Over the last month, Audrey and I have been working undercover.
The Mara Triangle, in conjunction with the Travel Foundation, is holding a contest to find the “Most Responsible Safari Guide” here in the Western Mara. Exemplary guides from several nearby lodges were nominated, and Audrey and I were asked to judge each of them. Do the guides follow park rules? Do they maintain appropriate distances while watching animals? Do they inform their guests about more than just the “Big 5?” In order to run a fair contest, we needed each of the guides to think we were tourists, so we had to go incognito and pretend to be ordinary guests at each lodge.
After living in the bush for so long, passing as tourists didn’t necessarily come easily to us. Audrey had to give her feet a good scrubbing and actually put on a pair of shoes, and I was forced to trade in my grungy sweatpants and vest for something a little more socially acceptable.
When we agreed to help out, it didn’t occur to us that some perks would go along with the job…but we quickly realized that some fun was in store for us. African safari lodges offer unbelievable luxury, and as “tourists,” we got to experience it all. Audrey and I are what you might call “low-maintenance” (I guess you’d have to be to spend as much time in a tent as we do), so the opulence came as a definite surprise to us. Out here, you don’t just get wake-up calls like you do in normal hotels…you get tea, coffee, and biscuits brought to your bedside at the appointed hour. Your giant, fluffy bed isn’t merely turned down at night…a hot water bottle is placed between the sheets so it’s toasty-warm and ready for you. During the course of the contest, we’ve been treated to fantastic gourmet meals, personal butler service, and private Jacuzzis overlooking the Mara.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand; all the guides were fantastic, and it was a pleasure to evaluate them. Each and every one was very friendly, knowledgeable, and “responsible,” so it was really difficult ranking them. The winner will be announced by Christmas, but congratulations in advance to all the guides. And, thanks to the Mara Conservancy and the Travel Foundation for running such an important contest and letting us be a part of it all!