Racing our Extinction

Travel and tourism are under tremendous pressure as certain governments red list and ban travel due to the rise and fall of infections. This has isolated southern Africa, with the unintended consequence of a growing narrative worldwide that this is the final straw for parts of the industry.

One of the fantastic aspects of this grand human experiment we are living through is that everyone has become an expert, so I won’t pretend to know the answers. Still, just as we started looking forward to crafting the finest holiday season experiences for our guests, planning surprises, ordering special treats and tracking wildlife, we have seen some retraction in arrivals. Travel will be a mixed bag of changing plans and protocols for a long time into the future, in my opinion.

Giving Tuesday triggered a sense of overwhelming support this week, as front-line wildlife rangers now go into a renewed wave of cut-backs, their families waiting at home for that salary nudge to end the year.

I also did a quick survey of the wildlife sightings in our camps overnight, and I specifically called for all cheetah sightings as a test. I am delighted that the sightings have been excellent in the last 24 hours but sad that so many people looking forward to sharing time with them will miss out.

The moments I have spent with cheetahs over the years have been deeply profound, probably because of the resilience they face of extinction. Their tear-streaked faces fill me with joy and appreciation of their 3-4 million year journey, racing extinction and winning. It is a battle they nearly lost over the last 12,000 years, but they bounced back with populations steadily building in some places. They turn their faces softly into the breeze, focus intensely and then they run like the wind, on the most fragile legs. An absolute marvel. They are an impossible creature when you think about it and one we must protect.

There are now fewer than 7,000 cheetahs left, a species we have been supporting via our National Geographic Big Cats Initiative since Beverly and I first started the effort over 12 years ago. As World Cheetah Day comes up, supporting and celebrating these fantastic animals also gives us a moment to reflect on exactly why they fascinate us and why we go on safari.

This is why we endure the irritation of protocols, masks and flight changes… because it is all worth it to spend our time in the company of greatness. Being with cheetahs reminds me that if they can survive such incredible odds with grace and dignity, so will we.

It is that clear reminder and reinforcement of such a positive example of embracing life fully that we make an effort because they boost us and raise our spirits when we need that most. Our safari travels (in turn) ensure their futures. Our contributions keep front-line conservationists in the field, protecting that wildlife even when we can’t. And through this, we can all see the future in a far more positive light than the present news cycle allows.

Today, this short film expresses that delicate fragility and this cat’s absolute dedication to the moment and surviving this moment and the next and the next after that. Like we should.

Please stay safe, and we look forward to having you stay with us in the not too distant future.

Thank you,