Will the animals attack?

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Feb 10th, 2005, 10:44 PM
  #1
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Will the animals attack?

OK. I know, I know.... silly question.
Im really embarrassed to admit this.
But I am seriously nervous (Ok...afraid) of getting attacked on a Botswana Safari.

Don't get me wrong, on the one hand I am really excited and believe this is going to be the greatest experience and a trip of a lifetime (hopefully a longer lifetime). But on the other hand, I keep dreaming that Im going to get mulled by a lion or fall out of the mokoro and get eaten by a hippo or maybe Ill have to pee while on a hike in the bush and a cheetah will drag me to my death below a sausage tree. Or maybe an elephant will break though my plastic zipper tent window. Im not thinking those can be that strong....

Im not usually this stupid. I travel all of the world. Really. Hey, I live by one of the greatest zoos in the world. Does that count for anything? But Ive been reading about all these cases where drivers stopped the car, turned off the engine, and "went to get a closer look" and then...

Uh-uh. Im not that brave. Stay in the car and please keep your guns raised. I see fine from afar. Ill bring binoculars. Thank you.

So... what I am looking for is some feedback on statistics of attacks in Botswana. Am I being ridiculous or should I just leave safaris for those individuals who have more, well, cajones.

Anyone?

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Feb 11th, 2005, 03:33 AM
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Well - I think this is a mega troll. I don't expect you'll find anyone on this board who has been attacked by a wild animal. It happens, but rarely.



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Feb 11th, 2005, 05:38 AM
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It takes a troll to know a troll.
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Feb 11th, 2005, 06:37 AM
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After looking up the world troll, I realize that I was being insulted.

If you dont want to answer my question, you don't have to. Move on. There are hundreds of other threads to join.

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Feb 11th, 2005, 07:39 AM
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sandi
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Troll or not, some people do have very vivid imaginations.

As to living near a zoo, take my word after Africa, the thought of a zoo won't ever come to mind.

As to "raised rifles" you're on the wrong board... have never seen one raised, though they are in place "just in case." As to those who choose "to go so" - stupid people often get into trouble. As to "nature calls" - if a guy, there's always a soda can, otherwise, your guide will find a perfectly safe place for you to take care of whatever.

Just follow the rules and regulations and you can put your dreams to bed, and your imagination into framing the perfect photos.
 
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Feb 11th, 2005, 07:46 AM
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Wild animals attack when they are threatened. Your guide will know how to behave in a non-threatening manner. If you follow his instructions, you'll not be a threat either.
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Feb 11th, 2005, 08:17 AM
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ctheworld: It is not a stupid question since you have not been and our movies, literature and news are full of animal attack stories which sensationalize the tremendously rare event.

To start you have to realize that except for in your tent you will be in the company of a professional guide. Your guide will have been trained to read animal behavior, particularly threatening behavior and know how to respond correctly. For a guide to put you in danger is to endanger himself so it won't happen. Secondly, I am fairly certain that if an animal is to kill a tourist in Botswana the guide can actually be charged with murder! So the key is to listen to the guide and you will be fine. The guide is not going to let you out of the vehicle in the presence of any dangerous animal. Before stopping for bathroom breaks the guide is sure to select an area lacking in dangerous wildlife. At Duba Plains the guide would actually get out and check all surrounding vegetation due to their tremendous density of lions. You are unlikely to ever see a gun unless you go on a game walk, it is not needed when you are in the vehicle. After dark you will be escorted by staff to your tent where you remain until daylight. There is an emergency horn in your tent which is really for medical emergencies as you are safe from wildlife within these significant structures.

Animals are generally quite wary and often even afraid of people -- including big cats. When you are in the vehicle you are not really viewed as a person but rather a large size, harmless animal that most of the animals have become habituated to and comfortable around. I was in a vehicle that had engine failure stranding us where we parked about 20 feet from a pride of 14 lions. We were there for about 30 minutes until a help vehicle arrived -- the lions could have cared less.

Sometimes elephants get territorial and charge the vehicle, usually a bluff charge. They are not out to harm simply wanting more space which the guide will provide and they relax. In the mokoro they will not frequent deep pools where the hippo can be dangerous. They will keep to shallows and safely avoid them. If you are to go on a walk you will be taught to stay closely single file so that there is not an easy target (stragler) for predators and the guide has all the angles for shooting in the very unlikely event that it is necessary.

So to sum it up almost any story of an attack you will find someone who did something they shouldn't have -- usually tourists in parks with no professional guide or someone who has chosen to not listen to the guide or they are everyday Africans who have to do dangerous things in their everyday life. The fact is these numbers are extremely low and on a Wilderness Safaris trip they are simply not going to let you into any of those situations. You should plan to listen and respect your guide and camp staff and then you should not need to spend a second worrying about being attacked.

I have been there and I am a biologist who studies predators in the U.S. so I feel very confident in addressing this question. I could go on forever addressing individual species, behavioral responses, etc. Feel free to ask any additional questions or if you prefer you are welcome to e-mail me directly [email protected]

Go and have a thrilling experience!
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Feb 11th, 2005, 08:22 AM
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I have been scared once on a game drive. It was night and I was sitting in the front seat by the ranger and a lioness was walking beside the vehicle, probably less than than 10' away. I was watching her and we made eye contact. That just blew me away. The thought crossed my mind that she is looking straight at me and there is nothing between us and if she were so inclined I could be dead with a swipe of her paw. Wicked feeling. She was on the opposite side of the vehicle and she was just walking by us but it really made me aware that we were in her world. Not ours. I didn't say anything to anyone but it is something I will remember for the rest of my life.

On another day the same scenario presented itself, lioness walking toward game vehicle at night but this time the ranger warned everyone not to make eye contact. Believe me, I did not.
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Feb 11th, 2005, 08:44 AM
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I don't have any additional advice to offer here other than to say that it is normal to get a little scared every so often while on safari!

My wife and I had our flashlight on hyena eyes through our chalet window at Motswari in RSA and I tell you we both checked each window and door about 3 times that night!

At Little Governors we had hippos next to our tent keeping us awake with their loud grazing and we were very careful not to make any sound for seemingly hours! One afternoon we were snoozing on our tent veranda when I looked up and a huge elephant was right next us - and none of the camp guards to be seen! My wife sneaked into the tent to get the camera and I just froze. Time stood still before he slowly walked off.

The long walk between the tent and the lounge at Grumeti camp with a little flashlight also sent a chill up my spine as we could hear some lion noises nearby.

It's part of the thrill - you are in bigger danger flying or driving to your destination than getting attacked by something wild!
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Feb 11th, 2005, 09:11 AM
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ctheworld

First on the word troll. It also is a fishing term. Stick the line in the water and slowly drive the boat to see what bites. So you could be said to be trolling for answers to your question. I'm hoping that's the use because you do not deserve to be insulted.

If you stay in the vehicle and stay in your tent there should be no problem. The only incident I know of was in Zimbabwe with a camp staff employee sleeping with his FEET STICKING OUT OF HIS TENT. A lioness took an nip and that sent him out of the tent running. He met an unfortunate fate.

If you keep your feet inside you should be fine.

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Feb 11th, 2005, 09:39 AM
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(in case it was not apparent, my little jab was intended for alice, the biggest troll on this board, and not ctheworld)

I will just add to this thread that I have had many close encounters with animals, including lions, leopards, hyenas, elephants, hippos and crocodiles. All but the hippos and crocodile encounters happened while in the vehicle.

Even though the vehicle is open, I felt completely safe in the vehicle, except when we startled an elephant in the dark that gave a brief chase, trumpeting the whole way.

I do think that canoeing is more dangerous, and there were times that I honestly feared for my life.

I was not at all scared of the crocodiles, because every one we came across fled into the water from the river banks, a good 20 feet in front of us. Most of the hippos
were "scaredy-cats" also, but it always seemed that out of a large hippo pod, that there was that one piece of **** hippo that had to stand his ground and intimidate us. There were times in narrow channels, while at Kulefu in Lower Zambezi, where we attempted to wait until the hippo surfaced for air, in order to see where it was, but it never would. Instead after five minutes or so, we would just have to paddle as hard as we could to get by the hippo, and that was very scary.

I really would not worry about game drives, at all. As long as you are not planning on going canoeing or on walking safaris, you should be completely safe.
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Feb 11th, 2005, 09:49 AM
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Here are a few thoughts that are more comforting than the unfortunate event I recounted in my previous reply.

-No guide, tour operator, camp, region, or country wants the bad PR of a killed tourist. There are many more entities who are very concerned about your safety for their own reasons than just you. That's a bit cynical but also reassuring.

-I think just about all safaris are safe, but Botswana has high end clients that pay good money so you are getting very qualified guides and staff and more attentive management in comparison with than some other places.

-As stated by others, animals don't look for trouble, they want to avoid it to remain healthy. In fact they are naturally afraid of us. That is why walking and canoeing safaris are more of a challenge. It is a challenge to observe the wildlife without it fleeing.

-On the other hand, in a vehicle, the animals see you as part of that large, unobtrusive moving rock. The eye to eye contact mentioned here, that is not uncommon, seems to discount this. But after eye to eye contact, I have never heard of a predator attacking.

Finally in preparation for the wonderful bush sounds you will hopefully hear in the night--from lions roaring to hyenas to hippos to jackals, just enjoy them knowing you are safe in your tent.

I had some of the same concerns on my first mobile camping experience. There were some nights that I was a bit concerned, but there was no need to be.

One last thing on the tents--the only time you won't be with a trained professional guide. Many have a bell, whistle or other alarm to call for help.
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Feb 11th, 2005, 10:30 AM
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I've spent about 5 weeks total on safari in southern Africa. Almost every day I was within 10 feet of lions, leopards, and hyena while observing from the Land Rover. Only twice have I truly felt threatened.

Once, while on a game drive, we came upon two lions sleeping in a dry river bed. They were in a shallow dip in the bed and we couldn't see them until we came with 3 or 4 feet of them (we came close to driving over them). Our driver saw them just in time and stopped. Unfortunately, our rover backfired and startled the sleeping lions. They jumped up and and our driver told us to freeze and be silent. The lions growled at us for about a minute and sat down. Later, our guide told us that the lions had been out mating and were thankfully quite exhausted. He also said that it was the only time he had raised his rifle in 10 years.

Our second "adventure" was on a bush walk in the Okavango Delta with two guides and two trackers. We had taken a boat out to an island for a short walk when a bull elephant caught our scent. He quite literally stalked us for 20 minutes as we tried to get out of his way. At some points, our guides literally had us running to get away. Finally, we made it back to the boat and to safety.

Both incidents happened on our first trip to Africa. Our second trip was uneventful. Both trips were at highly respected lodges. Remember, we may have been a little frightened, but in the end, nothing bad really happened. We just got some fun stories to tell.

I'm currently planning another trip to southern Africa. This time, I'm bringing my 10 year old son. Most people consider me a somewhat over-protective mother. I would never take him if I didn't think it was safe. Yes, it is possible that he could get bit by a snake or spider (possible here at home, too), but I'm not worried about him being eaten by a lion. Our trip isn't for over a year, but I'm already teaching him about checking your shoes before you put them on, watching where you step, and staying with the group. If you are aware of your surroundings, you should be okay. That's good advice for life anywhere, even in a city.

One other thing: follow the rules of the camp. People get in trouble when they don't. When we were at Phina Forest Lodge, they emphasized not to walk alone at night without an escort. The year before, a woman forgot her sweater when dining in the boma for dinner. She went back to her room by herself to pick it up. Her husband was concerned when she didn't return and he told the staff. They immediately went to find her. It didn't take long, about 30 yards from the boma were a couple of lions feeding on her. Don't ever forget that no matter how nice your camp may be, you are still in the bush.

Now that I've probably freaked you out, try and relax. Africa, its people, scenery, and wildlife, are beautiful. The rewards are much greater than any risk.
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Feb 11th, 2005, 10:53 AM
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I know that on some boards there is a kind of desperate competition to be the first to call troll postings I don't believe for a moment that this is one.

Sometimes, the courteous thing to do is to give someone the benefit of the doubt.

The worst that can happen is that you respond in seriousness and later find out the original post is a troll. In which case you've wasted a few moments of your life. And if even that is anathema you can always simply ignore any threads that you suspect might be trolls.

Even in this scenario there is always the chance that someone else will still find your response useful.

CtheWorld,
I don't think it's a silly question because, if you haven't been, or spent lots of time reading/ hearing about the reality of the experience your idea of the experience will be founded on sensationalised media coverage of the very isolated incidents of animal attacks.

As has been said, these invariably turn out to be the result of a visitor refusing to heed advice/ instructions from their guide/ the camp/ park on proper behaviour.

The kind of camps you are considering employ experienced, trained guides who have a rather vested interest in ensuring the safety of their guests.

There are times when I have been close enough for it to FEEL scary but that's all down to perception.

On a walking safari last year we approached closer than I ever dreamed possible to a female white rhino with calf. However, we approached in her line of sight, so she was not startled, we moved slowly and without jerky movements, and we were downwind of her.

When we first visited in 2001 an immense male leopard strolled past the front of our vehicle, so close we could smell him. Likewise, this has happened often with lion and cheetah. That first time we couldn't believe that these predators wouldn't jump into the open vehicle for an easy meal. We later learned that they simply don't associate animals with vehicles with prey.

Anyway, hopefully you'll be reassured by the posts here and continue to plan what will be an amazing trip!
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Feb 11th, 2005, 11:03 AM
  #15
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Thanks everyone for your sincere answers! (I never knew people get on these boards and post fake questions. I mean, you seriously have WAY too much time on your hands if that is your idea of a fun time. What ever happened to ding dong ditch??)

First: I really enjoyed reading some of your stories! Seriously, I got the chills just READING about some of these encouters. Im very excited but definately scared ***tless at the same time. Eye Contact! ohmygod. I may have a heart attack.

Second: I will obey EVERYTHING I am told by my ranger. I mean, I won't breathe if they tell me not to. Thats clear from these threads. I do NOT want to be one of those idiots who tried to outsmart the rules. No way. I am too chicken.

Third: I am going with another female and both of us are nervous about having to pee when we are out on the trails. I dont know that I feel much better about that even reading some of these replies. I am not going to drink too much water. Note to self!

I am so excited! I think I really want to go but I have major butterflies in my stomach just reading about all these stories. Keep 'em coming! I need to toughen up!


Thanks.
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Feb 11th, 2005, 11:45 AM
  #16
 
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Going to the bathroom in the bush:

Often you just go on the other side of a big termite mound. You're not far from the car. The first time, I was so afraid a snake was going to come out and bite me in the ***. Now, I'm still cautious, but not paranoid. If worse comes to worse, just remember, better to be less private and more safe. Stick with your friend and keep lookout while the other one goes -- it's the buddy system.
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Feb 11th, 2005, 11:46 AM
  #17
sandi
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Please do not scare yourself to death even before you've boarded your flight. I don't believe anyone who posts on this board "really" knew what to expect until they arrived the first time - whether South Africa, Botswana, Zim, Zam, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia or Uganda and Rwanda - the major safari countries. And while some of us have had so-called close encounters, we listened carefully to instructions and followed the rules.

I've traveled with my male partner as well as with gal friends - each an experience in it's own. We've been as close as a foot from a cheetah, had lions decide to nap right under the front wheel of our stopped vehicle, even had breakfast with vervet monkeys who insisted they deserved my breakfast cookies more than I did, or those who swing off trees and grab your dinner rolls while you're dining al fresco. It's all part of the experience.

Most all the animals are rightly more leery of people; it's their territory and so they have the right of way. Like the others here, we can assure you that the professionals who manage the camps, guides and trackers who are with you on drives or walks, make certain to care for their guests, especially when it comes to safety.

As to pit stops for nature calls - not drinking isn't the answer, as you can become dehydrated - not good. But should you decide not to hydrate while on a drive or walk, you'll have to make up for it on your return to camp.

Take in all the comments, realize that this is an adventure, and that you'll be as safe out in the bush, probably more so, then back in your home town. I'm sure you'll return with tales of wonder and these pre-trip willies will be long forgotten in that place called "what was I thinking?"
 
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Feb 11th, 2005, 12:03 PM
  #18
 
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Just bear in mind that those who were eaten are unable to respond to your post!

Just kidding -- I have been on safari in every country in Sandi's post, and its very safe. Yes, the animals approach closely, and in countries, like Kenya, with closed vehicles, even climb onto the truck. But its very, very safe.

Have fun and relax,

Michael
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Feb 11th, 2005, 12:52 PM
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This thread represents the “Beauty and the Beast” of the Internet. The medium makes it all too easy to throw out false accusations that in most cases would never be made so flippantly in face-to-face encounters. In this case all it would have taken was few second to put the posters name into the search box and view the several straight forward posts you have made asking for help in planning your African adventure.

Now onto the beauty. Can you imagine in the days before the net being able to have a wildlife biologist be able to give you extensive insight into wildlife behavior instantly!! Some great stories and advice here.

Personally I would compare my experience at times being somewhat akin to being in the midst of a lightening storm. Imagine you are safely in a building viewing the spectacular fury of the lighting and thunder. You are quite safe, yet your adrenalin is up and you enjoy the spectacle of nature all around you. Yet, the storm is still “boss” and its danger real. You don’t go out and confront the storm outside with a metal golf club in your hand. The guides’ advice and the camps rules are all designed for you to view the wildlife safely and to prevent you from getting too cocky and grabbing that proverbial golf club
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Feb 11th, 2005, 01:23 PM
  #20
 
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Please drink, drink, drink.

As Sandi mentioned, don't get dehydrated! The chance of an attack while squatting behind a bush is almost nil. The chance of feeling awful and missing much of your trip if you don't drink is pretty high.

You can just go right behind the vehicle
if you wish. No need to venture into the deep brush and nobody cares or looks.

Please give a report when you return and include your pit stops.
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