Global Warming Hits Safaris

Global Warming Hits Safaris

The Samburu River washed away every single camp in March.
A year ago we were waiting anxiously for the droughts across Africa to subside. Today the place is flooded.

Extreme climate is nothing new to Africa. But I’m ready to call it a reflection of global warming. And I think it should govern all plans for future safari travel.

I’m writing this as Pakistan is floating away. Siberia almost burned away. Half the farm stock in northern Kenya was killed by a drought two years ago that was followed by another decimation from floods this year.

I just came back from a safari in Uganda and Rwanda. The Ishasha River, which demarcates some of the border between Uganda and The Congo, ripped away part of our camp.

Lake Albert, where we found the prized Shoebill Stork, is being clogged by hyacinths and other aggressive water plants. This is a factor of increasing temperatures.

I reported that the great migration entered Kenya from Tanzania on June 18. It’s gone back! To and fro migration movements are not uncommon, but the unanimity of the herd movement this year definitely is. Unnatural rains in northern Tanzania have been so heavy that the better grasses are now found there, rather than the Mara.

The equatorial regions of Africa encompass some of the most complex weather systems in the world. There are jet streams racing southeast, while others race north, and huge monsoons that shift several times a year.

Stick up a few obstacles like Kilimanjaro, and a few wet places like Lake Victoria, and you have climate chaos. The result is a high altitude wind maelstrom over the equator.

So what to do when planning your safari?

Well, first, recognize that climate data built from years of statistics is no longer as good a prediction for your safari as it was a decade ago. Then:

(1) Avoid river camps.
(2) Consider more comprehensive insurance. There is now insurance that will cover you for “any reason” that you cancel. It’s expensive, but not as expensive as finding out your camp no longer exists!
(3) Do more, rather than less. Yes, that’s right and it sounds strange, but the trend to date has been to slow down the pace of your safari to more comprehensively enjoy a certain area. Well, what if that area is parched to dust?
(4) Go during the margins of seasons, when the seasons are changing. In East Africa, that’s the end of March, the first of June and mid-December. Weather always seems to calm down when a seasonal change begins.

I’ve been reading lately a number of blogs and reports about how global warming might actually be a boon to safari travel:

All in all it’s wetter rather than drier. Even during the horrible mini-drought in East Africa that ended last year, there were great safari places like the Mara that were near normal.

More water means more grass. More grass means more animals.

Hotter temperatures means more bird nesting. In fact, we’ve begun to notice some migrant species which are now remaining in East Africa year round.

Don’t take the above to mean that I don’t think we should aggressively tackle global warming and try to stop it. I do! Every day in Africa I see the devastation and uncertainty in people’s lives and in the fickle mischief that effects the wild.

But your planning of safaris is likely to come sooner than the world’s tackling of global warming!