When it comes to the hotly contested self-drive vs. guided safari debate, I have also been one to err on the side of the self-drive, especially when in the Kruger area.
However on a recent getaway to Tanda Tula Field Camp in the Timbavati Game Reserve (part of the Greater Kruger region), guided game drives and safari walks were the order of the day. Hot talk around the campfire revolved around reckless guides and crazy stunts by drivers or trackers and what this talk, and indeed the entire trip, made me realise is that when it comes down to it, the quality of the guide is what really makes the difference.
The joy of the Tanda Tula Field Camp is that you have the ability to interact with your ranger and tracker about what you want to do with your day according to your interests and activity (or in-activity) levels. With our group, early morning field walks where the order of the day, followed by some leisurely time around camp with a beer in hand and a non-strenuous afternoon drive that often extended as darkness fell and the nocturnal animals started to wake up.
Despite our guide’s hectic 6 week on 2 weeks off working life, his boundless energy and sharp wit was outstanding. This wasn’t just a game drive that lasted a set hour or two before being nipped in the bud just as things got interesting. A great guide, as we were so lucky to have, seeks out hyena dens, waits for lions to stop lying around and get moving off in search of a kill and drives to the other side of the reserve no matter how long it takes just because there is someone in the vehicle that has never seen a rhino.
Couple that with a fearless tracker who not only can make a toothbrush from a tree but can pick out rhino tracks from a moving game vehicle and is not afraid to wander off alone into the bush, albeit with an old buffalo bull for company, in search of leopard tracks, really means that you get an experience that goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Where time passes slowly in the bush, mainly due to the fact that you are up by 6am and only go to bed beyond midnight, our guide and tracker worked endlessly to see that our every need was met. I don’t even want to know what time they got up in the morning and yet they stayed up talking with us deep into the night while lions and hyenas provided a bush soundtrack.
Unfortunately not everyone is as lucky as I was but it is great guides, like the ones at Tanda Tula, that tip the scales in favour of a guided safari every time.
Thank you Dale and Ginger for the time of my life!