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Nature

Africa’s High-Tech Safaris

How wildlife tour operators are integtrating the technology to enhance the safari experience

A few pioneering safari camps are implementing bleeding-edge technology in some of the world’s most challenging and remote landscapes to deliver an experience that’s better for their guests and the planet. Here, we look at the forerunners and their future-facing innovations with the hopes that others will follow suit.

Solar Power:
Sometimes, a trip off the grid is in order—literally. While some African camps and lodges are linked to the national power grid, others offer a completely unplugged experience. Wilderness Safaris, Africa’s leading ecotourism company, has nearly 40 camps and lodges in some of the world’s most isolated and untouched locations. This means that they’re often required to generate their own electricity. In a light-bulb moment, the fiercely eco-minded company vowed to move away from a reliance on fossil fuels and implement solar power wherever possible to lighten their footprint. 

Wilderness Safaris currently has 13 camps all over Africa operating on 100-percent solar power and 34 camps with solar-inverter or battery-inverter hybrid systems. Also, with the implementation of solar thermodynamic geysers throughout all of their properties, they have continued to slash their reliance on generators, saving an estimated 1,071,101 liters of diesel every year. 

The newly rebuilt Serra Cafema, in one of the most far-flung corners of Namibia, and Qorokwe Camp, in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, are two of the most recent top model members of the 100-percent-solar-power club. vast www.wilderness-safaris.com

Night Vision:
Nighttime game drives are one of the most fascinating ways to observe African wildlife—if you can manage to see in the darkness, that is. Mara Bushtops, in Kenya’s dramatically breathtaking Masai Mara, has found a way to add some light to the situation by employing heat-seeking night-vision cameras to search for nocturnal animals that aren’t visible during daytime hours. 

Specially converted safari vehicles and rangers outfitted with the state-of-the-art cameras roam the moonlit Masai Mara for fauna like springhares, bat-eared foxes, and even lions, hyenas, and leopards, as they may be found hunting at night. The forward-looking infrared (FLIR) cameras transmit images to individual monitors set on the back of each of the vehicle’s seatbacks, providing the passengers with real-time night vision. Normally, night game drives aren’t permitted in Masai Mara or the Serengeti, but because Mara Bushtops is located amid their own Bushtops Conservancy, these future-forward nocturnal safaris are a go. www.bushtopscamps.com/mara/

Artificial Intelligence:
AI is the tech world's buzzword of the moment, and South Africa’s Karkloof Safari Villas & Spa is bringing this buzzword to the bush with its newly implemented AI anti-poaching system. Colleen Glaeser is the owner of Karkloof Safari Villas & Spa, as well as Global Marketing Director of AxxonSoft, an industry-leading global security and surveillance company. Glaeser lead the creation of the new anti-poaching technology, which is called Deep Learning, and it’s specially designed to be proactive rather than reactive.

Glaeser found that in the past, anti-poaching units were arriving on the scene too late due in part to the existing surveillance system's failures, as they were setting off too many false alarms. As such, the new Deep Learning technology has been designed to detect the difference between humans and animals to reduce the number of false alarms that are set off. This means that as soon as Deep Learning identifies a human threat, the surveillance team and guard center is notified so that they can dispatch the anti-poaching unit immediately. Cameras are used to classify where exactly the security breach has taken place, as well as to assess the threat level.

So far, the AI initiative has proven very successful in preventing catastrophic acts of poaching. This technology currently covers over 2,000 acres of land, and it’s in the process of being rolled out across other crucial South African locations and beyond. www.karkloofsafarivillas.com  

Electric Vehicles:
Twice-daily game drives in massive gas-guzzling 4x4s are unfortunately a standard aspect of most safaris, but Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana’s famous Chobe National Park, has found a way to make these drives a bit greener with the introduction of their revolutionary electric game fleet, which is made up of four electric vehicles and four electric boats. 

These clean vehicles are charged via the lodge’s Eco Workshop, which is lined with over 300 solar panels. Also, the roofs of the four electric boats are lined with solar panels as well, ensuring that a trip down the wildlife-packed Chobe River is mesmerizingly quiet and clean. Since the introduction of this electric fleet in 2014, Chobe Game Lodge has significantly lessened its impact on the environment with an estimated 100,000-kilogram reduction on their carbon dioxide emissions and countless advantages to the local wildlife population, who are no longer disturbed by noise pollution or the scent of petrol. And guests benefit too: Chobe Game Lodge safaris are nearly silent, smooth, and comfortable with no rattling and shuddering engines to unsettle you or the delicate environment. www.chobegamelodge.com