9 Ways To Avoid Being THAT Tourist On A Wildlife Safari
I once heard of a horror story of two well heeled women from Pune who actually lit up cigarettes in wait of spotting a tiger! Yes, you read right, cigarettes! At such times, I wish there were entrance exams to earn your right to enter national parks. Every college seems to have one, then why not such reserves which according to me can teach us just as much if not more?
Now we know you won’t be doing something so silly, but you still don’t want to be THAT kind of tourist… do you?
Here is a simple step by step guide on how to behave yourself while on a wildlife safari and avoid getting yourself and others killed (kidding!)
With invaluable inputs from: Mihir Barve, Wildlife Photographer and Birder
#1 Animals & Birds Are Not Models
So don’t treat them like that. Respect them and their space. Remember that you are in their home and invading their space – all for that perfect shot. Some so called conservationist will catch a snake and get it to pose in certain ways for them to get the perfect shot.
It’s the same case with birds, such people play the call of birds to get them to come out in the open. Bird calls may be melodious to us, but for the birds apart from many things it is a way to warn of others of its species from its territory.
Once people understand this concept, you can imagine how cruel it is to make a bird believe it has to defend its territory from an unseen challenger. It wastes its precious energy calling louder, flitting through branches & bushes in search for the formidable opponent who can’t stop calling. Over the period some birds have stopped responding to the calls including their mating call, hampering the breeding cycle.
In most national parks, once a tiger is sighted all the cars corner the animal and leave little room (if any) for the animal to move.
There are guidelines in place for vehicles to not wait beyond a certain time or only permitted number of vehicles to wait at a spot, but this is often ignored. There are tonnes of photos which shows this happening on a regular basis.
It is true for most of us who rarely go to such parks and get to see such graceful animals up-close. The spell these creatures cast is no doubt hard to resist, but as the more evolved animal we humans need to know better. If we give the creatures the space they need that will help them feel more comfortable around us.
#3 Speeding & Going Off-Track
Its really exciting to spot animals. And in that excitement people often tend to follow closely or try and keep up with the animal. However, it’s important to not go off-track.
You are not only damaging a natural habitat, but are disturbing an entire forest. At times the crowding situation in a place is so pathetic that cars actually go off road so the tourist may get a better view/shot. On a few occasions the animal (in most cases it is a tiger) have let their displeasure show.
Guides and drivers (who are sometimes pressurized by tourists in the vehicle or are just over zealous in their effort to spot something) try to stay inside the park as long as possible. Nothing wrong with that unless the area they decide to prolong the wait is far away from the area you are expected to exit from. So, when it’s time to exit the park, the driver has no choice but to push the car to the limit. After all, it is a matter of his/her daily bread. There are a few checks in place to curb this, but such errant thought process cannot be curbed by the under-staffed forest department and its staff.
#4 Keep That Volume Low
Remind yourself why you are on that safari. To be one with the forest, to experience the true beauty of nature, to see animals in their natural habitat.
Remind yourself every time you have that urge to scream when you’ve spotted something. And please, turn those speakers off. I once overheard another jeep-load telling their driver ” bhaiya, thoda music chalao!”
#5 Souvenirs? Err NO!
Thankfully we don’t belong to a period where a jungle souvenir meant a hunting trophy to be proudly mounted on a wall. Having said that the jungle is still not a place to collect souvenirs of any kind.
By doing so, you are not only disturbing the natural habitat of animals, you are also disturbing a very fragile ecosystem. This even extends to simple things like bird feathers off the ground. It’s better to curb the urge at the smallest of things, which in turn should help with the big picture of poaching.
#6 Don’t Say Cheese!
Really. Please don’t try to pose with the animals, or try to get close to them for a good shot. Photography is losing its arcane ability only to be replaced with a rat race.
With quick appreciation on social media, it is all about who gets the most comments and likes. If you truly want to become a ‘Wildlife Photographer’ you need to first understand your subject. Once you do, photographing wildlife will be easier, exciting and satisfying.
#7 Do Not Feed
This may sound like really basic advice but trust me, it needs to be reinforced. We often try to lure animals towards us by tempting them with food. This is one of the worst things you can do.
Not only are you putting your own life in danger, you are also introducing foods that are nowhere close to what animals generally consume (unless of course you are offering a wildboar to a tiger, now that’s a different matter altogether). He might just become your friend for life! (again, just kidding!)
#8 Do Not Litter!
The most basic civic sense of not throwing trash in public areas needs to be exercised all the more in forests.
This seems like even more basic advice as compared to not feeding animals, but it is happening. Although the guides instantly pick up the trash thrown by tourists why create it in the first place?
#9 Listen To Your Guide
Forest guides have been on the job forever and know what they are talking about. They understand the law of the jungle, they understand calls of the wild. Listen to them at all cost. Never disregard their advice.
“Understand and accept that you are a guest and that wildlife is not on display. The function of a wildlife park is conservation first and through it conservation education. Please do leave behind typical human arrogance, superiority and attitude. Carry lots of patience, a little humor and much respect for all things wild. Do add a binoculars and a good mammal and bird field guide to that and you are set.”
Interested? Book Your Safari NOW!
About The Author
Dreamer. Activist. Wannabe painter. Writer. Environmentalist. Mother. Just some of the adjectives that would describe Manisha. A social worker by profession and a writer by accident, she combines both these skills while writing content for non-profit organizations and other websites.