To suddenly stand face to face with a wild lion is a thrilling experience. You caught yourself holding your breath, and almost not daring to blink. You see his majestic body moving smoothly over the road, and he continues to walk slowly over the savanna. In the next moment another magnificent creature comes out from the bushes: a female lion. They watch each other. The female looks suspicious, seemingly measuring the male with her graze. The male lion begins to walk towards her. We are all watching the scene with exhilaration. Will she approve his move? No. When he comes closer, she turns around and walks in another direction. Well, better luck next time Simba (lion in Swahili).
Moreover, now someone else is getting our attention. It is a Masai approaching us with his goats. I can feel that my body freeze. The Masai is walking in the same directions as the lions just have disappeared. And worse, his movement has not gone unnoticed from the lions’ eyes. I can suddenly see several lions walking out from the bushes. Six of them are now watching the lonely Masai. I feel uncomfortable. How will this end..? Should we interfere?
Well, my unease seems to be needless. The Masai, apparently aware of the situation, leaves his goats and walk towards the male lion. He stops and stares at the lion; challenging him with his gaze. They stand like that for a while. Then, the Masai calls his goats, and they walk calmly over the savanna. They are passing the lions without any problem. The lions just watch him proceed with his goats. I am impressed. It is fascinating to see how people and animals can live in some kind of symbiosis with each other.
When I, a few days ago, was on a safari-tour with a group of people from Sweden, we visited Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania. During the safari, we saw many remarkable animals and stunning landscapes. It was amazing.
However, I couldn’t help myself from wondering if these safaris are sustainable? Does our presence interfere with the daily lives of the animals that are living on the savanna? Have the animals become used to the safari jeeps driving there every day? How does the jeeps pollution impact on the environment? And, do the safaris result in benefits for the Masai’s who own the land we are visiting during the safari-tour?
To know what actually should be considered sustainable tourism is a complicated question. As a tourist, you never know if you do harm or good. You always have several aspects to deliberate. On the one hand, the tourists pay the park fee, which contribute to the status of the land being a national park, which give the savanna protection. It also includes some small economic support to the Masai’s. On the other hand, the people’s presence might stress the animals. It might impact on the environment that various jeeps are crossing the savanna on a daily basis, stopping so the people can take pictures. Moreover, there is also a risk of hitting the animals belonging to the Masai’s. More than once, we almost hit the goats and the cows when we’re driving in the National park.
The safari left me with mix feelings. I am delighted to have seen these marvelous animals, but also troubled if I have supported something that might interfere with the people and animals everyday life. How can safari’s be organized to be more sustainable? And how can I know what I contribute to?