Why Keeping Your Distance Works Best on Walking Safaris with African Bush Camps
Calvet Nkomo, head guide at award-winning Somalisa Camp, knows how to keep his distance from wildlife in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe
Keeping a healthy distance apart is a priority for people all over the world these days. But deep in the bush of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, it has been front-of-mind for Calvet Nkomo for decades. As head guide of award-winning Somalisa Camp, one of 15 luxury tented bush camps and lodges offered by African Bush Camps (ABC) across Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, Nkomo is a natural at giving denizens of the bush their space while leading walking safaris for guests to appreciate the beauty and majesty of the wildlife in their midst.
Born in Halisupi, Zimbabwe, Nkomo was raised by his grandparents after his mother was unable to nurse him. The two gave the youngster goat and cow’s milk, plenty of love and care, and, as he grew, the African name Ndalaboy – “big boy” grew on him. His grandfather, Madimabi Mike Sibanda, was a role model who among other things taught Nkomo the skills to live by.
A warm, welcoming, and larger-than-life spirit who smiles broadly between sentences and enjoys singing traditional songs, Nkomo, 54, has been guiding since 1995. He joined ABC in Zimbabwe in 2012. Nkomo has long since become familiar with the prides of lions roaming Hwange. “I know them by name and consider them family,” he says, noting in particular Cecil’s pride, Africa’s true Lion King who, after being tracked by collar and extensively researched, became so prominent that travelers began descending upon Zimbabwe just to see him. An American big-game hunter killed Cecil in 2015, a big blow to conservation and Hwange National Park visitors alike. Nowadays, travelers come to see Cecil’s decedents, who roam the park in abundance.
Keep Your Distance
According to Nkomo, there are three “zones” of distance guides must recognize when leading guests to view game on walking safaris in the bush:
- For best viewing, stick to a “comfort zone” of not less than 70 meters (230 feet) for big game such as lion, leopard, and buffalo, or 50 meters (164 feet) for a bull elephant – assuming cover is available. A little far? “Not really,” Nkomo says with a big laugh. “That is what good eyesight and optics are for.”
- The “escape zone” is from 25-50 meters (82-164 feet), at which point animals will begin moving or even bolt away from curious guests. “That’s too close for good viewing. Your presence may be disturbing to animals, but you’ll be safe.”
- Guides always walk in open areas to avoid surprising game unwittingly. Guests don’t need to be concerned, but guides are always aware of the “attack zone,” which is a distance to wildlife of less than 25 meters (up to 82 feet). “I’ve never come this close,” says Nkomo, “there is no reason to approach wildlife this closely.”
Somalisa Camp offers amazing views of the beautiful golden savannah of Hwange, and endless possibilities for travelers to soak up the scenery on walking safaris, game drives, birding, and cultural visits. Likely wildlife sightings for guests include elephant, kudu, sable antelope, zebra, wildebeest, gemsbok, and rare and endangered roan antelope, as well as buffalo, giraffe, lion, leopard, hyena, and more. As at every ABC camp, all outings within the camp’s private concession or national parks are led by qualified ABC guides who are excited to share their knowledge and passion for the bush they call home.
Somalisa Camp welcome guests age 7 and over year-round.
For more information on Somalisa Camp or to make reservations at any African Bush Camps destination, visit https://africanbushcamps.com/