Managing Expectations with Wildlife
From big cats to flightless birds
Gripping on for dear life with one hand, camera in the other, as our jeep reversed at speed on a rocky track, hoping for a close encounter with a tiger in India recently - I suddenly thought of ZEALANDIA’s night tours, and how much visitors desperately want to see kiwi.
I have been in the grip of ‘tiger fever’. We booked 17 safaris over 10 days in Central India, to maximise the chances of seeing the magnificent big cats. Our naturalist was just as anxious to fulfil our dream. He knew all too well how hard it is to console clients who don’t see the object of their desire.
ZEALANDIA’s guides face the exact same issue. Managing expectations is a delicate thing.
Before my first tiger sighting, tears were shed after numerous safaris. Now I look back on everything else I saw in the wilderness with great joy. Then, my photographs of remarkable birds and mammals were overshadowed by acute disappointment. Even having been a Night Guide Assistant who talked to ZEALANDIA visitors about the fact we’re not a zoo with guaranteed kiwi sightings, and the thrill of exploring the valley at night, and all the many other wonders to behold there.
At Tala, the prime tiger zone at Bandhavgarh in Central India, there's a sign as you leave the reserve.
Perhaps you may not have seen me
But please don’t be disappointed
“I have seen you”
There’s a lot in that.
This trip, I’d also hoped to see a sloth bear. We saw fresh pug marks and where one had recently been digging for insects. It was exciting. Just as hearing kiwi calls and hearing rustling but not getting a glimpse are exciting.
Our naturalists also, on the tiger-free safaris, talked about the pleasure of being in the wilderness and seeing so much. Being tiger-centric is natural but can blind us. The same for being kiwi-centric. We are so lucky to be out in the wild, surrounded by miracles. We just need to remember to look.
Written by Lynn Freeman