Matthew Parris Matthew Parris

What really drives us in the big game of life?

To get the pleasure we really want we pretend it’s about something else

When were you last in a game reserve? Perhaps most Spectator readers will be familiar with the experience and if you’re anything like me it’s a happy one. Where would I rather be than in an open-topped Land Rover as the sun rises over the African bush, wandering on wheels through the savannah, pausing unhurried to look around: switching off the engine, listening, watching, drinking it all in?

But do I care if I spot a hyena to tick off on my list? Do I seriously fret about whether that graceful creature is an oryx or an eland, whether that glittering and iridescent bird is a greater blue-eared starling or a red-tufted malachite, or whether this giraffe we’ve just startled is reticulated or Rothschild’s? Do I mind much if, in the end, that log turns out to be a log, or a croc? Here’s a small confession: I do not.

I’ve just spent ten wonderful days in East Africa. We started by climbing Mt Kenya; afterwards we visited the beautiful Elephant Watch Camp in the Samburu National Reserve in northern Kenya. Each half of our safari had a distinct and designated purpose. The first was to reach a mountain peak. The second was to see game.

In the first case the stated motive was the real one. I really did want to reach Point Lenana: to stand there, look out over the plains, savour the satisfaction of having walked and scrambled all the way up to this 16,355ft castle of rock and then descend again, all under my own steam.

But in the second case I fear that a small confession applies. I can take or leave the species-spotting. Really, I just wanted to be in a wonderful place. Born and raised in Africa, I must have enjoyed a hundred game drives, and never tire of them.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in