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Zander Sprague and Warren Pearson continue their conversation about the wonders of African safaris. They move from discussing big animals to the breathtaking night sky, sharing the amazing feeling of stargazing and highlighting its impact on our perspective. They talk about unique aspects of African safaris, like beautiful sunrises and sunsets, the value of slowing down, and diverse experiences beyond just seeing big wildlife. They also discuss the joys of bush walks, tracking animals on foot, and the excitement of finding lesser-known creatures. Overall, the episode captures the complete safari experience, celebrating nature, people, and stunning African landscapes.

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The Wonders Of African Safari With Warren Pearson, Part 1

We’re talking to Warren Pearson about EPIC in Africa. We had such a great time last episode. I asked Warren if he could come back and we’re going to talk more about how epic Africa is. In the last episode, we talked about being on Safari. We ended up talking a lot about the animals which are indeed. The reason people come by and large and they are awesome, but there is so much more to being on Safari than seeing the big six and all the other animals that you see. Warren and I are going to talk about some of the other stuff that you see. Warren, welcome.

Thank you. It’s good to see you again. I’m enjoying these weekly chats. It’s good to catch up with you.

It’s great that we have the time to do this. I’m always excited to be able to share information about Africa. Unfortunately, lots of people have misconceptions about what you call The Dark Continent and that it’s dangerous. It’s not necessarily true. Let’s talk about some of the positive parts of going to see Africa one of the things that I should have known but didn’t when I first went on Safari with you was how incredibly epic the night sky is. In part, I live in California, and there’s so much light pollution that. If I see a couple of stars, I’m like, “Look at that,” when in fact there are billions of stars out in the universe. What does the night sky mean to you? You have had lots and lots of time out in the bush to stare at it.

The easy answer to that and I’ll probably elaborate a little bit more but the easy answer is that it makes me feel how insignificant I am on this planet. When you’re looking up, you start to grasp and understand the enormity of it. To this day, it still blows my mind how small we are. When you look up at the night sky, what I love especially in the southern hemisphere, you can see three galaxies with the naked eye. Pick up a good telescope. You’re going to see probably 1,000 more but just with the naked eye. The one is the Milky Way galaxy that our solar system is part of.

 

When you look up at the night sky, you start to grasp and understand its enormity, which makes you feel how insignificant we are on this planet.

 

In that one galaxy, there are millions if not billions of trillions of solar systems, and we’re just one of those solar systems. Our eight planets orbit the sun. It puts things into perspective and then you look out there and you can see these two little hazy that look like cotton balls that hang over the southern end of the South African continent and in the south direction, and those are the major landing clouds. Those are two cluster galaxies that you can see with the naked eye. That’s another galaxy that we can see that has its own solar system. For me, it puts everything into perspective.

I’m constantly in awe whenever I look up. I had where I was with friends of mine on a Friday night, we were out in the wilderness. We looked up and he’s got a seventeen-year-old son. I was explaining this to him and you could see in the seventeen-year-old who’s normally looking at video games and all these other things that they’re doing in their lives, you’re looking up and his jaws almost falling down. I was trying to keep it simple because I think you can use people very quickly.

He was blown away by literally what I’ve spoken to you now, but we’re not when you pointed out to people. You stand there. here to be elected lie on the floor because otherwise, you get a sore neck because you point out these constellations, galaxies, the stars, and the planets. You can see it’s not registering but it is in a way and I love that part of it. It makes us feel complete. It doesn’t matter who you are in this world. If you are one of the CEOs of a Fortune 500 company or if you part of royalty or whoever you might think you are and how big your life is, this puts everything into perspective, and that’s what I enjoy about it.

I remember on one of our first game drives together many years ago, we were coming back and it was April. It was fall in the Southern Hemisphere. It gets dark relatively at 5:30 to 6:00 at night. We’re coming back and remember you stopped and you said, “Look up.” We spent half an hour trying to pick out things like the Southern Cross, which is in the Southern Hemisphere. If you don’t know, it’s supposed to be the brightest constellation that sailors used to navigate. It was hard to pick it out because there was such a blanket of stars. I look up at that and I’m like, “I am so insignificant compared to this,” and then I start to think about some of the light that I’m seeing has traveled millions of light years and what I’m that star that I see twinkling up there might not exist anymore and may not have existed for 1,000 years.

That’s another point that I was waiting for you to raise and to talk about because whenever you look up, you’re looking at history. If you look at the stars and you understand where they are, the two would be closest to the Earth which is a star in the pointers of the Southern Cross, and that’s called Alpha Centauri. It’s 4.3 lightyears away. The light that we’re seeing originated many years ago. The one next to it, there are two stars in the pointers, is Beta Centauri, is 400 lightyears away. It looks like it’s right next to each other.

That light that we see right now was emitted hundreds of years ago. When and where in this world can you do something like that and see something that came? So long ago. It’s vast, massive and huge. I like switching off and getting people to look up and enjoy the stars. Slow down and think about where you are for 10, 15, or 30 minutes, and almost meditate to yourself while looking up at this canvas that’s above you.

The other thing that it does at least for me like you were saying, meditate is at least for me when I’m out on a game drive, My excitement level is always elevated because I’m excited about what we are going to see. You see something exciting and possibly scary to you, be it lions fighting, chasing, or whatever, to then stop, look up and re-center yourself, makes part of that whole Safari experience so much better. The other thing, and I’m sure you and I can talk about this probably longer than people want but when you go on Safari you have this wonderfully unique experience, which is you get to see the sunrise and the sunset every single day you’re on Safari because you’re up first thing in the morning and you’re out in the afternoon.

When you go on safari, you have this wonderfully unique experience of getting to see the sunrise and sunset every single day.

Those sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. In my last Safari, I have all these pictures. I love every single one of them and I was showing it to my friends and went, “What is that one?” “There’s a spectacular Sunset then. Here’s the sunrise.” Every day, they’re all unique and special. If you weren’t there, they just look like a sunrise and a sunset. You had the pleasure to see hundreds, if not, thousands of them.

I have and I’m lucky that I have seen the sunrises and sunsets. I have a lot of people from all around the world who lead very busy lifestyles. I often ask people, “When was the last time you saw a sunrise, or sunset or took the time just to watch it?” The majority of people will say either, “Running busy trying to get kids to school, I’m trying to get to work,” or vice versa. Coming home, you don’t get the time. Another moment for me to once again slow down and you get beautiful sunsets all around the world. There is something about Africa. It might be the location that you’re in, the dust, Safari and there’s wildlife around you. Even if there wasn’t, and I always say this to people, “When you go home wherever you are in the world, take the time to watch the sunset. Take a breather. Grab a drink if you want and watch the sunset.”

Similarly for sunrise. I know people don’t like getting up early. To me, it’s the most peaceful time of the day. I try and get up early and it’s not always that easy sometimes. You force yourself to get out of bed. For me, it’s the ritual you have to get a good cup of coffee. You go, sit, and listen to the birds awakening and you get what’s known as the dawn chorus. It’s these birds waking up and tweeting. If you sit silently it’s noisy while you watch the spectacular sunrise ahead of you. If you are in the wilds of Africa, you might have the bonus of listening to a lion calling in the distance or a leopard grunting or whatever it might be. Let’s add that extra romantic side of it to it. I always tell people, “Take the time. Slow your life down a bit.”

I’m going to pull up a photo that was from our last game drive when I was with you. Here’s the sunset. I did a pretty good job of capturing it. It is spectacular and this is what you get to see.

People looking at that will look at a dead tree that’s there. It’s not a dead tree. It doesn’t have leaves. It’s in the middle of winter and at the time in the Southern Hemisphere when you were there. The red glow is the dust that’s in the air. If I remember correctly, literally before the sun set, we had a group of runners that literally walked not too far from us. I took your two girls and we walked out by ourselves. We got into a closer position on foot and watched these two animals walk past not even knowing over there and at the same time the sun was about to see it over the escarpment range. It is special.

I wanted to bring that in because here we are talking about and people are like, “What’s it look like?” That is one example of what you get to see. It’s special every single time. It’s exciting to be able to see the beginning and the end of the African daylight. There’s so much to see when you’re on Safari. It’s hard to encapsulate all that it is. What are some of the other things that when you take people on Safari that you like for them to see, experience, or whatever? I know that many things but I’m going to let you run with this one.

It does depend on where we go. Africa is massive and it’s diverse. In every area, every National Park, private reserve, wherever you might be, a country, you name it, it offers something very unique to themselves. My biggest thing when I take people on a Safari is I try and get them to slow down. Most people come for the animals. I’m not going to brush it aside because it’s a massive part of what Africa is.

 

The animals are a massive part of what Africa is, but going on an African safari is also about meeting the people along the way and spending time with tribes.

 

Not just a trip to Africa because on a trip to get on to Africa, it’s the people. Meeting the people along the way and spending time with tribes. There’s a whole cultural aspect of it that I think people don’t think about when they plan and book a Safari. If we are viewing animals, it depends on where we are. There is this term now, which I’m very aware of, and something I don’t like called the big five. I must be honest. It’s a term that I despise.

I’m sorry I used the big six earlier.

I didn’t pick it up. I’m sorry. Even still, if it was big 6 or 7 because now people are calling something in the Magnificent Seven adding 3 more animals onto it but to me first of all, there are many more things to see in Africa than five animals. People often get tunnel vision focused on, “I’ve got to find these five animals. Otherwise, my Safari has been a flop.” First of all, I try and explain to people where that term comes from and where that term originated from. It’s an old hunting term for the big Safari big game hunters.

It was the five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot, going through those animals. There are 2 cats and 3 leopards, then the others are elephants, African buffalo, and then interestingly enough rhino, but it’s not white and black. There are two species of runner. It’s only originally the black runner, not the white. The white is a very easy animal to get up to. Those are the five animals. Everyone says, “I don’t want to go there because it’s not a big fire reserve,” but you’re going to miss much else by thinking maybe you don’t see black runner, even white rhino, or whatever it might be.

Is there a hippo on there?

This is the thing about the big five, it’s why they’re big because hippos cheat. Wild dogs, zebras, and giraffes don’t. I can keep going on. There are a lot more than just five animals in Africa. I always try and get people interested in the small things. In Safari we went to areas where there are pangolins. Most people have never heard of a pangolin before for example. It looks like an artichoke and people say, “Pangolin. You know armadillo.” It’s amazing how everyone knows what an armadillo is.

A pangolin is a small animal. It’s one of the most illegally trafficked animals in the world and a critically endangered species. You get meerkats and aardwolf. There is a whole bunch of other animals that are special to see and sometimes a lot better to see. I always look at lions for example and probably 90% of the time they’re going to be sleeping. There’s a Pangolin. Was this from our trip?

It was. I wanted people to see it because most people don’t even know what it looks like.

It looks like a sort of an artichoke in a way, I think you can understand why. There are many other animals out there that are spectacular to see and to find and I think it’s almost more rewarding when you do find these small animals and you realize that many people in the world have seen these animals, than even the animal side of things. You get into certain areas of vegetation biomes, succulents, and orchids. I always trying to get people to see a Safari as a holistic experience and not solely focused on the animals, particularly the big animals, hence the stars.

 

There are so many other animals out there that are spectacular to see and find, and it’s almost more rewarding when you do find these small animals and realize that not many people in the world have actually seen them.

 

Look up at the stars and spend time looking up because it’s a natural experience. I’m a naturalist guide. I like to talk about nature. It’s not just I don’t like talking about animals, but I like to talk about nature. That’s what I try to do on Safari. I try and give people different experiences. I’m the kind of person who if everyone’s going left, I’m going to be that one idiot going right. Let’s go and find our own animals. Let’s go and explore away from the crowds, the people, and do our own thing that’s what I try and get people to experience.

One of the things that I love doing with you, although I have to say when I’m doing it, sometimes I’m a little nervous, but a little nervous is probably a good thing, get you back to bush walks. Get out of the Land Rover and get on foot. Let me tell you folks when you go on Safari, you get to learn a lot about scat, which if you don’t know, that’s animal poop, but it is honestly fascinating because you learned so much about the animals and how they interact. For example, elephants eat a huge amount of vegetation on a given day, and yet they have bad digestive systems. When you look at their scat you see literally a whole lot of undigested leaves, twigs, and stuff like that and yet if you were to look at a hyena scat, they are highly efficient in their digestive and there’s bone and calcium. Let’s talk about getting out of the Range Rover, not zipping by slowing down and taking a walk. You’re now getting on all of the animal’s terms.

I don’t want to push it too hard depending on the clients that I’m looking after at the time, but for me, always try and set it. You have an experienced Africa until your boots have got the dust of Africa on them. That’s where you walked. People go, “Is it safe to walk?” It is safe. If you listen to the guide and there are rules that you go to abide by and there’s behavior that you go to show and not show but at the end of the day, we are the ultimate predator on this planet. In Africa, there’s not one single animal terrestrial animal that will go out of its way to hunt you.

 

You haven’t experienced Africa until your boots have the dust of Africa on them.

 

There’s only one animal that will hand you and that’s a crocodile. If you get onto the water’s edge, a crocodile will try and eat you, but lions, leopards, and everything else won’t hunt you for Food. They’ll try and kill you to eliminate you as a predator if they see there’s an opportunity and the same thing goes for elephants, rhinos, buffalo, and hippos, you name it. There are rules that you have to abide by and you have to follow, but at the end of the day, it is the most exhilarating feeling in the world. I want to bring into the whole aspect of tracking because a lot of people don’t understand what tracking is.

Tracking is when you go and reserve on a Safari and depending on where you go in Africa it does change differently. You either have just a guide who will drive guide spots track and do everything. All you have a specialist that sits on the front of a vehicle typically and they track. We’re not saying track. They look for science typically on the floor in front of the vehicle. They will look down there for the footprints, but it’s not just the footprints. It’s the smells, purring, and branches that have been broken. It’s all sorts of things and they track animals.

They track to find animals and this is an ancient art that is dying art. There’s a good friend of mine who has started to come company to try and bring those back to the fall to train youngsters up to become trackers again in the original way, which is fantastic. Getting on foot and walking you slow yourself down, now you on the animals’ turf and you tend to understand where you also fit in this world. I think you realize I’m not this big strong two-legged Barbarian anymore. I’m looking around every corner.

Not feeling quite as Apex as you were in the Range Rover.

The fact is that you get out, start, and you get to see many of the smaller things that you will miss by zooming around in the vehicle. There’s a time and a place being in the vehicle and driving around. Me, I always try and get every single person I’m with to spend some time on foot walking and if not walking tracking, and if we can track an animal track and find out. That’s the cherry on the top because the whole aspect of tracking an animal is to try and find that animal, and view that animal without that animal knowing you are there. That’s the hardest part. If you can do that, that is the most rewarding experience anyone will ever have.

 

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