Technology on Safari
We all know how much technology has evolved in recent decades. It’s hard to believe that only 20 years ago we weren’t tethered to our smart phones or constantly updating social media. While technological progress will inexorably march on, new innovations raise some questions about when the use of today’s technology is appropriate, and when it’s a good time to step away and enjoy being in the moment. This question is particularly important when you are planning a vacation to one of Africa’s amazing destinations. Let’s consider some of that technology, and how it can impact your vacation, both in ways that are good, and not-so-good.
Our favorite kind of Wi-Fi is the dog Wi-Fi who makes his home at Alex Walker’s Serian the Original camp in Kenya – and star of “Wi-Fi Wednesdays” on social media. The other Wi-Fi presents some challenges, and how much Wi-Fi access to make available on safari is an interesting debate. For many people, it is not feasible to be out of touch from home, jobs and family for weeks at a time, and having access to email may be essential. The question, then, is how to balance that need with the sheer beauty of embracing experiences – whether it be watching game on the savanna, enjoying a sundowner at an idyllic spot, or taking the time to make new friends around the campfire.
Different camps and lodges are experimenting with restricted access to Wi-Fi – either making it available to just guest accommodations, or alternatively allowing it in common areas only, or finally having Wi-Fi available only during specified periods of the day. In our experience, one of these options can help strike the right balance between meeting genuine needs and allowing our guests to fully embrace the safari experience. We can work with you to ensure your communications needs are met on safari. And for those that have a desire to disconnect completely, we can recommend the right camps for you as well. As for the emerging technology of providing Wi-Fi on vehicles? We say “Please No!”
The use of drones in the bush is becoming much more common in the past few years, first appearing in support of anti-poaching efforts, and later expanding for use in fire detection and other habitat preservation efforts. We are very much in favor of such uses given the massive toll poaching is having on populations of endangered species across the continent and around the world. However, we are also beginning to see drones used by amateur photographers, and even in searching for game. This represents a very unwelcome trend. Imagine what it would be like to be quietly viewing a tower of giraffe, enjoying the still morning air as the mist burns off, only to be assaulted by the buzz of drones as some distant photographer aims for a quick snap before breakfast. Such intrusion is sure to impact, if not spoil, your enjoyment of the sighting. Take that one step further and imagine the impact it could have on wildlife as they have yet another outside aggravation to deal with.
Every safari guide we know carries numerous books in their vehicle, enabling guests to learn more about everything from mammals and birds to reptile species and plants. Some of the best guides will hand a book back without so much as a glance and tell you that the bird species you are observing can be found on the bottom of page 237, casually proving their encyclopedic knowledge of Africa’s flora and fauna. Such books provide invaluable information, and we often pull them out at the end of the day’s safari to confirm what we saw and to pour over what we might view the next day. Today’s technology allows all of that information to be carried in a single device, making traveling with the latest data much easier than in the old days. We love how technology can be adapted in ways like this, enhancing the safari experience while still allowing guests to stay in the moment. That said, we’ll pick the knowledgeable guide, and the well-loved
guidebook every time!
It seems funny to mention radios in the same breath with all of this new technology, as they have been a part of the African experience for decades. However, like Wi-Fi, the use of radios on safari carries with it both pros and cons. On the plus side, radios play an important role in safety, as they are quite often the only means of communication between camps and their vehicles, particularly in far-flung areas. They are also used for contact between bush planes and people on the ground, and it is admittedly pretty cool to see this vintage communication in action.
What is more open to debate is the coordinated use of radios to triangulate and pin-point game. If you are on safari in a remote location and there are 2 or 3 vehicles out looking for a sighting, radio contact can be invaluable in ensuring all guests maximize game viewing during their limited time in the bush. However, in areas with a greater concentration of vehicles and people, this communication sharing leads to unhealthy results, such as a family of cheetah on a hunt surrounded by a dozen jockeying for a look. So while radios do play a key role, we are still fans of the old-fashioned game drive where nature takes its course – the rewards feel even greater!
Do you have questions about technology on safari? Contact us to explore what type of access is right for your trip.