Serengeti camping

We arrive at our campsite, our home for the night. The tents are set up and instantly I’m disappointed. Our lodging is small canvas tents. My research suggested spacious tents with double beds and sheets. We are in a special campsite and would not share the space with another group, unfortunately, all nine of us would use the same chemical toilet and rustic shower. We will live like this for the next week. I’m still ill and I retreat to our tent with its two single cots and sleeping bags and cry. John comforts me but soon he is called away. John is the spokesman for our group and he must negotiate for all our group and their demands. He acquires toilet paper and the promise of towels and listens to the growing complaints.

Soon, it’s time to eat. I’m still not hungry though eventually I sit with the others and pick at the food. Hot chocolate is an addition, milo, tea and instant coffee the same as Kilimanjaro. The food is okay, passable. I have no appetite and it does not matter.

The toilet is not cleaned regularly and frequently runs out of paper. It is dismal. We have paid so much money for such poor conditions. We have also been given a letter from the tour company explaining how much we are expected to tip each worker at the end of the Safari. It’s not really a tip but rather a surcharge and an expectation. It seems as though we pay twice and again I wonder how many of the thousands of dollars already paid ends up in these men’s pockets. I suspect none and few dollars have been utilized to make the experience comfortable. I imagine the majority of money has been used to grease hands and line pockets of people we will never meet.

My mood is foul. I stay up for a time and stare into the flames of the campfire and then we retreat to our tent. Luckily, we packed headlamps. We have brought too many clothes, our gear inappropriate. We streamline all useless items into our largest suitcase and put it in the safari vehicle where it will remain. I wish we had been more prepared.

The animals today were amazing and I remind myself that we are here to take photos, which will be incredible. We opted for an experience and a chance to depart from our comfort zone. I tell myself these things as I drift off to sleep listening to sounds I’ve never heard while I lay in a tent pitched on the Serengeti. Okay, this is pretty cool.

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cherylsmit

Writing and photography are my first and second loves and thanks to technology I have the ability to share with a larger audience, including family and friends. Gone are the days of lugging around photo albums after a trip and of keeping a written journal of the experience that only I would view. The days of the handwritten letters are gone, but blogging provides a chance to share ideas, thoughts and photographs with a few mouse clicks and to receive instant feedback from around the world. It provides an opportunity to research a new place and to see that place through the eyes of a multitude of people each with their own unique way of viewing and experiencing the world. It opens the world wide and allows us a front row seat. Blogging connects us and creates a family of support. It provides an outlet and a chance to perfect the craft of writing and story telling. When I sit in my living room drinking my coffee and see that someone from another part of the world has read my words, and then I read theirs, the world is much smaller and more attainable. We are more alike than different as we share uniquely human experiences. Once I had a dream of becoming a Journalist, but somehow life got in the way. I currently have a fantastic career in healthcare and know that I have made a difference so I have no regrets. Still, I wonder if there is time to explore the road less travelled?

2 thoughts on “Serengeti camping”

  1. Hi there,

    You bring up a great point about tipping, and it’s something that is a large cause for headaches – for travellers as well as those who work in the tourism industry. The sad fact is that many places do not pay their staff enough, instead passing the buck onto the guests, impressing upon them the expectation to tip above and beyond the (often overpriced) prices they are already paying.

    These lodges and tour companies also tell their employees that they don’t need to pay them more because the employees get tips, and because they house and feed them. This argument is ridiculous given the fact that a gratuity is exactly that – gratis. It is not required. It is a reward for being provided with an experience above and beyond what is expected and/or normal. And that the employees are not housed all year – they are only housed while they are on their shift cycle. When they have their leave days, they have nowhere to stay, because they aren’t allowed to stay at the camps. (The lodges often use the word ‘encouraged’, as is that changes the situation that their employees have to vacate the premises when they are not working.) And I don’t even want to get into the poor condition of the housing they are given…

    Food is another thing. Yes, employees get meals while working, but these people are at the beck and call of their guests. If an employee misses a meal because a guest wants to stay out later on a game drive, sorry for you, employee. They often don’t get to eat dinner that night.

    I have many friends in the tourism industry, many of whom are guides. They are put in a very uncomfortable situation because they aren’t paid enough to live on the salary the lodges give them, and they also can’t tell guests that they depend on their tips to survive. Guides in particular get the rough end of the stick, because they are pretty much the face of a lodge or company, as as such they are often expected to be the entertainment for the guests from sun-up til sundown. It is normal for them to work 16-18 hour days, 7 days a week, and with a paltry number of days off per year (think less than the number of weekend days on a yearly calendar).

    This is why I tell everyone that comes to visit me in South Africa to please tip the guides (in person, if possible, as that ensures that the guides get the tips). I know it isn’t right, but until tourists start refusing to visit because of these disgusting practices and until laws change to protect the people in these industries, it will not change. For better or for worse, these people need those tips to survive. Just letting you know.

    Like

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