I was practically using these words without knowing the difference for the longest time…
It was a bright sunny afternoon. I just jumped into the safari gypsy that my guide had parked right outside the forest rest house inside India’s famous Jim Corbett National Park.
I started making myself and my equipment comfortable for the upcoming safari. I was excited, ‘sources’ told us that there was a herd of playful elephants and I wanted to see elephants enjoying a mud bath.
While I was placing my second bean bag onto the vehicle arms, my guide turned towards to me and wanted to know if I have ever been on a Game Drive.
I told him that we saw a tiger, a herd of deer, a gang of elephants and some birds in the morning safari. Doesn’t that qualify for a Game Drive?
He laughed out aloud, shaking the gypsy vigorously and complimented me on my good sense of humour.
No! Seriously no, I was not cracking any joke.
For some strange reason, he decided to sit quietly.
That was probably the first time, I wanted Almighty Google to work in the midst of the jungle.
But, how exactly is a safari different from a Game Drive?
I decided to keep this food for thought aside and enjoy the safari.
A bit deeper into the jungle, while we were waiting at the river side area, another vehicle stopped by. Our community is so small and there are known faced all around! Right from the tigers to the guides to the drivers and to fellow wildlife enthusiasts, we end up recognizing all.
I softly whispered and asked my fellow safari mate the same question.
He stared back at me and said, “As if you have not been to Africa ever?”
Which is when my guide started speaking again. He said there is a lot of difference. That a game drive is self-driven whereas a jungle safari is one where you are driven around. And, therefore, a game drive is more of a luxury.
Well, I beg to differ. Luxury would be someone driving you down and guiding you on way.
Another fellow enlightened me that on a game drive you are allowed to hunt down animals whereas, while on a safari, you can just watch them or may be click photographs.
That calls for some research.
Finally, when the Almighty decided to shower some high speed internet, a quick search through these results.
'Game' means the wild animals.
So, that explains the term 'Big Game' which means animals such as elephants, cape buffaloes and the other larger mammals.
Drive, obviously, means the 'drive with a vehicle'.
So, driving through the habitat of these animals, is termed as Game Drive. Why would anyone drive through? For photography or for merely observing them. Let us keep hunting at bay.
That still did not help me much with my question.
Safari and Game Drive!
They could have been long lost siblings, but one has turned out to be a poorer cousin of the other. If you have got your passport stamped, it is a Game Drive. If you happened to travel in Indian railways with a rickety drive down to a nondescript village, it is a safari.
Right? May be not.
They probably are the same. A Game Drive is merely a product of advertisements to attract people. It sounds fancy. With a Game Drive, you have the option of self-drive or being driven around. If you are driving down, you are literally on your own with a map. However, it comes with a caution -- don't get yourself into any kind of a trouble.
A safari, probably, in all likelihood is more royal where, you have a guide, a driver and depending upon the location -- some good food to hog on while you watch on animals in the wild.
Safari is actually a Swahili word. It means 'journey'. In the good olden days, when hunters when in search of animals (on foot), for days on end or for weeks together, with a trail of 'servants' tagging along with supplies for the duration, arms, ammunition and some alcohol, it was called a 'Safari'. What they got back after the episode, were referred to as 'trophies'.
The word 'Big 5' was also coined back then when they went to hunt the most dangerous of the species.
Looks like, the word 'Safari' has a different connotation given the historical background.
Therefore, in South Africa, they prefer to call them Game Drives since once drives down to watch the wild and not walk down the aisles of the jungles like our ancestors did.
Will update in case I find more information on this. Till that time, what would you prefer to call your journey? A safari or a Game Drive?