It’s one of the thorniest subjects in the safari industry today – whether to get with the programme and provide guests, even to the most far-flung corners of Africa, with connectivity, or to keep the spirit of remoteness pure, leaving free-for-all access to the Internet where it perhaps belongs, back in the concrete jungles of urban civilisation.
There is no doubt that technology has made the logistics of running a safari camp much easier. Steam-driven bushmail, which used radio infrastructure to relay messages, often took longer to deliver the goods than Royal Mail steamers. These days Skype, e-mail and a whole host of different apps offer instant message solutions for even the most remote camps, enabling managers to effectively communicate with often distant reservations offices and agents, and run establishments at peak capacity seamlessly.
But this all takes place out of sight in back-of-house offices, away from guests who traditionally come to the bush to get away from the ravages of everyday life and the constant bombardment of digital communication. However, more and more safari camps are now offering unlimited Wi-Fi to guests in response to demand, especially from a US market accustomed to being able to download anything from anywhere on a variety of swish gadgets at no charge for a lot longer than the rest of us.
The result is that an increasing number of guests are spending quality time on said gadgets rather than focussing on the magic that is wild Africa.
I’m torn on the subject, to be honest. On the one hand I hate seeing people glued to phones, tablets and laptops in the bush and I have to resist the urge to give them a ‘wake-up’ slap. But on the other hand, if it wasn’t for the technological revolution I would not be blogging right now. Nor would I be able to do my ‘day job’ while working in the bush. And I know that many people who have their own businesses (like I do) wouldn’t be able to take a break with their families if they couldn’t stay in constant touch with ‘the office’. The pay-off is that they don’t entirely switch off in Africa, which has a habit of changing mindsets and encouraging people to take stock of their lives.