Safari or bush walks

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Jun 17th, 2005, 05:23 PM
  #1
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Safari or bush walks

Safari or bush walks:

I know many of you have in the past participated in bush or safari walks that ended up being totally marvelous and safe.

I personally have never wished to participate simply because I have read of wildlife having to be killed by an armed guard because the people on the safari walk startled an animal and it charged.

Yesterday I came upon a website that I think everyone needs to read before considering whether or not to participate in safari walks. Please go to:
www.wendymartin.info/safety.htm.

I realize that this is a very one-sided report. I donít know how accurate it is or not.

However, several points are brought up that I think we all need to think about.

1. Often we are far from medical care. Even if one has something similar to Flying Doctors, it takes time for them to get to you and get you out to a hospital should the need arise.

2. We donít know if the camp operator is insured and whether or not they would
pay for any injuries you might sustain.

3. We donít know if our own health or travelers insurance would pick up any charges for an injury sustained in this manner.

In almost every camp I have stayed in one has to sign an ďindemnity type" form absolving the camp owner of any responsibility in case of injury or death. I think we all need to read them carefully, (I know I have quickly glossed over them and signed them in the past, but will read them more carefully from now on).

This was a very tragic case that forever affected this womanís life (and that of her family).

I am not telling you not do so a safari walk, please just read the article and then think it through seriously before making your decision.

Jan
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Jun 17th, 2005, 06:05 PM
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Jan,

Thanks for sharing.

I do agree that this article is very one-sided and I would like to add that the author of the article demonstrated very poor judgment when she went out for a RUN in the bush, not even a bush walk, but a bush RUN.

The author states that it "never occurred" to her that the armed guards would not be accompanying her and her group on their run. Did she really expect that there were going to be the usual two armed guards running alongside?

Nevertheless, the author made a conscious decision to go out on her bush run, anyhow, without the armed guards. Personally speaking, unless it is in a large clearing I will never stray more than about 50 yards away from the guide, yet the author and her group thought it would be perfectly fine to go on a bush run, unaccompanied by an armed guide.

I do not buy the author's "innocent little me" act. She is a grown woman, and if she is intelligent enough to write this article and create a website for it, then she should have been intelligent enough NOT to go on that bush run.

A word to the wise...if you ever have the opportunity to go on a bush walk but you are not 100% confident in your guide, DO NOT go on the bush walk.

I see this as no more the equivalent of the obese person suing McDonalds. In the author's lawsuit against Il Ngwesi/Lewa Downs she asserts:

-they did not ensure that armed guards accompanied our group

-they did not take any reasonable care to keep me safe

-they encouraged our group to take part in a bush run which proved highly dangerous. James Kinyaga and his staff were training for the first Lewa Marathon which took place just weeks after I was attacked by the elephant.

-they did not give any warning that pursuing this activity could be dangerous

There are thousands of people who go on bush walks each year without incident. It opens up a whole new perspective to the safari-goer and is a welcome change of pace from doing game drive, after game drive after game drive. Bush walks and another questionable activity such as canoeing, make safaris much more stimulating to those of us who choose to partake in such activities. Otherwise, safaris may as well be for the elderly, much like cruises.

It is unfortunate that this woman was trampled by an elephant, but I really believe that she should accept some of the responsibility for her own free actions rather than trying to pin all of the blame on Il Ngwesi/Lewa Downs.
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Jun 17th, 2005, 06:32 PM
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Now for the people the author cited as being killed by elephants, here are each of them and more of a background on each incident:

Pauline Stratton - what the author (Wendy Martin) conveniently chooses to leave out is that this fatality was not caused by a goring, but rather by a group of stampeding elephants whom were fleeing a low flying plane that had spooked them. There appeared to be no malice on this particular occasion.

http://www.jphpk.gov.my/English/May03%209.htm

Andre Klocke - He worked around elephants daily, and really it makes no difference at all that he was an "experienced guide." Just as a race car driver has a better chance of dying in a high speed auto accident than you or I, someone who works around elephants daily has a much higher chance of being killed by an elephant.

Stephen Street - He survived and also tells his own story on this link:

http://www.naturephotographers.net/ss0102-1.html

As you will see, he is not bitter about what happened and seems to accept that he knew the possible consequences of going on a safari.

Edward Harrison - Elephant Tramples British Tourist in Kenya, August 27 2000

A British tourist has been trampled to death by an elephant in Kenya's famous Masai Mara game reserve. Edward Harrison, 28, from the English town of Rugby, was killed after he left the safety of his tent last Sunday morning to try to get closer to a group of elephants he was photographing, Kenya Tourist Board (KTB) spokeswoman Avril MacDonald said. "When he didn't return, others went to look for him and found his body."

(Okay, whose fault was that one?)

The author then lists other accounts, but none really by name so there is no way to verify them or see the cause behind such incidents. However, seeing the cause behind each of the above incidents, I do think Wendy Martin has much less credibility. Like our own resident trampled Fodorite who exhibits so much angst and bitterness, Ms. Martin has chosen to not let this go, and has dealt with this much differently than, for example, Stephen Street, the man listed above who is thankful to be alive and who bravely protected his wife from the elephant. He is obviously a person of a very high integrity, not wishing to engage in McDonalds made me fat type lawsuits and fingerpointing.

Providing I am with guides as qualified as I have thus far experienced in Zambia, it is with great anticipation that I look forward to the safari walks (and canoeing) that I will enjoy in just a couple months from now.
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Jun 18th, 2005, 01:59 AM
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Rocco:

Thanks for the additional information.

However, in no way was I attempting to establish innocence or guilt. These things can and do happen whether with an armed guard or not.

I was simply trying to make people think before participating and also find out whether or not their travel insurance would cover them under these circumstances. Would there be adequate medical care to attend to any wounds? If a blood transfusion were necessary, would you accept it knowing of the high incidence of HIV? These things should be well thought out before entering into the animal's territory. If you have an armed guard that you trust, do you ask him when he last fired the gun, when was it last cleaned? Sometimes guns don't go off when needed.

I have seen all too many people doing truly stupid things around wildlife, and in most cases it is not the animals fault if someone gets hurt. We, after all, are surprising them in their territory.

Please just think things through carefully, read the indemnity forms carefully and then make your decision.

Jan
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Jun 18th, 2005, 04:02 AM
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I'm awaiting Wendy Martin's account of her lap swims in the Luangwa River.
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Jun 18th, 2005, 04:57 AM
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Going for a run in the bush is about the dumbest thing anyone can do. i put it up there with running back and forth across a highway. i am sorry the lady was injured. but any common sense from a safari veteran which it sounded like she was would tell u no way am i going for a run. That is the number 1 rule told on any bush walk. DONT RUN. she's lucky there weren't any predators in the area. a lion otr leopard would be on you in a sec.

anyway, but this is not the point of jan's post. she is right in saying be very careful before you decide to leave the comfort of your vehicle, whether it be on a walk, boat, mekoro etc. its not a zoo. i enoy asking walking guides for some of there scariest moments and its impossible to alwyas stay out of harms way, so just be mentally prepared for that (see girlpolo trip report).
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Jun 18th, 2005, 06:31 AM
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I do think it is highly unethical (and in developed countries, illegal) for a safari lodge to operate without any insurance as was apparently the case here.

However, not only is the idea of going for a bush run sheer lunacy, but she mentions several times that she assumed they would be accompanied by armed guards -- yet when it became obvious that there were no armed guards with them they still thought going for a bush run was a great idea? I don't get it.

Neither do I buy that they all thought the armed guards were really just to protect them from bandits rather than animals.

What happened to her was a nightmare -- but so easily preventable. Both she and the safari lodge bear responsibility for what happened.

I went on a bush walk in Kruger National Park in a small group of about 8, accompanied by 2 armed park rangers. It was an incredible experience and I would not have missed it for anything. We had the amazing experience of watching a large family of elephants enjoy a mudbath, about 25 feet away from us. When they finally realized we were there, the fun stopped, one of the bulls started charging, and the rangers ushered us behind a large rock and eventually did tell us to run -- but the two rangers stood their ground with their rifles, standing between us and the elephants. While scary and exciting, I never was afraid for my life. The rangers clearly knew what they were doing. Fortunately they did not have to fire any shots, but I have no doubt that they would have if it had been necessary.

We also got close to some giraffes which was a lovely experience as well.

Anyway, I do believe bush walks can be done safely if accompanied by armed guides who know what they're doing.
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Jun 18th, 2005, 08:47 AM
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I have to admit that I'm wholly with Rocco on the specifics of this particular case - the author of that website seems to have absolved herself of all responsibility to think for herself.

I am surprised that the camp allowed her group to go running in the bush at all - this does not seem to be sensible - but we have only her side of the story - for all we know, her group insisted on being able to go for a run and were advised not to by the camp who reluctantly conceded in the face of strong insistence.

I often find, when I read the details of stories of safari goers who are injured or killed, that it is their own behaviour and ignorance or deliberate flouting of the rules/ safety guidelines that lead to the incident itself. Whilst there are always exceptions it's saddening to see how many people seem to think that safety restrictions are there purely to stop them getting a better photograph or to ruin their enjoyment!

That said, it's definitely worth looking into liability and insurance issues and the issue of medical evacuation too.

Thanks for that head's up, Jan.
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Jun 18th, 2005, 12:10 PM
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I'm aghast that anyone would think to run in the bush when wild animals can be anywhere - elephants or cats!

For a supposedly intelligent adult women to even think this would be safe, even with guards - my mouth is still open! I believe she left her brains in Nairobi when she went into the bush.

It's just plain stupidy. And then to blame everyone, but accept no responsibility that this was her decision afterall.

But, hey, people still go running in the suburbs of southern California and wonder why there are attacks/killings my mountain lions. We're encroaching on their territory - be don't belong. Aren't we supposed to the the intelligent species... to know what we're doing and to think before we act?

Running is like a target to any animal, anywhere.

Thanks Roccco for your further detailed findings - and you Jan for reminding us to think before doing something stupid.


 
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Jun 18th, 2005, 12:25 PM
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Good comments, Roccco & Kavey (as usual!).
I don't think we can trust the info on this website. Martin makes a point of saying that she had been on safari many times before, as if she was an old hand that knew her way around the bush-- yet she seems hopelessly naive about the dangers (eg running in the bush, with or without armed guides!) And how could it not have been IMMEDIATELY obvious that there were no armed guides on the run? (Did she think they were hiding? Hiding their guns? following at a distance behind? Her story about this is simply laughable-- if it weren't so sad.)

Her comment that she is for conservation, but not when it threatens people is downright silly. Automobiles kill and maim far more people (particularly in Africa) than animals, but Martin very willingly and probably without thinking gets in a vehicle and drives every day, and she doesn't want to outlaw cars...

Still, this is an important post, and has an important lesson: don't check your good sense at the door when you go on holiday, anywhere. NOTHING in the world is safe: not driving to work, driving your kids to school, driving to church. Not staying at home and working on a DIY project instead of travelling on holiday (how many people fall off ladders at home, cut themselves with power saws or some such nonsense?Not even AVOIDING vehicles is safe: How many cyclists--or pedestrians-- are injured or killed by vehicles every year?

The truth is, we will just not be completely safe, anywhere. So pick your risks, never turn off your good sense, and have a good time. Risk is a fact of life...the illusion that we can be really "safe" is one of the things that puts us at greater risk. I think Martin definitely fell into this trap...
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Jun 18th, 2005, 03:04 PM
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People are going TO the animals. WE are infringing on THEIR territory. They could care less if you go on safari or not. I think, as others have, the her judgement was left on the plane with she landed in Africa. It certainly is tragic but I always wonder why the animals are always the ones blamed?
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Jun 18th, 2005, 08:38 PM
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>>>I often find, when I read the details of stories of safari goers who are injured or killed, that it is their own behaviour and ignorance or deliberate flouting of the rules/ safety guidelines that lead to the incident itself.<<<

Exactly. And because of these people we're supposed to stop supporting ecotourism? Not quite. Yes, accidents happen and it's very sad but by no means is that reason to tear down safari lodges and boycott the idea of safaris and ecotourism. Sadly, car accidents happen all the time; that doesn't mean we should all start riding bikes.

While understandable that Ms. Martin would be upset and still coping with the traumatic event, she needs to step back and really take a look at what happened. If she had been on safari and bush walks before then she knows the guests should not be the ones leading the pack, especially not running of all things.

It's sad commentary to hinge your whole website and experience on the fact of "elephants are dangerous". Usually any animal or thing outweighing you by a couple tons is dangerous. Any animal, person, or object can be dangerous.

And, lastly, LMAO @ Thit_cho.
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Jun 20th, 2005, 04:13 AM
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Crefloors
That's the thing that I always say - WE'RE the ones intruding into their space for our own selfish reasons (we enjoy seeing them, I doubt they feel the same about us) and yet... as soon as there's an incident... the animals are the ones that are blamed and often, even put down.

As a visitor it's OUR responsibility to do two things - 1. only go on bush walks or any other potentially dangerous activities with fully trained and experienced guides (and, yes, I do think the onus is on us to ensure we book with a company that our research shows us provides this as although it is of course the company's responsibility to employ top guides I don't think we can assume they'll all do so) and 2. follow all recommended guidelines to ensure that our behaviour does not a) disturb the wildlife b) damage the environment or flora or c) lead the more dangerous animals to attack us.

I don't ever want an animal shot because I wanted to go on safari and photograph it.

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Jun 20th, 2005, 11:32 AM
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Two things

Isn't it a bit much to expect people to take some responsibility for their actions?

Ever heard of the flight response in predator prey relationships?
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Jun 20th, 2005, 05:11 PM
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Kavey:

Amen!! Magnificently said.

Jan
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Jun 21st, 2005, 12:04 AM
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Napamatt,
I don't suggest that we can always control our reactions. My point is that if WE are the ones who, for whatever reason, instinct or stupidity, act in such a way as to endanger ourselves, we should accept responsibility for those actions rather than blame the guide/ camp/ operator or anyone else we can find to blame.
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Jun 21st, 2005, 06:20 AM
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Clearly, anybody who thinks a "bush run" is a good idea is not so smart. And there is never anything remotely attractive about lawsuits and littigation. Obviously the lady runner with the website has some personal responsibility issues!

However, we should bear in mind that as the safari industry increasinly markets wildlife tourism as a luxury travel options aimed at the affluent market (which is almost exclusively the marketing positioning taken in the US) they are going to attract ever increasing numbers of people who will view game drives as an option to a spa treatment, and ever fewer with inherent or inbord respect for wildlife.

As long as the many, many lodges like Singita or Mombo seek the sabyritic, they should also assume the additional responsibilty of assuring the safety of the not so smart...none of whom contribute to this board, but many of whom could be the "bush runners" of tomorrow!
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Jun 21st, 2005, 02:07 PM
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Kavey

I guess my sarcasm was not strong enough to shine through. I am sick of people failing to take responsibility for themselves and their actions in all walks of life.

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Jun 21st, 2005, 03:12 PM
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>>>As long as the many, many lodges like Singita or Mombo seek the sabyritic, they should also assume the additional responsibilty of assuring the safety of the not so smart...none of whom contribute to this board, but many of whom could be the "bush runners" of tomorrow! <<<

I still cannot remember whether or not Singita first had a welcome drink in my hand or the indemnity form! It was close, but I think the welcoming drink won by about a half second.

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Jun 22nd, 2005, 12:10 AM
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Napamatt, I did wonder but, no, I couldn't tell. It's so hard to gauge tone on the net isn't it?

From bitter experience I now always include smileys when I'm joking or being sarcastic or sometimes even use mock html tags as follows:

[sarcasm]
It's so unreasonable for people to be expected to engage their own brains in regard to their personal safety
[/sarcasm]

...depending which community I'm posting in...
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