Through a Q&A with Original Travel, Alex Walker in Tanzania shares his experience and knowledge...
What is the weirdest thing/moment you've ever encountered on safari?
I was driving through Southern Sudan with a group of Zande in the back of the vehicle, when they suddenly caught sight of a pangolin and all leapt off, hooting and hollering all the way to its den, whereupon three of them hurled themselves straight down its hole after it.
What has been your scariest moment while on safari... and how do you stay safe on safari?
I don't really characterize things as scary; more interesting, or just necessitating the right reaction to a situation. The key to safety is to be aware - live in the moment, avoid distractions, and don't be in a hurry. Mistakes happen when you're rushing and your mind is elsewhere.
If you couldn't be a safari guide in Tanzania where would you go?
It'd definitely have to be something multi-faceted to keep the passion alive - preferably still to do with nature, but incorporating design and creativity too. Photography, art, mentoring young guides... I recently learnt to surf, so if a beach featured in there somewhere, that'd be great too.
Is there anything that you haven't seen/experienced on a safari that you'd like to?
I would love to see an Okapi in the wild - that's something I haven't yet had the privilege of experiencing.
Which safari animal fascinates you most and why?
It'd have to be elephant - they're great to spend time with because they're always up to something interesting. I love the fact that they are so adept at communicating with each other, and are so aware and in tune with their space in nature. They use low frequency calls - some below the level of human hearing - to speak to each other, and can sense these vocalisations over incredible distances through the sensitivity of their feet.
Best safari moments/highlights
We were filming fireflies for a British Gas advert called 'the love bug', and I was wandering around in the dark with a bug collector's net, swishing this way and that, when I almost ran into a herd of humungous bull elephant. There were five of them, drinking, chatting, swaying, and I was about 15 meters away, ankle-deep in crystal clear water running through the sand river. I stood there for an hour under a full moon and low scudding clouds, quiet, calm, grounded and totally at peace and in tune with what was going on. One of those perfect moments.
Best tip for a newbie safari-goer
Take your time to immerse... Don't be in a rush to tick boxes. And make sure to mix up your experiences: don't just sit in a vehicle - get out on foot and do some walking, it will open you up to the silence and the smaller things that you miss out on in a car.
Best tip for an old schooler...
I'd give the same advice as to a newbie, except to say get out and walk more! Once you've got the more obvious sightings out of your system, you'll find there are a million more layers there to appreciate.
Safari trends you've seen over the years
The traditional longer safaris came to be replaced by ADD moments, quick fixes, disproportionately luxurious camps, and no real disconnection from the busyness of everyday life. Slowly though, safari is swinging back to its roots, and the real reasons that nature is such a healing space: we're coming to appreciate it again for the contrast and escape it offers from the stress of our hectic lives.