Sankha Guha: Man About World

Africa v India. Now that's a wild match

The first thing you notice is the scale. I am in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, having come almost directly from Kanha National Park in central India. The temptation to compare the two may be futile, but it is irresistible. Everything is big-

The first thing you notice is the scale. I am in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, having come almost directly from Kanha National Park in central India. The temptation to compare the two may be futile, but it is irresistible. Everything is bigger in Africa. South Luangwa covers an area of more than 9,000sq km - about 10 times the size of Kanha.

There are more animals here, and they are giants. Elephants are enormous, buffalo are bulky, giraffe are gigantic and even the gecko inside my room seems to be on steroids.

In Kanha, the lodges have to be sited outside the park and even beyond its "buffer zone". Here at Kaingo Camp, deep inside the Zambian park on the banks of the Luangwa river, you are never more than 50 metres from beasties that are potentially life threatening - crocs patrol the banks with exposed fangs, and little islets turn out to be hippos which, incidentally, kill more humans in Africa than lions. At night elephants stroll through, and there is even a resident leopard. Waking and sleeping they inhabit your space, and occupy your mind.

Even more dramatic, though, is the access. Tourists in Kanha travel on jeeps from which they cannot alight, they are escorted by a ranger and are restricted by park opening times - it is shut during the middle of the day and after sunset. South Luangwa, in contrast, is open for business after dark - last night, with the aid of a spotlight, we came upon a pair of mating lions as they went about their fiery courtship and then followed them hunting. The Milky Way twinkled in the night sky. We had lions on either side bathed in the eerie red glow of the dimmed spotlight as they crept up on a herd of unsuspecting puku. My waking concerns - Euro 2004, Iraq, the phone bill, the leaky tap - were as distant as Alpha Centauri above us. The ambush failed and the puku scattered in a flurry of alarm squeals.

Today at dawn I am on the same turf on foot. Pugmarks and hoof prints in the dust remind us we were trespassing. The walking safari is one of the highlights of the Zambian experience. Flanked by an armed guard, Derek Shenton of Shenton Safaris is leading the excursion. He tells me of an incident last year during a similar walk. "Last year, we stumbled into three big males sleeping. They didn't wake. We were 10 metres off before we realised. They were so well camouflaged under a bush, there was no warning. We froze and then retreated very slowly trying not to make any sound. Normally guests are pretty good with lions - we tell them not to run because that gets the lions excited." The real danger, he says, comes from buffalos, hippos and elephants. This morning, though, the hairiest moment is being eyed up by a curious giraffe.

I ask Derek if he could magic any animal on to his patch for a fantasy safari what it would be. His eyes light up: "I'd love a tiger. Jesus that would be great." For all Africa's heart-thumping excitement, there is still one thrill that comes bigger in India.

Children (don't) travel free

"Yield Management" I think they call it. Another of those gobbledegook business phrases you need an MBA to decode. For parents with school-age children, though, the meaning is all too clear the moment we try to book our flights or holidays. Bargain breaks are not for us, late availability deals don't add up, and the whole ballyhoo of cheap travel turns out to be a cruel illusion.

Where are the 10-quid return flights to Venice when you need them? It is young families, generally on stretched budgets, who could benefit most from the tempting offers that scream from ads in national newspapers and crowd the internet. However, the first law of Yield Management is: "Thou shalt exploit ruthlessly those who are unfortunate enough to have to travel at times of peak demand." And it is hard-pressed parents with 2.7 children in tow who are least able to choose when they take their holidays.

Parents are now in legal trouble if we absent offspring during term time. I have to ring both my sons' schools for permission to take them away for so much as a long weekend. This is not just a courtesy call; failure to secure the schools' assent can result in a £100 fine for each child. The sanction hardly seems necessary given most parents' neuroses about their children falling behind anyway, but it simply underlines our lack of choice.

So we must put up with travelling when everyone else does and accept the inevitability of crowded beaches, full flights, heaving airports and no room at the inn. Not only do we have to endure these conditions but we are also expected to pay more for the privilege. The industry inflicts what amounts to a family tax by ramping up prices as soon as school's out. A survey by the Evening Standard finds that parents are being charged up to 170 per cent more if they stick to school holidays rather than break the law and remove children during term time.

Now the minister for consumer affairs, Gerry Sutcliffe, is asking the bosses of the biggest travel companies in Britain to open their books and justify the fabulous price hikes. What is he hoping to achieve? Yes, maybe the companies will put their hands up in a collective act of mea culpa and reduce peak prices. Yes, and Virgin Trains will run on time. And pigs will be seen sporting feathery accoutrements from their backs before taking off from runway 27R at Heathrow shortly.

While Gerry is looking at the subject, perhaps he could consider other initiatives that might help the bottleneck of holiday demand. How about staggering school holidays? How about a more flexible curriculum that uses travel experiences as a learning tool? Seeing the world is educational. We should be encouraging parents to travel with their children - not taxing them.

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before