Live-streamed Escapes to the Bush

As a safari guide and nature-lover, I am envious of friends and colleagues who are able to isolate outside of Nairobi, in wilderness somewhere. I have daydreams of spending the quiet weeks in a tent, hours away from the nearest people. I’d like to think that I’d spend my time strategizing how to bounce back from all of this, but in all likelihood I’d be procrastinating by listening, watching and hopefully learning about my natural surroundings.

I am lucky to live in a part of town where birdlife thrives. Next to me, as I type this, is a pair of binoculars, a bird book and a camera. This article will probably take me twice as long to complete as every few minutes I am distracted by yet another species of sunbird that visits a nearby Aloe plant that is in full flower. I seem to have accidentally gathered a reasonable portfolio of images in the meantime. I’ve also noticed that the resident male Variable sunbird is extremely tenacious, despite his small demeanor. He dive-bombs every other avian visitor, including the much larger Bronze sunbirds.

As with any situation where you can’t have something, it makes you want it more – I miss the bigger creatures. I cannot emphasize enough how lucky we are to have Nairobi National Park. However, I’ll let my brother talk about that another week. Therefore, in the spirit of “Not Going Places”, I’m joining the virtual theme set by my father and brother’s recent articles in this column.

The concept of live-streamed game drives has been around for a few years now, with the likes of ‘WildEarthTV’ that has been in existence since 2006. Beyond their flagship ‘SafariLive’ broadcast that occurs twice daily, beamed from the Greater Kruger area of South Africa, they have had past live experiences from the Mara Triangle and even underwater off the Cayman Islands.

Now, in a bid to keep people engaged with their brands and the concept of safari, numerous operators are joining the bandwagon. With the technology available at our fingertips, live-streamed videos on Facebook and Instagram have suddenly taken off across the industry. I won’t lie; I have been encouraged to try it out myself. Although, I’m not sure how many people would remain engaged by the daily soap opera that centres around that Aloe flower…

Beyond the obvious outcomes for the operators, conservancies and guides, I see huge benefits to the audiences too. The best content I’ve seen is often educational and interactive. You can usually submit questions through the comments section and have them answered live, such as a query about the behaviour of the animal being filmed at the time. I’ve also enjoyed scheduled live interviews between experts in their fields, all seemingly available and willing to talk, due to the need to stay in their respective homes.

Some channels have captured footage of exceptional quality and then rapidly curated short daily highlight reels. While South African operators seem to have the upper hand, with the likes of Singita, Londolozi, AndBeyond and Royal Malewane, all producing great content, I’m finding a number of Kenyan-based channels popping up too. I’m thoroughly enjoying my daily check-ins to the Mara ecosystem that the Angama team is putting out.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy has been running afternoon ‘Sofa Safaris’ on Instagram, led by various team members, including their Managing Director, guides, rhino keepers and lodge managers. Borana Conservancy is starting to release imagery and videos captured daily too.

All this content means a chance for some much needed nature-based escapism from our various forms of isolation and the relentless news cycle at the moment. Next time you are spending a disproportionate amount of time on social media, search for some of these channels for something different perhaps.

Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation

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