Even though guided game drives are considered a bit of a luxury for the majority of bush-loving South Africans, if you ever get the chance to go on one, you should take it!
Yes, it’s a great way to experience the bush and spot animals who may be lurking just off the beaten track, but you are also guaranteed to meet some truly intriguing individuals.
There are a few of the strange people you will meet on a game drive:
Well, this is kind of obvious – official park game drives will always be led by a ranger. Duh!
However, we feel they are definitely worth mentioning here, due to the fact that they are almost always great storytellers, know EVERYTHING about the bush and have a knack of making even the most mundane drive pretty awesome!
For instance, this one time, we had the privilege of joining a ranger called Isaac for a night drive around the Pretoriuskop area in the Kruger National Park. As far as animal sightings went, the drive was doomed from the start. In an hour-and-a-half we spotted one hyena and some doe-eyed Impala.
However, he didn’t let the lack of sightings put him off. Instead he stopped ever so often, pointing out interesting details of plants, roads, rocks, stars… and whatever else his eye fell upon. His enthusiasm and ability to pull story rabbits out of his hat, has made him a legend in our family bush books!
Also known as the ranger’s nemesis, the know-it-all makes it his/her mission to show that they are far superior to whoever is in charge.
Whether he/she is a loud-mouthed foreigner or a slightly-too-sanguine local, the know-it-all will almost always be kitted out in khaki and, if you look carefully, have a Leatherman dangling from his/her belt. But somehow, it will all look slightly amiss – like they accidentally packed their Halloween outfit from last year and had nothing else to wear.
I encountered the classic know-it-all on a New Year’s Eve game drive in the Kruger National Park once. Wearing a khaki bush vest and shorts, he puffed out his chest as he stepped onto the vehicle and greeted everyone in a booming voice. He’d share little snippets of animal behaviour with his wife – who was sitting next to him – in one of those loud whispers intended for everyone’s ears.
*Cue eye rolls all round*
But, the pinnacle of his know-it-all-ness came when we stopped at a picnic spot for a quick pitstop and the ranger pointed out a chameleon to those who were interested. Obviously not keen on disturbing the little creature, he kept a respectful distance… which know-it-all misunderstood as an aversion. So, he simply swooped in, scooped the chameleon up and paraded it around.
“See, there’s nothing to be afraid of! It’s just a harmless chameleon,” he condescended to the guide.
While it’s easy to get super annoyed with these guys, we should probably cut them some slack. It’s probably just them living out their childhood game ranger dream.
Who needs a spotlight when, really, there’s enough of a glow around these two love birds to light an entire night sky? Cozying up in one of the back corners of the vehicle, they can’t keep their hands off each other, while wearing completely bemused smiles.
Depending on the state of your own heart, their presence is either super cute or just plain infuriating. But, if you have to be honest, there’s really not much you can hold against them.
As long as you don’t expect them to do anything constructive, like wield the spotlight, they’re pretty easy to ignore and, let’s just be honest, probably busy sending out all the good vibes to the animal kingdom.
The party animal
You will know the party animal by the laid-back holiday vibe he/she exudes... and the big, clinking cooler bag in tow. They normally move in a small flock of the lesser party animals, who at some point at least practice a measure of restraint. As the drive progresses he/she tends to get louder and louder, cracking unfunny jokes and chasing all the animals away. Short tempered guides may be tempted to just drop them off (but of course they'd never do that!)
The spotlight/binocular hoggers
Unless you bring your own binoculars/spotlight, sharing is the name of the game on a game driver. However, the spotligh/binocular hogger didn't get the memo. They seem to feel entitled to bearing the equipment, forgetting that everyone else would also like a turn. This situation is especially bad in the case of spotlight hogging on a nightdrive, because if they're doing a shoddy job everyone else is affected too. The best way to deal with the hogger is to identify him/her early on and intercept the light/binoculars at an opportune moment. Pretend you heard something rustling in the bush and need the light to see what it is... and once you have it, don't give in to the temptation of being a hogger in turn.
Disclaimer: it's really okay to be any or all of the above. I have to admit to being a bit of a know-it-all at times and would cuddle the crap out of my boyfriend when we go on our first game drive together