Non-birders on safari
Now here is a dilemma. We recently had a couple who all in all had a fantastic safari in Botswana and Kruger except for one recurring problem….They proclaimed to not be very interested in birds, but just as luck would have it, they found themselves on game drives with keen birders, or twitchers or bird fundis or whatever other
name you give to people who want to stop, reach for their binoculars, and identify and observe our little feathered friends! Our clients found this boring and frustrating, and would have preferred to have spent the time
tracking the Big Five as opposed to sitting in hushed bird-watching mode.
Now this is a tricky potentially explosive situation! And as a safari operator, I have given a solution some thought.
Firstly, serious birders would let us know that they are looking for a specialist birding trip and we would arrange a birding guide and exclusive use of the safari vehicle accordingly. Fanatical birders can be quite weird and potentially intimidating! They are known to travel vast distances in extreme conditions to tick off a sought-after rare species. Dinner table conversation will be exclusively about birds and brag stories about which SBB (small brown bird) was spotted where. They are a mixed bag of humans, coming from all walks of life but will definately have a pair of super-binoculars hanging around their neck at all times.
In this particular case, the other guests on the game vehicle were most likely just keen birders who love seeing the animals, but who have seen their share of lazy lions lying in the shade. These folk have probably been on safari a few times and want to learn more about the birds and the trees. It is generally first-time safari goers who aren’t particularly interested in birds and the ‘Little Five’, and who still have a lot to learn about the African bush. For them (and our recent past clients), being on safari with keen birders can be dull and seemingly time wasting. I am tempted to say to these folks ‘sit back, relax and enjoy the sounds and smells of the bush…you never know what might walk out from under a tree off to the left while everyone else has binoculars glued to their faces looking right!!!‘ But in all seriousness, the solution lies in the hands of the safari lodges. Lodge staff and rangers should chat to their guests and get an idea of their interests and then, if possible, assign them to separate safari vehicles so that…birds of a feather can flock together!