Safari Stereotypes – Part 1 – Safari Snobs

They just can’t wait. Barely out of the vehicle and into camp before they start listing the countries they’ve visited, spitting the names out like a ticker tape machine.

One newly arrived guest told me yesterday (within minutes of arrival) that I ‘couldn’t imagine’ the countries he’d spent time in. I was a bit offended when he went on to list Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana amongst others. Far afield for many but beyond my imagination?

I pointed out the various tents that make up the main body of the camp; “There’s the dining tent which also includes a small reference library…”

The guest chuntered on in the background and in every available pause. “I’ve been to the Arctic four times, can you imagine?” [If Zimbabwe is beyond my imagination, it’s unlikely I could comprehend the Arctic.]

“…then to the left of the bookcase there’s the bar – our waiters will be happy to offer you any drinks…”

“…Antarctica by helicopter. I’ve seen more than one hundred polar bears. I’ve been on an icebreaker to see the Emperor penguins…”

“Lunch will be a buffet lunch with fresh salads from our garden.”

“…Madagascar, Reunion, Brazil, Uganda, Rwanda, India, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Tanzania…”

I give up my camp tour, put on my sunglasses and have a gentle snooze whilst the tally continues. As I doze off to the rhythmic listing of possibly every country in Europe, I wonder: what’s the purpose of this domineering bragging? In recognition of my pathetic, relatively untravelled life, should I quietly leave my seat and throw myself under the hooves of a passing buffalo?

Before I’m fully asleep, I recall that we already have in camp an equally tiresome, well-travelled guest. I get animated at the thought of introducing the two of them.

Over lunch, they do not disappoint. An unstoppable force meets an immovable object. The competition begins when Guest A enquires if it’s B’s first trip to Africa. Oh, such foolish innocence.

At first the names are casually tossed out there; Costa Rica, Russia, China. Breezily countered with Japan, New Zealand, Vietnam.

Poker-faced yet each recognising a worthy opponent the stakes are raised; “I’ll call your Kazakhstan and raise you three islands in Micronesia.”

Voices get frantic, higher-pitched. Benin, Iceland, Burkino Faso. Laos, Ethiopia, Togo. A staggering display of one-upmanship.

As far as I can tell, they’re neck and neck in the challenge to be the Most Travelled Show-Off Arsehole in the World. The tension is tangible. The rest of the guests, sensing some sort of apocalyptic event, sit silently, open-mouthed, cutlery hovering between plate and mouth.

They’ve both been to the Marshall Islands. They’ve both been to Inner Mongolia. They’ve both been to the Galápagos. [It’s obvious they’re both including the accent.] It seems the deadlock can’t be broken.

Then, in a flash of inspiration, Guest A goes all in and asks Guest B which month she went to the Galápagos.

Guest B hesitates. Smelling blood, the audience shift in their seats.

Guest B whispers, “April.”

One of the other guests turns to me eagerly, “Is that bad? Is that bad?”

“AHAAA!” shouts Guest A, throwing down her napkin in triumph, “If you went in April then you won’t have seen the penguins on the shores of Bartolomé!”

Slumped in his chair, Guest B admits this is the case, vainly muttering something about excellent weather for snorkelling but the game is lost.

In the ensuing silence, Guest C pipes up. Clearly carried away on the wave of A’s victory she blurts out, “I went to Paris in December once, it was lovely!”

Unsurprisingly, no-one gives a shit.

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A little bit crapper than Mufasa

A little bit crapper than Mufasa

We knew they were going to be trouble the moment they arrived. Rather than leaping enthusiastically from the Land Rover they surveyed our camp with dismay from within the vehicle before stepping carefully out, unsuccessfully picking their way through the dust and scat.

A three-generational vineyard-owning family from California, they looked like they’d packed for a cruise; tiny pointed shoes, hair immaculately dyed and styled, delicate little Hermes scarves. The wives looked high-maintenance too.

When I introduced myself to one of the ladies, she limply took my hand; “You guys have Wi-Fi, right?” When I said no, she looked over her shoulder and called to the rest of the family, “They’ve not got it here either. What are we going to do?”

The thirteen of them stood in front of us, looking vaguely panicked.

The first lady turned back to D, “Well, do you have a TV room at least?”

The panic spread to us; these guests were here for four nights and had booked all of our six tents.

“Well, hopefully you’ll be out on too many game drives to worry about TV,” said D continuing to introduce himself to the mixed group.

The smallest of the four children, a girl, tugged at the shiniest of the adults; “I don’t want to go on another drive.”

“Wait until you see the lions and elephants,” D said, “you might even see hippos in the river.”

One of the other mothers stepped forward and spoke gently to D as you would to a simpleton; “We saw a lion on the way from the airport,” she said, “we don’t need to see any more.”

Knowing it was going to be a long few days for all of us, we introduced them to the non-existent facilities of the camp before leading them to their tents to reveal the hair dryers, bathtubs and minibars that the camp also doesn’t have. In the face of their disappointment, it seemed churlish to point out the flushing toilets.

They remained unmoved by the beauty of the camp, scared of the few bugs that made an appearance, bored by game drives although the wildlife did its best to impress; leopard, cheetah, lion, elephant and rhino all made an appearance during their game drives, despite them only being out of camp for an hour a day.

“So did you choose to work out here?” asked one of the daughters, implying that I was an victim of a lesser-reported human trafficking ring; condemned not to a sordid life as a sex-worker in Soho but to live in the wilderness and talk to guests until I could have my passport back. It was clear which she considered the worse fate.

On their fourth and final day, D and I walked down to the dining tent to make sure that the family had everything they needed. It was 4pm, a time when guests would normally be out on game drives; traversing the grassy plains and escarpments before watching the sunset in all its glory.

As we approached the tent we could hear music.

Whilst bona fide lion cubs, warthogs and hornbills went about their lives only kilometres from camp, we found the family huddled together watching Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ on the grandson’s iPad.

Hakuna matata…