Sunday, 29 May 2011

'Safari-operators' - Kruger National Park

The southern half of the Kruger National Park suffers under the service yoke of an array of independent ‘safari’ operators, some of which little more than fly-by-night ‘bush-pretenders’ preying on foreign tourists who don’t know any better. Obviously there are operators and there are ‘operators’. The operators provide an ethically honest service to their guests taking the welfare of the ‘park residents’ ie: it’s fauna and flora and the Park’s residents ie: OTHER overnight guests, into consideration. The ‘operators’ couldn’t care less about the fauna, flora, guest welfare or the Park’s other resident guests.

Distinguishing between operators and ‘operators’ is somewhat subjectively moot but with a little patience and an understanding of the salient characteristics, a positive ID is plausible …

Initial observation will confirm that both versions of operator descend en-mass on a sighting like flies to the proverbial and that both versions sport bush-converted ‘open-air’ canvas-covered safari-vehicles in either bush-green, kalahari-sand or savanna-thatch yellow. All are emblazoned with mint-perfect signs of mildly impressive sunsets or pictures of the Big 5 in classical repose. Most come standard with a superficially trained  ’vehicle-operator’ of sorts. Blaring two-way radios / cellphones communicate 11 official languages and confuse the distinction even more. ‘….say again Vlakvark ['warthog'] ….ingwe – mobile –  4-clicks north – H7 ?- ….. Mossie –over??‘… In the back of the ‘truck’ dollar-paying guests are mostly ignored and irrelevant in the ensuing chaos.

First impressions notwithstanding, ‘operators’ soon reveal the characteristically distinguishing and wholly unsavory behaviour of the uninitiated and unintelligent.  Common to all ‘operators’ is the classic diagonal slew across the road at a fairly accurate 45 degrees which unsurprisingly prohibits any outside interference or observation from other paying self-drive guests. Subsequent observation of the leopard [... did you say cheetah??'re not really a guide are you sunshine?....] through the obstructing vehicle is, difficult…. Operators on the other hand are always discreetly PPP [parked perfectly parallel] next to the road to allow for unobstructed views for all. Passing the diagonally parked offending ‘operator’ is also aggressively discouraged. Brazen hand-signals from the ‘vehicle-operators’ propose a trip through the acacia-infested bushveld, an idea generally frowned upon by the authorities. Impasse then….

In the interim no self-respecting ‘big cat’ sticks around for further instruction from the loudly belligerent flailing-armed ‘operator’ and departs for destinations other. *Note to ‘operator’ : Your embarrassed, EDUCATED guests are not easily fooled and recognise your stupidity for what it is…’  ‘Operators’ then flee the scene at a measured 80kph to a fading ‘…..Mossie – I say again mossie – stationary —  ’tau’ –  S112………’ 

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