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February 21, 2019

Pre-safari briefing is important


When I was new at work, there was this time I used to go to the airport to pick up clients and take them to hotels in the capital. We called them airport transfers – and they were supposed to be done by the very new guides or the untrained drivers. Each time I was assigned for the transfers, I was accompanied by another employee who had a certain role that I considered vague and useless, yet he or she, was earning way much than I was. They called themselves couriers. Their work was to help the clients at the checkout counter and the visa point, and then check them in at the hotels. And most of all, they carried the itineraries of the clients, and they would go over the itineraries day by day, highlighting the most important aspect of their safari. They called the discussion – safari briefing. Other than the mention of my tip, I considered the rest of information quite unnecessary since the clients could read the itinerary anyway. Later, I was to learn the hard way how important it is to do a thorough pre-safari briefing. You will be surprised how little the clients normally know about their safari, even though the itinerary was written months before they come, and posted to them to read and understand. They never do.

Here are some instances that would tell you a client who has had no pre-safari briefing.

We had just spotted a pride of lions with very small babies. The clients were very excited and the cameras were clicking away especially when the little lion cubs began suckling. A lady tourist sitting right behind the driver’s seat was also clicking away with her new camera but did not look as enthusiastic as the rest. When the noise of the shutters subsided, there were murmurs in the van and broad smiles as the clients appreciated their first sighting in the bush. But not the lady behind me. She was visibly angry about something. I ventured to ask.

Is something wrong Lillian?”

It’s nothing really. Just drive on,” she said.

But from her tone, there was in deed something wrong. I insisted to know whether in her position behind the driver’s seat, she probably could have missed most of the shots. But she insisted there was nothing wrong. I dared her to show me at least two of her shots of the lions and the babies. To my surprise, she did not have a single shot. She said the camera, though completely new, was reporting an error of “image too dark”. She did not want to ask for help because she thought it was embarrassing to have such a new and expensive camera that fails to work on the first day of the safari. I asked her to show me the camera

Have you tried removing the lens cap? It could make a huge difference!” I quipped. Throughout the excitement of photographing the lions and the cubs, Lillian had left the camera lens cap on. She looked baffled by such mundane omission, yet the cost of missing such opportunities was unbearable. One thing was clear though – she did not get the first pre-safari briefing. The couriers never miss to mention even the least of the details, like remembering to remove the lens cap before you even put on the camera.

Just a week later I was doing a game drive in Samburu with an amateur photographer. He had bought himself a very large camera with lens that needed a beanbag since it was very heavy. You only find such cameras with professionals, not learners. We were basically looking for birds, and more specific, the sunbirds. These are some of the most difficult to photograph since they never seem to stay still unless they have found a succulent flower.

Even in such cases, the sunbird will be moving from one flower to another, giving you not more than eight seconds on each flower. During that time, a professional will have taken eight shots in a second. My friend was continually lifting his head from the viewfinder to see the bird with his eyes before returning to the camera’s viewfinder. Each time he would miss the bird. He got very frustrated and finally put the camera on the seat next to him. He gave up on it on the first game drive. He had not been briefed on how the birds behave in the bush.

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