If an African safari to see the ‘big five’ was part of your travel plans this year, it is frustrating that it is not advisable to travel outside of our own countries for the foreseeable future. South Africa for example, on May 1, 2020 was still at risk level 4 with the South African Tourist Board declaring that “all national and international travel remains prohibited and all hotels and establishments must remain closed”. Although a physical visit to Africa is not possible, the chance to see rhinoceros, elephants and lions in the wild are, thanks to some game reserves and organizations offering virtual safaris. Virtual safaris are broadcast live, allowing you to virtually “drive” with expert guides who offer commentary and the ability to ask questions along the way.
South African travel agency and beyond has partnered with animal broadcasting experts Wilderness to broadcast personalized safaris, twice a day, which travelers can view from their lounge. Viewers can take two live safaris per day, one early in the morning and one in the afternoon, lasting approximately three hours each. The first hour of the afternoon game drives is geared towards kids with special commentary and the ability to ask questions in a live chat section on the side of the screen. These safaris are organized by expert field guides from andBeyond and broadcast in real time from two renowned South African game reserves in Kruger National Park, Ngala Private Game Reserve and Djuma private game reserve.
Because the journeys are unscripted and may change along the way, depending on where the animals are sighted, they feel very authentic and give the viewer the opportunity to follow the sights and sounds of the African wilderness at the as they unfold. On a recent safari, viewers spent some quality time with lion pride, got up close to a herd of elephants, and saw a giraffe munching on leaves on a tree. Working through a director in a control room, the camera moves between three or four live streams to give viewers the best wildlife action as it happens, creating a seamless multi-stream virtual game player. Viewers can interact with their safari hosts and get their questions answered in real time, as if they were actually in the safari vehicle.
and beyond daily safaris are between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. CAT (depending on sunrise) and between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. CAT (depending on sunset). The safaris are also planned via andBeyond’s FaceBook and Youtube canals. In addition to broadcasts with WildEarth, andBeyond hosts Instagram Live sessions led by their guides.
Since 1991, the travel company andBeyond has offered travelers personalized experiences in Africa, Asia and South America, where they have twenty-nine lodges and camps. Building on their well-established reputation for delivering memorable travel experiences, a logical step during the current coronavirus outbreak was to create a live safari program. Admired Live Wildlife Broadcaster Wilderness was the ideal partner for this initiative. Founded in 2006 by Emily and Graham Wallington, WildEarth’s vision was to create live animal content that allows people to interact in real time and thus feels like truly transported to this place.
There are other African tour operators who offer virtual safaris through their websites and social networks. Unlike andBeyond, they don’t stream in real time, but they’re still pretty engaging. Guides Tintswalo Safari Lodge, also in the Kruger National Park, film their daily journeys in the Manyeleti reserve in Mpumalanga, then post daily short videos on their social networks. Asia Africa To camps and lodges across Kenya and Tanzania and offers 360 degree videos that can also be viewed using a VR headset. Another virtual safari option is via Explore.org which describes itself as “the largest live nature camera in the world”. Explore offers a plethora of live feeds of African wildlife from across the continent. To verify Tembe Elephant Park, in northern Tongaland, renowned for having the largest elephants in Africa – and the planet.