March 2016 Archives

I randomly stumbled upon the hashtag #safarilive on Twitter the other day, and noticed everyone was talking about what seemed to be a safari that was going on at that very moment in South Africa.

safarilive hashtag on twitter

A little searching resulted in the discovery of an outfit called WildEarth.tv which among other things operates live, unedited, noncommercial safaris in the huge 7000 sq mi Kruger National Park in northeastern South Africa. Twice a day, you can go to YouTube and see the live "Safari Sunrise" and "Safari Sunset" broadcasts, sometimes 2-3 hours in length.

What is remarkable about these broadcasts is that they're the real deal. This is what "reality television" should be. Raw, unedited, authentic. You never know what is happening next: the ranger may be driving along trying to reach a pack of lions before sunset when suddenly he get acid flies in his eye, forcing him to pull over as he's temporarily blinded; a random water buffalo may suddenly appear out of nowhere, just standing there staring at the humans in the truck (old South African lore says that water buffalos always look at humans the way someone looks at you when you owe them money). Around a bend may be some gaunt vultures drying off up in a dead tree. A minute later, there might be a group of pregnant, lazy lionesses snoozing in the sun right along the dirt road when suddenly a tiny tortoise walks right over and cozes up against a sleeping lion's front leg! All along the rangers, who are walking/driving encyclopedias of nature facts and figures and stories, help the viewer appreciate what they're seeing and hearing. And, this being the age of social media, they even have little earpieces allowing the rangers to (one supposes) receive a private radio signal back at the command center, where someone is telling the ranger about a tweet or email question that just came in that moment... so the driver turns to the camera and says something like, "Good question, Amy from North Dakota...." and then rattles off an answer.

Unlike the usual fast-edit, hyperbolic, tense-music-backed American "run! fear! danger! extreme! it's out to KILL you" bullshit nature programming shown on Animal Planet, Disney nature movies, National Geographic Channel (owned by FOX, remember), and even PBS's nature series, or the slow-motion, super-productions that come out from the BBC, WildEarth is no "best-of" and severely cut and rearranged and one might even say fictional nature broadcast. This shows the animals as they are -- or aren't -- at that very moment. Which means, for the most part, you encounter them just hanging around, feeding, raising their young, marking their territory, being amused or annoyed by the curious humans driving around in those noisy, stinky, petrol-burning machines.

It's an extraordinary, well-run operation, prone to occasional technology glitches, but still, the idea that I can fire up my AppleTV, feed a live YouTube signal into my HD projector, and curl up and watch on a 12-foot screen a LIVE broadcast in glorious high-resolution video, of a safari going on right at that moment some 10,000 miles away is just plain cool.

Highly recommended.