforcement.

What is the goal of the safari?

Since every safari is different (homestay, canoeing & camping, gorilla trek, dune climbing, sitting with meerkats, etc.) it is hard to give one blanket answer. The all encompassing answer goes back to the previous question of "What motivates you?" I am motivated by the desire to achieve the goal, which is that positive reinforcement in the form of wonder and awe.

Using the slogans of two different travel companies may be trite, sums up the goal in my opinion:

A safari reawakens your soul
A safari changes people's lives

3 final thoughts

1. I kind of agree with stokeygirl. on the absurdity of the questions to begin with. But blame the exam maker.

2. This whole discussion is pertinent to just a small segment of the world population that is lucky enough to even consider goals and motivations involving a safari.

3. Again, I hope you all can go on safari some day and then revisit this exam question from a more personal perspective.
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Dec 18th, 2015, 08:14 PM
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This question might better be answered by people who have never been on safari. We have all been, most of us multiple times, and we have all had very different experiences. We might be jaded because "authentic" is in the eye of the beholder. Before I went, I had dreams of the "Hemingway" experience - wide open spaces, animal migrations, lion kills, open big beige tents, just us out in the bush with a guide. In my reality, it's all about searching for animals we've not seen that you've likely never heard of, seeking animals doing things we've not seen, having experiences we haven't had before and making sure future generations might have a similar experience. I no longer care about my accommodations much, I care about the quality of the reserve or park we visit, the community involvement of each reserve or park (protection of the animals relies directly on the surrounding community) and the conservation work being done and planned. My "authentic" safari never existed.

I think the question is fine - just ask people who are still dreaming of safari without the reality. Everyone's reality is different. The dream is amazing. The reality is so much better. I too hope you get the opportunity to go. The first time changed my life, the next time changed it forever.
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Dec 19th, 2015, 12:18 AM
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Hi again,

I'm sorry if I have caused some misunderstandings, especially for Stokeygirl. I guess I should clear it up for future answers.

When I ask for about "african safari" it is not to say that all safaris in africa are the same - I am well aware that there's many different types and that it is very different according to which country you go to. The point of saying "africa" was to contrast it with for example the safaris in Sweden where you go out to see mooses. I wanted as many answers as possible, so that's why I didn't put down any particular country, as many different answers can be interesting to us and also nuances and if you have any opinions on the different types of safari, that is very nice as well like Traveller1959. What I want to emphasise is the "means to YOU" part - there is no final correct or wrong answer to this question. Anthropology is a lot about open questions, and we're interested in all sorts of answers.

And we have been on safari twice in a jeep in Tanzania. We stayed there for three weeks doing fieldwork and interviewing both employees and tourists. But as we are currently in a semester teaching different anthropological methods we also have to try get data from the net and thought this a good opportunity

Again I am very happy for all your good answers, they are all helpfull.
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Dec 19th, 2015, 12:20 AM
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And sorry if you find my questions stupid or offending, I didn't intend to
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Dec 19th, 2015, 04:08 AM
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Hi MajaBruun
I wasn't going to answer this as you had enough people responding, but after seeing your last response to someone comments, I changed my mind.
There is nothing stupid or offending regarding your questions. You state why you are asking, and if the question offends people, then don't answer, very simple!
Many people do not really understand the passion involved in gameviewing, that is the word I would use. I have been to Africa over 30 times, and in the first dozen years I would go gameviewing, up to 8 to 10 weeks per year over two trips per year. I loved it and was passionate about seeing all sorts of animals, as there is always new things to see no matter how often I went. I loved seeing animals in the wild and how they behave in the wild, even with us sitting there in a gamevehicle. In my experience and where I mostly went, they were very used to gamevehicles and because of this, they acted quite naturally around vehicles as long as everyone is respectful of the animals. Then in 2012, I had a change of passions, still involving anamils but I became a wildlife carer at home, and this then spread to when I went to Africa. Still go twice a year, but now volunteer at centres where they have orphaned/injured wildlife, both in South Africa and in Zimbabwe.
So to me, gameviewing is what I go to Africa for! Of course, I like to stay in reasonable accommodation and have reasonable food, but for food/accommodation being my main focus, never! I do not need to go all that way for luxury and for fine foods. Also a lot of place these days have all sorts of spas and treatments, not interested in them either.
So to me safari means gameviewing and if I could in those gameviewing days, it would be from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed and I think in all that time, I may have missed only one gamedrive, and that would be because the ranger would not go out due to excessive rain!
Hope this helps and I am happy to help! I don't come on here very often but pleased I saw this post!

Kind regards

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Dec 19th, 2015, 04:57 PM
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Nothing stupid or offending in the question. Hope nothing in the answers either.

Now get an A, or whatever the highest score is.
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