The art of the African safari

When on safari in Africa, listen at all times to your inner voice, which will often be squeaky with fear, and informing you that you really shouldn't be tracking white rhino on foot, or moving quite so close to a herd of elephants in your safari vehicle. Your inner voice will remind you that you aren't toting an eight-bore rifle like Allan Quartermain, rollicking Victorian-era protagonist of King Solomon's Mines. That you won't, like he did, be staring elephants down, or skinning a leopard. Do something foolish and the leopard is more likely to skin you.

Don't stand up in the vehicle. Leopards and lions – or so you're told – can't recognise a potential meal as long as you remain seated, even from a heart-banging two metres away. Don't shriek in excitement or extend your arm beyond the vehicle in pursuit of a selfie. Don't chatter. Wild animals, sensibly enough, would rather avoid humans if alerted to your presence. No doubt they know antelopes taste better, and eating antelopes avoids the annoyance of having to pick through shredded clothes for choice morsels.

Why are you even worrying about lions? Buffalos and hippos kill more people. Rhinos have 3000 kilograms of muscle attached to a metre-long horn that can punch through a car door. Giraffes have kicks like kung-fu experts. Zebras suffer from abundant flatulence which, though it won't actually kill you, will have you reeling in horror.

The big cats cause the most atavistic fear, though. Never walk from public area to safari tent unaccompanied by a guard with a shotgun. Even so, you'll twitch at every rustle in the long grasses, every shadow in the dark. You'll be wondering whether a self-respecting lion wouldn't rather eat you (well-fed, and seasoned with the evening's wine) than your skinny, fleet-footed guard.

Be alert. Only lerts survive in Africa. Pack a loincloth or a whip if you want, but leave whatever fantasies you have of being Tarzan or Lara Croft to your evening of seduction. While on safari, you should embrace the timid, out-of-your-depth urban weakling that is the real you.

Your adrenaline will surge at the cry of a bushbaby, the glow of animal eyes in the dark, the musky smell of some hidden creature. It's supposed to. Every instinct suggests danger. Yet marvellously and magically, you'll be thrilled as much as terrified, as wild Africa holds you spellbound.

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