Now that you have a bit of an understanding about what goes into becoming a professional guide, we decided to give you a bit of an insight into a walking safari. Thankfully, David Amyot, was more than willing to give us some details about going on a walking safari.
Written by David Amyot, Professional Safari Guide, Zimbabwe:
I have guided and continue to guide privately in many of Zimbabwe’s numerous and magical game parks. Today, I principally guide for John’s Camp in Mana Pools. It is situated in the lower Zambezi Valley and is home to four of the big 5. Sadly, the last black rhino was removed and relocated to other parks due to a surge in poaching activity seen through the 1980’s.
Mana Pools is truly a wildlife frontier with the finest wildlife encounters on foot in Africa. It is a place where people and wildlife coexist. This was an understanding developed over many years due to the absence of human settlement in the area. Many other areas with settlement have human wildlife conflict issues, which gives the wildlife an element of aggression. That aggression is not seen in Mana Pools, which makes walking safari not only possible but extremely enjoyable.
This is what David had to say, “While out tracking with your guide, it is essential to keep your voice down, the sound of a human voice can alter the animal’s natural behavior. We might view our voices as being normal, but to an animal, this can be a new sound that will often trigger an instinctive fear that can then alter their behavior. When your guide advises you to keep quiet, it is not a personal attack of you, but rather them trying to provide you with the best possible walking safari!
Most guides will tell you not to run if anything untoward were to happen. The reason is because at that moment that the animal charges, the only person that needs to be in the animals’ sight is the guide. Guides are trained to defend their guests in these situations. If one person in the group or the whole group were to run in different directions it would make it a lot harder for the guide to draw the animals’ attention.
In the event of a lion or elephant charge (which the guide never purposely looks for but it does happen), the guide will stand with their guests behind him/her and they will play the animals bluff by standing their ground. Each circumstance is different and there are many variables for each situation. The guide might shout at the animal as it begins its initial mock charge. The moment the animal instinctively has fear and understanding that people are dangerous, it will ask itself, “what can you do to me because you are not running away?”. It is this action that prevents the tragedy of the guide having to remove these amazing creatures in an act of self-defense. By guests standing their ground behind the guide, it allows this scenario to play out the way we would hope. Not only will this give everyone a once in lifetime adrenalin-filled encounter, but it will also allow the animal to go back to its daily activities in peace!
“I enjoy being able to sit quietly on a termite mound and get to know a certain lion or elephant who also in time get to know me. This allows me to be able to prepare walking safaris for my guests. At the same time, I enjoy many special private moments and photographic opportunities these habituated animals present.”