When I hear the word safari, I immediately think of a long expanse of desert, traveling by jeep with the top off, strapped in a standing position, camera out, hurtling across the landscape with a million zebra, attempting to execute the best photography possible. I’ve got camouflage gear on, bandanna keeping the sun from scorching me, and a rucksack holding my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300, Gopro Hero 4 Black, a lot of water, sunscreen and chapstick, so I can stay on the hunt all day! The hunt for pictures of course.
After I’ve spent 12 hours taking pictures of the sunrise, sunset and every animal in between, I sit down to have a catered dinner with good friends and good wine in my luxury accommodations that includes an open air deck, waiter service and mosquito nets over everything!
You can see it right? Me too. My perfect African safari.
And then… I found out that there is more than one kind of safari. WHAT???
There are Indian safaris, water safaris and volunteer safaris. Let me explain.
India has many National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries that expose you to this country’s own safari. Visit Hemis National Park to see golden eagles, snow leopards and Tibetan Argali Sheep or experience the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary where there is the rare orange furred monkey called the Golden Langur or spy the endangered two foot tall bird called the Bengal Florican. Tours are led by naturalists. These are professionals who know a particular area and its unique qualities. They even know what the animals sound like in the wild so that you can too. So don’t be surprised if they shush you to hear the sound of a lonely monkey.
Do some of your own research, find the places in India that have the animals you want to see… Asiatic Lions, rhinos, mongoose and jackals, or how about pythons and porcupines at the Keoladeo Ghana National Park? Keep in mind, India has 70% of the world’s tiger population… so don’t forget to go where the tigers are!
**Hire your own private naturalist and vehicle so you can move around on your own schedule and at your own pace. You can also concentrate on the specific types of wildlife you want to see, as well as ruins, forts and fortresses along the countryside.**
Also, safaris are not just for the dry-aired, multi-colored sunset, desert loving folks… there are also water safaris. For example, let us take a moment to imagine a water safari in Botswana. You will glide past thundering waterfalls, serene lagoons and waterways in a covered boat with it’s own water guide. Plus, what does every animal in the wild need? Water. So before landing at your River Lodge for the night, you will see elephants, or perhaps buffalo, bathing with their families right next to you. It is your very own real life Disneyland Jungle Cruise.
This brings me to the most modern of safaris. Voluntourism. If you would like an immersive experience where you come away with a deep sense of an area’s culture, values and a guaranteed sense of pride in yourself and the world’s generous nature… choose between elephants in Thailand, big cats in India or building school desks in Africa. The lists are endless as to matching your passion with a species of animal or a culture of humans that needs you. Sometimes it is difficult to really feel that you, as an individual can make a difference. Are you searching for that feeling? Are you searching for meaning? Volunteer with the animals and humans in our world that hunger for the basics on a daily basis. Guaranteed tears and laughter. Travel is emotional and voluntourism is the holy grail.