This is part of a ‘travel etiquette’ series that deals with good manners while exploring.
While some of the tips may come quite naturally to some, I’ve seen a general lack of knowledge, especially when tour companies do trips without proper prior information on do’s and don’ts. This is a set of guidelines that make your visit less intrusive to the wildlife and the ecosystem they thrive in. They will help preserve the rich natural heritage offered by the various parks and will make a much better experience for both you and other park visitors.
1. Be quiet. I’ve seen it all. People playing music while on a game drive, girls screaming because they saw a cat, youngsters shouting to each other while on a drunken-spree game drive. Blend into the peace you found, keep it to a whisper.
2. Switch off your air-conditioner, cell phones and radios – one of the reasons people visit national parks is for peace and quiet. The animals also like peace and quiet so please be considerate and switch off all noisy items when at a sighting. Noise will also chase the animal away and then you ruin everyone’s viewing experience.
3. Do not crowd. This frequently happens at sightings whenever there are untrained guides and solo riders. Crowding animals can separate families, spoil a hunt or interfere with mating sessions. More than 5 vehicles at a sighting amounts to unnecessary pressure to the animals.
4. Do not get too close to the animals. (Use binoculars instead, this allows you to see the animals behaving naturally). If an animal walks away, you got too close…and after all, if you’re patient enough they might walk closer to you and you can get a better view/shot.
5. Keep to the track! Most Parks have made it very clear that vehicles shouldn’t go off the provided track. However, it’s tempting when the animals are further in. Driving in interferes with the natural vegetation in addition to being less safe.
6. Drive slowly. A good maximum speed is 40km/hr.
7. Leave no waste behind. You may think that this is obvious bit you’ll be surprised.
8. Do not feed the animals, or throw things at them to get their attention.
9. Stay in your car and only leave at designated picnic and sundowner sites.
10. For night game drives, be quiet and discreet. If following a hunting predator at night with spotlights, all lights should be off. It is both ethically and morally wrong to shine the spotlights at either the prey or at the stalking predator, as it will give either animal an unfair advantage over the other.
11. While camping at a park or taking a walk, if you lift up a log or rock to look underneath, make sure you place it back where you found it as these items are homes to many creatures, including scorpions, centipedes and snakes – so also be careful!
12. Try wearing natural colours that blend with the environment.
13. Respect your guides/rangers. Tipping is highly encouraged.
The most important thing to take from this is that game parks are the animals’ habitat. They must be left as found and the animals’ routine must not be disrupted by your visit. Be kind.
Next time: HOUSE GUEST ETIQUETTE WHILE TRAVELING- Travel etiquette series.