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An African Affair

Safaris are like dating. Not the most obvious metaphor, but bear with me. When you start dating someone new, they’re like an exciting puzzle. As you see them more often, you get more comfortable and figure out a bit more of that puzzle. It’s exciting, scary and even a little confusing.

I’d argue that the same is true of safari. When you first go, you really have no idea what to expect and no amount of Discovery Channel specials are going to fill you in. Getting into that safari truck for the first time is just like a first date; you hope it goes well, but really, you’re stepping into the unknown.

You’re immersed in an environment that for the most part will be totally new to you. Everything is fresh and exciting and I can assure you that the first lion roar or elephant charge will scare the willies out of you. As you do more, however, and get out there not just in a vehicle, but on foot, by air, and by boat, the bush begins to reveal itself to you. With each walk, drive or paddle, you unravel just a little bit more of the puzzle. Just like in a relationship, the superficial attraction will wow you in the beginning, but it’s time that will reveal the nuance, subtlety and true beauty of what you’re dealing with…and a few things that are just plain ridiculous, as well.

For every majestic leopard stalking a nervous impala, there is one who gets treed by wild dogs and looks quite sheepish about it. For every regal male lion roaring at twilight, there is the cub that gets a little too rambunctious, bites his dad in the family jewels, and is sent flying into the bushes by an angry paw swipe. And for every mighty elephant matriarch, there is a hilarious, bumbling youngster who hasn’t quite worked out how to use his trunk yet.

When people come to us to plan their trips and ask “how long should we spend on safari?”, my answer is invariably “as long as you can”. This doesn’t work for everyone, and for some a scant, three-day dalliance is enough. People worry about being bored, and the truth is that every day won’t be a roller coaster of National Geographic moments. But if you can commit some time and really get to know safari and what it’s all about, it can be one of the most rewarding (and frankly damn exciting) things you ever do. I urge you, go as often and for as long as you can.

For a small few, going on safari can be a bad date, quickly ended and never to be repeated. For many more fortunate travellers, it becomes a life long love affair that leaves you forever wanting more.

Dan Achber is in a serious, committed relationship with safari—there are even rumours of an upcoming engagement.

The superficial attraction will wow you in the beginning, but it's time that will reveal the nuance, subtlety and true beauty of what you're dealing with.