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African Safari 2007
FEAR OF ANIMALS

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If you are afraid of the animals this might help. 

We are leaving for South Africa in 10 days and I had all of these awful nightmares last night about being chased and attacked by lions. So I ask, when you are in the open range rover, why don't the lions and other animals attack the people. Aren't they close enough? Sorry I am freaking out!
ANSWERS:

I have had two interesting Lion encounters at Kwando Lagoon over the last two years.
In 2004 we were returning to Camp after having watched lions hunt Buffalo for several hours without success. On the way back we had a flat tire. The guide decided to change the tire on the spot. Before he got out of the vehicle we spotted the male Lion from the pride lying down 30 yards away from the vehicle. The females were lying 40 yards away on the other side of the vehicle. The tracker kept the spotlight on the male and I had my pocket flashlight on the females while the guide got out and changed the tire.
Even though the lions were extremely hungry (they had not made a kill for several days) they did not even move. They just watched with interest as the guide did a quick job of changing the tire!
This year we tracked two males and two females for several hours. The guide and tracker on foot and me were following in the vehicle. The lions would not let us get close until the tracker and guide got back in the vehicle. Even then they were quite wary about our vehicle and would not let us get really close. We had called in another vehicle for the sighting. As they arrived we left and later on they told us that as soon as we left the Lions started relaxing and allowed them to get really close!

As far as the animals go, particularly lions, I have been in a doorless Land Rover and been close enough to reach out and touch a lion as it trotted by.

You just have to trust that your guides know how to read the animal’s behavior. Most, if not all, animals will give warning signs before an attack.

Ultimately, the deadliest animal that you will meet while on safari is man, and the animals are well aware of this threat. Really, providing you listen to the guide’s instructions and don't do anything to put yourself at a higher risk, you will be fine.

When we were thinking of taking a safari, being attacked by the animals was one of my first questions. If this happened with any frequency it wouldn't be able to be kept out of the news safaris wouldn't be this popular. I guess this answer made me feel better, hope it helps.

Best advice, follow instructions.
People who get attacked by animals are usually ones that ignore instructions. But you will be fine. You can get close without disturbing, and animals (mostly) give warnings.... Like mock charges, ear flapping etc.

for some reason Lions see vehicles as things to be ignored.

I've never heard nor read of lions jumping in a vehicle. One reason might be that the big cats use their sense of smell for hunting and I imagine the Range Rover smells like diesel fuel/oil/rubber...etc. Not too appetizing! The guides will instruct you to stay seated so you don't break the shape of the vehicle. Try to keep in mind that thousands of travelers have gone before you. I have no doubt that you will have the trip of a lifetime!

Guides will provide instructions and you just have to abide by these. During daylight hours, with few exceptions you can walk around the campgrounds without a guide; unless for some reason there is an animal around for which you'll be advised to stay indoors

With the exception of cheetahs that often jump on the bonnet or roof of a vehicle (as we've experienced); they are oblivious to the vehicle and its passengers, rather the height allows them to scan the horizon for their next meal - read: another animal, not man.

Likewise, lions and even leopards ignore the vehicles as they've come to understand the vehicles won't hurt them, therefore, the passengers won't. Once you arrive at a sighting your instructions are to be quite, not make fast movements and do not stand up.

We've sat in the middle of a pride of lions (about 22 or 25) in total darkness as they finished the giraffe they brought down earlier that the day. They didn't give us more than a glance as we pulled into this area, then went about doing lion stuff.

As everyone else stated, just follow the guide’s instructions, don't stand up and don't get out of the vehicle. We came to within a foot of a lion munching on a zebra and he just looked up and then continued eating. The only animal that came too close for my comfort was 1 wild dog who came right up to my side of the vehicle, sniffed for a minute, looking up at us the whole time, then walked off..He had a sinister look on his face, kind of like a mean German shepherd but was just curious I guess, and he was beautiful!

To add to these other informative replies that are hopefully comforting...
The predators see the vehicle and its occupants as one unit, similar to a big rock, but a moving one that does not interfere with them. The gas smell masks our human smell. Unless you stand, your silhouette is not distinguishable as human.

I should mention that even when another occupant did stand up in the vehicle during a leopard sighting (due to a language barrier he did not understand to stay seated); the leopard's reaction was not to attack, but to flee. On walking safaris the few times I have encountered lions or leopard at a distance, the cat's reaction again demonstrated a fear of man because the animals fled or retreated.

In an even more extreme case I have asked bear guides in Alaska why the Alaskan Brown Bears (grizzlies) do not attack the people who are watching them graze, clam, or fish for salmon. And these are people on foot within 20 yards, or closer if the bear approaches. The answer I received was that people were not the bears' "search image" for food. The bears are looking for fish, clams, grass, etc.

The same would apply, I believe, to the African animals. Ok, there was the exception of Timothy Treadwell in Alaska. But he would fall under the category of violating your guide's instructions--which the other posts emphasized should never be done--because he did stupid stuff. So if you adhere to your guide's advice you should have a very happy and most rewarding New Year's adventure in South Africa.

Think somehow the lions know that we're not worth the trouble for a meal.

One moment I won't soon forget was me sitting in the open sided van when we came to a halt because we had spotted a tree-climbing lioness. I guess she was miffed because her cover was blown (she had probably been hoping to ambush any animal that roamed below), and she jumped down in disgust, and walked past our vehicle as she stalked away.

She probably walked within 6 feet of me. My heart still skips a beat and I get chills when I think about the moment our eyes made contact. I think we both understood who was in charge. Had I been alone, she could have taken me in an instant.

I think they have come to realize from interactions with humans (armed rangers, the masaai, etc) that people are not such easy game. I do not think they are fooled by the smell of gasoline fumes.

4/16- Here's a funny response given to a question about fear of animals.

Re robbery - assume you will be taking all that expensive camera gear with you each day? - else why lug it all the way from home?



I did once hear a story about some travellers who pitched a tent under a tree, and in the night they felt it swaying, and the earth shook. They stayed where they were. In the morning the tree was a wreck. Elephants had visited but had carefully stepped around the tent.

You've booked your trip - no need to stress out with "is it safe".

1. Is it safe in terms of being robbed?

As safe, if not safer, than most places in the world. The Mara has had a few rare incidents of robbery, but far fewer robberies than where I live or than most cities you might consider visiting.

2. Is it safe in terms of the wildlife in camp at night with only a canvas tent between you and the criters?

That tale of the elephants carefully avoiding the tents is a good one, and typical of that species and others. The animals see the canvas as a solid object to go around and not run into. There are no problems if you stay in your tent. The only problems I am aware of is when people go wandering around at night or when when one guy slept with his feet hanging outside his zipped tent.

If you travel with a reputable operator, you will be fine.

HERE'S ANOTHER QUESTION.

 I am a grazer--prefer little snacks to big meals. On our last trip, we had brought some nuts/dried fruit along with us. Now I'm reading not to leave any food in your tents (monkeys, baboons, creepy crawlies). Where do you all keep this stuff? Also, I need to eat something with meds. Last time we took Doxy first thing in the a.m. b/c we were advised not to take it with dairy, so I always woke up well before breakfast and took it with these snack items. Advice? Or is this not a big deal?

ANSWER:

If you're on a private safari, you can always leave the "goodies" in the cool box in the vehicle. Take your doxy when you go out on the morning drive. As to keeping food items in your tent, especially mobile camps, I wouldn't chance it.

A friend returned to her tent and found only the wrapper, the goodies gone... another found the gum wrapper, gum gone and this was when she awoke in the morning. The gum was taken right out of her backpack, though everything else was messy, but intact. Those rascal Vervets (probably) just wanted the sweets!

However, some camps weve stayed have provided a fruit basket... we ate some, left the remainder and nothing was ever touched.

As to valuables (money, passport, airline tickets, camera), take what you can with you whenever possible, other items can be kept in lodge/camp safes.

But this isn't much different whether on safari or in a big city. Just because you're on vacation, you can't leave your common sense at home.

Some of the guys on our mobile safari had food in their tents - snack bars, biltong, candy bars etc. Nothing was ever bothered.

We heard elephants, hyena and lions at night, mosty hyenas and they are a scary sound, but nothing happened with us inside then tents.

At our last camp, the wife of the owner told us about a camping experience they had where elephants completely surrounded their tents and they were scared to death but remained safe inside their tent.

We camped out for almost 2 weeks and I was never scared and I felt safe. Good luck with your trip!

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