Interaction is limited – and should be for your safety. Although, saying that, there are several times when I have felt that I have made a connection with the animals. It’s hard to describe – it’s a sense of staring into each others’ eyes and being comfortable with each other’s presence. I have had this experience a few times with elephants, a lioness and a leopard.
You should always aim for an animal continuing to behave as if you weren’t there when they are in your presence. This is a successful interaction because it demonstrates that you being there is not disturbing to them. If you see them changing their behaviour at all when you are around, then you should back off/ move on.
Birds and monkeys are the two species that break the ‘no interaction rule’. They’ll pester you no end when you are eating – and if you leave anything outside and unattended they’ll steal it right under your nose. Whilst in South Africa I accidentally left some pencils on the table outside my room and returned to find them eaten by a monkey. Some I recovered with teeth marks embedded, but the HB was a particular favourite of the monkey and that was stolen outright, never to be retuned.
As a rule of thumb we have found that most animals are curious about your presence, but some will ignore you entirely…
When we were on a walking safari in Kruger we were walking downwind from some zebra. They could not figure out what we were and why we were there, so for about 10 minutes they followed us to try and figure it out.
And Giraffes have this lovely habit of failing to notice you at all – no matter how close you are to them. However, once they do see you they’ll stand motionless, staring at you as if to say ‘How did you get there’. They are very comical and seemingly ‘wear’ their ‘thoughts’ on their face.
But none of this is guaranteed – keep an open mind about what you’ll encounter, that way you’ll never cease to be surprised.
Photos from our Kenyan adventure are available in the TarajiBlue Kenya photo gallery.
Photos from our South African safari are available in our Taraji Blue South African photo gallery.