Game Viewing Guidlines

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We have been very lucky over the last month to have spent three out of four weekends staying in game parks. I can’t get enough of being out in the bush and as someone who will spend every opportunity in the car, or on walks, watching and photographing nature and everything about it, it is my responsibility to respect the environment I place myself in. Sadly, over the last month, I have noticed that there are a large number of people out there that don’t do the same, and that’s what has prompted me to write this post.

I cannot understand how people can go out into a park, or reserve, and show such disrespect for the people sharing the environment with them, but more importantly for the environment itself. This past weekend we were in Pilanesberg National Park and yes, there was a massive golf competition just down the road so it was a lot busier than usual, however, that in my opinion is no excuse for what I saw.

Just one of the many examples, a father and his children driving behind us as we entered the park on our last day. I could see I was holding him up, so I move aside and let him past. I wasn’t expecting a thank you, so when it never came I wasn’t surprised. He would then stop and watch a herd of the various animals we saw, blocking off the entire road and making sure no-one could get past in either direction. If you spend enough time in South African parks you get to see this a lot. To then add insult to injury, Mister Father and his spawn start shouting and hooting at the animals to get their attention and prompt some sort of reaction. One instance was with an African Elephant and Mister Father can be very grateful the elephant was not closer to the road as they would not have had such a peaceful drive were that any different. Another herd where he did the same ended up stampeding into the bush because of him hooting and shouting.

This happened many times with Mister Father and I know this because I was stuck behind him, unable to get passed for probably forty minutes.

If you are the driver of a silver Land Rover Discovery 4 (Registration HKR744NW) and were in the park this past Sunday, I hope the next time the elephant is much closer when you pull those stunts and you get what you deserve. Please note your actions have not gone unnoticed and we have reported you to the Park’s Board.

If you are going to spend time in our parks, please follow some simple guidelines to make your stay more pleasurable and to show the due respect to the animals around you and the people sharing the park with you.

  • If you are holding up traffic behind you, please pull over and let the people past. Not everyone wants to see what you see, nor is driving in someone’s dust particularly comfortable.
  • The parks have speed limits, stick to them! This is for your safety and that of the animals. In Marakele a few weeks back we came across someone who came screaming around a blind corner and then still had the nerve to complain about not spotting anything.
  • If you have stopped at a sighting, the parks issue some guidlines, please read them. They ask you to please park on the side of the road where the animals are. This frees up half the road for people to drive past who do not want to stop.
  • Please turn your engines off. Trying to enjoy the peace of a scene with the background drone of a car engine is not appealing.
  • DO NOT hoot at the animals!
  • Don’t stay in the middle of the road when another vehicle is headed towards you. If you both move over slightly, it is less of a deviation for any one car.
  • Please don’t drive over the dung in the roads. Elephant’s have bad digestive systems and this means you could very easily end up with a stick going through your tyre. More importantly: One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Just because it’s poop doesn’t mean its waste. Dung beetles and other insects use this for their nurseries and they have to get it from somewhere. Yes, bugs are important for the environment too.
  • Please don’t pull up and block someone else’s view. If someone has spotted something before you, please show some respect and don’t pull up in their line of sight of the animal.
  • If you use hides and lookouts, there are signs all over the place asking for silence. Please respect this and keep your steps light and you communication to a hushed whisper
The last part of my rant is to the field guides of Ivory Tree Lodge,  Sheperd’s Tree Lodge and Mankwe Safaris in Pilanesberg. I am very envious of people who get to spend their days doing what I only wish I had the means to do. That envy came to a sudden grinding halt this weekend. You disgrace your profession.
I have no problem with you using radios to communicate so you can get your clients to the best sightings possible, however, you as guides are supposed to promote respect for the environment and other users. Lead by example, no? Our sighting of an Elephant near Pilanesberg Central on Sunday morning was all but ruined by the tow-truck driver like mentality. For my international readers, the tow trucks in South Africa are like savage scavengers. The elephant started getting very close to the game vehicle in front of us who had to reverse, causing us to do the same. I could only go so far because of two other game drive vehicles parked side by side, blocking the road behind me. I for one will NOT be staying at any of your lodges nor would I ever recommend anyone take one of your game drives.

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