PHOTOS Africa for eons has attracted explorers, hunters and today tourists because of its wildlife.
The camp is quiet during the heat of the day, but as evening sets in the game drive vehicles return, dusty 4x4s with rooftop tents arrive as do huge overland safari mobiles with sweaty Europeans onboard.
Staff kicks in high gear setting up tents, making fires and preparing meals. Some travelers head for the lodge bar for a cool one. A few women can’t resist the curio shop to browse through the handmade necklaces and batik fabric. Several young college people hangout by the Internet cafe with eyes glued to their cell phones and thumbs moving rapidly. The most weary travelers spend a bit extra for a safari tent or even a cabin with private open air shower for a night of ‘luxury’. Over the campfire lion sightings, elephant encounters and other stories are embellished and the evening meal devoured.
“No wildlife no tourists!”
In Botswana and Swaziland, two Southern African countries we’ve recently visited, the leadership and the people seem to get this. If the wildlife disappears so do the tourists.
Tourists came to photograph wild animals and birds. Come to watch them in their natural environment and hope to have a few scary experiences to share back home. Like sleeping among lions with no fences and elephants sauntering through the camp.
Tourists inject money into these economies the moment they step off the plane. They buy food, drinks, souvenirs, local SIM cards, fuel, and the overlanders (like us) stock up on groceries, supplies, water and top off long range fuel tanks. All this creates jobs for food vendors, soda and beer companies, gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, cell phone shops, and of course lodges, hotels and campgrounds.
Much of this industry would be gone if the African wildlife disappeared and the tourists no longer came.
Why is South Africa different?
If you look at South Africa’s advertising it focuses a lot on the Cape wine tours, the waterfront experience, the night life in Durban and the shopping in Johannesburg. One woman told me she has left the bush behind, that is an old life,she is now a city girl. Somehow the bush means poverty while the western life is where its at.
Is South Africa trying to be like Europe or the USA? Trying to attract tourists who want to be entertained in style and spend money on trinkets?
For the tourists we talk to, Africa is about the bush, about seeing lion, rhino, elephant, leopard and buffalo… they don’t call them the Big Five for nothing it seems! These folk from Germany, Switzerland, Holland and even Wisconsin in the USA come for the bush adventure. Oddly enough many come from South Africa for a more ‘real’ Africa experience.
As for hunting, well, most we encounter seem perfectly content to photograph the beauties they see, leaving the wild animals and birds alive for the next round of tourists to enjoy.
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