Monday, 30 May 2011

10 things to talk about when there are no lions!

I've been thinking about interesting stories to share with safari visitors on those days when the wildlife just won't play for quite some time. When you're watching a lion pull down a zebra, the jackals are nipping in and out and the vultures are gathering it's easy to be a good guide. The real test is when you're somewhere and the wet season has arrived early and all the animals migrated elsewhere. How do you entertain people then?! So I've started a list of topics that I think can be interesting to chat about in those quieter times, focussing on things that are pretty much always around you in the bush, so easy to chat about in a natural way. I've said 10 things, because lists are easy - but I've already got 11 topics (10% extra free), and expect there'll be more to come. The main thing is that each of these topics is something to chat about in a quieter time. I'll be expanding on the titles in future posts, but here's the initial list to get you thinking...

(1) Grass - there's a lot of it in the savannah and surely it's got to be interesting!
(2) Fire - one of the main processes shaing the savannah, there's usually signs of it around and it's not a process many people from outside Africa think of as important or normal.
(3) Geology - not only does East Africa have a host of interesting geological features, from the Rift Valley and various volcanos, to Kopjes and plains, but the geology shapes the ecosystem by altering large-scale nutrient availability
(4) Climate and weather - I'm British, I always talk about the weather. But the East African climate is also pretty special and unusual to most visitors here.
(5) Termites - you're never far from a termite mound, and even closer to many non-mound building termites and again, they play a massive role in the savannah ecosystem.
(6) Thorns and other plant defences - everything is prickly in Africa (much more so than in many other places)
(7) Birds - a personal favourite, there are great stories to tell about birds and even if the mammals have gone the birds will still be around!
(8) Invertebrates - butterflies and dragonflies are also great for stories if you learn a few of the species.
(9) People - despite the lack of people in East Africa's National Parks, people are part of the savannah ecosystem and always have been. There's lots of evidence of it around too...
(10) Conservation - visitors often want to talk about conservation issues (and who knows, you migh just bump into an animal with a snare wound), so it's good to know the details and be able to talk in an informed way.

Of course, there are other topics too (I've one more up my sleeve already), but this is a good start. Hopefully we'll start getting posts up for each of these topics - watch this space!

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