Pictures here: a sunset cruise in the delta between Namibia and Botswana. Half the group in a safari vehicle [Land Rover], then a giraffe and, on right, the topmost third of a second one]
Many people avoid group travel as if it were a social faux pas. I've found group travel, usually in situations where I will be assigned a roommate [to avoid single supplement charges] economical, socially responsible and fun. True not everyone is compatible and, indeed, the larger the group the most likely there'll be a rotten apple or two. For years I've chosen groups of no more than 16, often less. This particular group was 15, I doubt I've found long term friends as I have on some other trips, but this sort of safari, in fact is only possible for me [financially certainly] as a group.
The organization is Overseas Adventure Travels [OAT] this was my fifth trip with them. They take some 20,000 people to Southwest Africa every year. They own 8 or 10 safari camps in the four national parks we visited. Each employs 15, or more, local people, our overall guide, as well was a native of Zimbabwe. The construction and maintainence of the camps also contributes to the local economy as do visits to local markets. OAT is part of Grand Circle which has a foundation that contributes to local schools [which we visited]
The standards of accommodations are almost embarrassingly luxurious; we have ample hot water, very clean accommodations, well prepared meals often served with flair and beauty. The staff are trained to be friendly and open; and mostly it does not feel forced. And we have extras like ability to charge came batteries, some have a pool, some have mosquito nets, all have anti-mosquito spray and sun block.
For these countries tourism is a major industry and keeping their national parks safe from poachers, keeping animals free and balanced is important.
Does this make an artificial experience? Of course! We don't live among wild animals, we look at them in their natural habitat to return to a sense of wonder at the variousness and strange harmony of hunters and prey. What I saw was as natural as it gets today. One of the lions seen in the wild had radio collar. The animals are priviledged and endangered citizens of the world in their way -- as are we in our way. Being among them, driving through their bushy, or marshy habitats, so unlike the gray, concrete streets of my city, is to experience an alternate reality. Speaking for myself -- I didn't get a strong sense of others' sensibilities -- I have an altered sensibility.
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