The rules that govern the life of a safari camp manager.
- Thou Shalt Not Spend More Than Eight Weeks in Camp Lest Thy Slay Innocent Guests.
As the working weeks pass and time off becomes but a faint echo, the likelihood increases that guests or staff will be attacked, not by a buffalo or lion, but by a marauding manager whose wits are overloaded with camp life.
The endless plains and the wuffling zebras respectively turn into isolation and a bloody nuisance. The first hint that it’s time to gather up those closest to you and head for the hills is increased levels of forced joviality with guests:
‘No, I’m glad you decided to have a lie-in at the last minute! It means I got up at 5.00am for no reason, as did three members of staff. Refreshed, you say? Ha-ha! Excellent!’
‘Oh no, of course it’s no trouble, I’ll be glad to walk a round trip of a kilometre to search the game drive vehicle for your phone which you’ll almost certainly find in your handbag later! I’m so glad you waited until it’s dark to mention it. Oh! Is that a spot of rain? That will make the search so much more challenging. What fun!’
Sarcastic responses to innocent questions lurk close to the surface.
“What do elephants eat?”
One of the common errors made by guests is confusing Cape Buffalo (who live in Africa) with Water Buffalo (who live some five thousand kilometres away in Asia).
It’s customary to listen to a guest, hear their mistake and wait for a suitable opportunity to politely drop in the correction; “Oh, yes, I do so love Cape Buffalo when they’re in large herds; the calves are so playful.” Eight weeks in, however, and there’s the ever-present danger that it’ll turn into:
“We saw lion, cheetah, leopard and water buffalo…”
“Water buffalo, huh? Fuck me, you’ve got good eyesight.”
There’s also the fear that you’ll go ‘bush’ if you stay in the wilderness for too long. Living amongst trees, vultures and mud, my already estranged relationship with culture is beyond counselling. Glossy magazines with make-up and perfume adverts have no relevance.
The very last time we drove to Nairobi I made the mistake of going directly to the hairdressers without popping home first. As I’m having my hair washed I hear a clunk in the sink behind me. I turn round to find the girl holding up a three-inch acacia branch that has clearly just fallen out of my hair. I’m horrendously embarrassed and attempt to explain, “I live in the bush,” then seeing her look suspiciously out of the window at a tree in the car park, I realise she’s misunderstood. “No, no, I mean The Great Outdoors, not an actual bush.”
As I’m writing this I’ve received an email from a lovely guest, “I’m going to Mombossa. Will I be safe from the Somelians?”
I’ve only been in camp for six weeks so I’ll be gentle.