The Great Tours: African Safari
James Currie is a safari guide with the world-renowned company Wilderness Safaris. As a lifelong wildlife enthusiast and native of South Africa, he has led professional wildlife and birding tours for many years, and his passion for adventure and remote cultures has taken him to nearly every corner of the globe.
Mr. Currie is an expert in the fields of sustainable development and environmental management, holding a bachelor’s degree in African Languages from the University of Cape Town and a master’s degree in Sustainable Environmental Management from Middlesex University London. His dissertation, which he presented to the Icelandic government in 2001, received a distinction and has been used as a model for assessing the relationships between wildlife areas and local communities. One of Mr. Currie’s passions is forging links between local communities, wildlife, and international travelers. From 2004 to 2007, he worked as the managing director of Africa Foundation, a nonprofit organization that directs its efforts toward uplifting communities surrounding wildlife areas in Africa.
Mr. Currie is a highly sought-after public speaker who has spoken to sold-out audiences at various venues, including the prestigious Explorers Club in New York City, The G2 Gallery in Los Angeles, the National Audubon Society headquarters in New York City, Zoo Miami, the Educational Travel Consortium’s Annual Conference, and the Travel & Adventure Show. He has appeared as a special guest on various television shows and radio programs, including Martha Stewart Living Radio and WGN-TV, and has been the subject of several newspaper articles in periodicals such as The Wall Street Journal, The Palm Beach Post, and the Orlando Sentinel.
Mr. Currie was the host of Nikon’s Birding Adventures TV, a popular birding show that aired for 10 seasons on Discovery Communications’ Destination America and the NBC Sports Network. He also hosted the action-birding show Aerial Assassins on Nat Geo WILD. Additionally, Mr. Currie provided footage and consulted for the 2011 Hollywood birding movie The Big Year, starring Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson.
Mr. Currie has contributed to several publications, including the Southern African Birdfinder, and he was a contributing author of the acclaimed book The Last Elephants. His book, When Eagles Roar: The Amazing Journey of an African Wildlife Adventurer, details his life as a wildlife guide in Africa.
In 2007, Mr. Currie immigrated to the United States with his American wife and three children, and he currently resides in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Mr. Currie’s other Great Course is The National Geographic Guide to Birding in North America.
01: The Evolution of the Modern Safari
Begin your journey with a look at the origins and evolution of the safari, from its African roots as a trading journey to the hunting expeditions of the early 1900s to a form of popular tourism. Consider how Africa changed over the 20th century, and witness the rise of ecotourism. Survey the nature of safaris today.
02: Comparing Self-Drive and Guided Safaris
Before you embark on your safari, you have a critical decision to make. Do you want to rent a car and manage your own safari—which offers the most freedom, privacy, and affordability—or do you want to hire a guide to plan your itinerary, outfit your trip, and educate you along the way? Consider the pros and cons of each.
03: Safaris in East Africa
Get an introduction to the five major safari categories. After reviewing them in total, this lecture delves into safaris in East Africa—namely, in Kenya and Tanzania. Explore the wildlife on the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara. Experience the hair-raising sounds of predators. And learn about the major threat that may exist for an East African safari.
04: Safaris in Southern Africa
Continue your study of safari categories. Here, tour the astounding wealth of Southern Africa, from the enormous Kruger National Park to Zimbabwe’s big-game landscape and to the wild wetlands of Zambia. Southern Africa is an awe-inspiring mix of desert and wetland safari activities. Find out what to expect and how to plan a trip to this magnificent region.
05: Water Safaris
Shift your attention to the rivers and wetlands of Botswana, where the opportunity to view wildlife from the water is like nothing else. Whether from a boat or a dugout canoe (or “mokoro”), and whether you are birdwatching or big-game viewing, a water safari is without a doubt the crown jewel of the African safari experience.
06: Desert Safaris
The majority of safari experiences concentrate in the continent’s fertile savannahs and wetlands, but the arid regions of Namibia and the Atlantic coast of Africa hold countless treasures. Here, journey into the oldest desert in the world, view the magnificent red sand dunes, and learn about survival in a seemingly inhospitable climate.
07: Primate Safaris
Trek into the tropical mountains and valleys of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to get a first-hand look at our closest living relatives. From studying gorillas to chimpanzees, there is nothing more enchanting than sitting on the damp forest floor and gazing into the eyes of a great ape.
08: Night Safaris
A night drive into the African bush offers a glimpse into a completely different world, from nocturnal animals to the breathtaking sky. This lecture covers the basics of a night safari: what animals you might see, how they might behave, and what tools you need for successful and responsible viewing of animals at night.
09: Photographic Safaris
Thus far, this course has covered where to go. Here, consider how to experience the safari. Should you soak it all up with the naked eye, or should you bring along your camera equipment to document it all? Whether you’re using an iPhone or the latest and greatest DSLR, learn a few strategies for capturing your trip on film.
10: Walking Safaris
While the most common image of a safari is one of riding into the bush in a 4x4 truck to get an up-close view of big mammals, a walking safari can be one of the most stunning ways to experience Africa. Step away from the bustle of the modern world, slow down, and pay attention to the many wondrous details you can see by foot.
11: African Predators
Now that you have surveyed the range of geographies and types of safaris, shift gears to begin a multi-lecture unit on the flora and fauna you might see on your safari. Here, start with the predators—the crowd-pleasing carnivorous animals at the top of the food chain. Meet the “killer” cats and dogs.
12: African Herbivores and Antelopes
Continue your study of safari animals with this lecture on “the hunted”—grazing herbivores that have evolved to thrive in the dangerous jungles and savannahs. From buffalo and antelopes to zebras and impalas, examine an array of herbivores and their astonishing adaptations for survival.
13: Giants of the African Bush
Meet the giant mammals of the African landscape: the elephant, the rhinoceros, the giraffe, and the hippopotamus. Each of these mega-herbivores is truly captivating, but they are also threatened by poaching. As you get to know each species, reflect on the illegal wildlife trade for some of the largest animals in the world.
14: Africa’s Great Apes and Other Primates
In Lecture 7, you learned some ins and outs of a “primate safari.” Now, take a closer look at the great apes you might meet. Study the differences between lowland and mountain gorillas, consider the baboons and monkeys of the open plains, and learn about the much-adored nocturnal primates.
15: Africa’s Small Mammals
The giant animals might be the immediate crowd-pleasers, but the smaller mammals of Africa can be equally fascinating, and they play a critical role in the ecosystem. From mongooses and rabbits to the strange-looking pangolin, get an up-close look at an abundance of small mammals.
16: Africa’s Reptiles and Amphibians
Snakes, lizards, toads, and frogs have a nasty reputation. They’re creepy, crawly, slithery, and cold-blooded. Yet reptiles and amphibians are an important part of Africa’s ecosystem, and, as you will learn in this lecture, there is much more to these fascinating creatures than their nasty reputation. Learn about crocodiles, lizards, snakes, and more.
17: Key Birds of Africa
What would a safari be without the avian delights you are sure to encounter in Africa? Ostriches, eagles, flamingos, herons: Africa is home to countless species of truly amazing birds. Examine the stunning world of Africa’s birdlife, and see what equipment you need to make the most of your birding safari.
18: Top Birding Spots of Southern and East Africa
Africa is home to roughly a quarter of the world’s bird species, so anyone interested in avian diversity should make it a point to visit the continent. In this lecture, you will travel to some of the top birding destinations in Southern Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania. Gain indispensable guidance for encountering things that fly.
19: Africa’s Trees, Plants, and Flowers
Spotting the notable animals or identifying bird species might be a primary goal of your African safari, but getting to know the common botanical species is an integral part of the experience. Learn about Africa’s different biomes and the plants best suited for each region, and reflect on the intricate connections among the roots, branches, and flowers of life.
20: Island and Beach Safaris
Did you know Africa is home to world-class beaches, wildlife-rich islands, exceptional scuba diving, and some of our planet’s best surfing breaks? Here, you will tour the tropical islands and beaches that offer an experience like no other. Travel to Madagascar, surf the coast of Cape Town, snorkel the reefs of the Seychelles, and more.
21: The Sounds of an African Safari
Listen: When you go on an African safari, you step away from the hum of household electronics, the wails of car horns and sirens, and experience the call of the wild. The chattering of crickets and frogs, the late-night howls of jackals, the iconic roar of the lions. Learn to observe not just with your eyes, but with your ears.
22: Safari Destinations off the Beaten Path
This course, so far, has traversed all the popular geographies and methods for taking a safari. Now, follow some of the less-traveled roads. Get to know the hospitality of Senegal, the deserts of Morocco, and the cultural melting pot of Ethiopia. See some of the “hidden gems” sprinkled across the continent.
23: Cities and Other Safari Additions
The word “safari” comes from the Swahili word for “journey.” While safaris typically involve journeys into the wilderness, the cities and cultures of Africa offer a different kind of journey. From Cape Town to Nairobi and from the Zulus to the Maasai, experience the thriving cultures and communities across Africa.
24: Tips for a Sustainable Safari
The safari experience has changed mightily over the last century, and today, sustainability is one of the most important considerations for tourism. This course closes with a look at responsibility and conservation and what some of the leaders in the safari industry are doing to support local communities and to protect endangered species.