Wild life tourism is not a recent activity that had won popularity among adventure loving tourists. Those with a strong penchant for wild life and its natural habitat had answered the irresistible call of the wild down the ages. In the past, the gun took precedence over camera and men went on foot, elephant and horse backs in search of big games. The perils were astronomical. Sometimes these daring adventure trips resulted in death of the hunter. If luck stays on his side, he returned with his trophy, the carcass of a lion or a tiger shot by him and carried by his faithful followers. The world watched with startled silence the courage and hunting prowess displayed by him with pride and an air of triumph.
India had been famous for its dense forests and a huge wild life population constituting fierce carnivores, wild herbivores and a variety of land, arboreal and aquatic reptiles, acrobatic primates and a host of colorful birds. The forests came alive with their growls, grunts, hisses and chirps. It was a favorite past time for Maharajahs and Zamindars to go on a hunting spree. This was wild adventure and a mark of courage. The maharajas of Princely states scattered across the Indian subcontinent like Rajasthan, Mysore, Nepal, Gwalior and Assam went out into the wilds with an army of followers with much fan fare. There were beaters who herded the wild animal round the corner so that the maharaja can accomplish his hunt at his leisure from the ‘howdah’ , the regal seat mounted on elephant back or the ‘ machan, which is a makeshift sitting arrangement perched high up on the tree . The hunter had a vantage point for getting a perfect view to a kill.
These legendary wild life safaris are primarily driven by a fierce chauvinism; an intense esteem of one’s own physical ability and male courage. The expedition sometimes lasted for months. The queen and the women folk waited for the king to return from his hunting trip with pomp and grandiose.
The result of the trip generally culminated in an awe-inspiring display in the royal palace with the muzzles of elephants, wild gaurs, sambars, tigers and leopards, the victims of the Rajah’s gunshot. The focus was more on hunting rather than observing wild life behavior in their habitat. Arrangement for the stock of food, water, tents and management of a huge group had to be planned as it is done today. Since restriction on hunting did not exist, the touring team gathered food by hunting down sambar, deer and fowl. The expeditions were basically filled with thrill and kill.
If we look into the history of African wild life expeditions, we will be startled at the sheer scale of these adventure trips and the enormous perils lying in wait on the way. Livingstone and Stanley are awe inspiring names in African safaris. Armed with provisions, guns and ammunitions, local African porters, doctor, grit, courage, a fiery passion for adventure and finally an intense desire to make a name, they have traversed across the entire east- west of the Dark Continent. The initial size of the group drastically reduced upon the completion of expeditions. Deadly diseases like yellow fever, malaria and bilharzias claimed lives. Some became victims to wild animal attacks while others simply perished under stress and strain of the expeditions!
Nevertheless, despite the loss of lives and inhuman pain and hazards, the dangerous wild life safaris continued to lure man. The call of the wild was too tempting to resist. The wild life and the jungle had always enchanted man. They felt a strong desire to undertake wild life expeditions. The pull cuts across the races and civilizations. Tracking down lions in the wild and hunting them with spears was traditionally very popular, and considered a chivalrous and daring act among the Moran warriors of the African Masai tribes and among Egyptians. The lure of the wild and a passionate yearning to meet the beast was more powerful to offset the danger that goes with it.
Wild life expeditions were certainly made by the Romans in the African and Eurasians wild building up a formidable inventory of wild beasts for gladiatorial combats.