Safari guides become unlikely stars as conservation turns to Instagram

More than half the world may be on lockdown, but more people than ever are going on safari.

Jarryd Du Preez, a guide at andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, recently fielded questions from safari goers in India, Chile, Bahrain, Germany, Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Saint Lucia, and Russia as he pointed out two white rhino calves hidden behind an adult female. Can you tell the sex of the calves? (They were males.) Are poachers a danger? (Always.)

Africa’s golden light cast its magical glow as a soft breeze rustled through patches of shrubbery called stinking grass. “What does stinking grass smell like?” someone asked.

In person, the skunk-like odor is easy to discern; over social media, where this scene played out in real time, scents are imperceptible. But luckily for andBeyond—which has been posting twice-daily game drives via Instagram Live since March 28—few viewers seem to mind. Already, the company has seen a 50% increase in engagement, a 100% increase in its daily new followers, and a 130% increase in organic reach to its Instagram page, says Nicole Robinson, andBeyond’s chief marketing officer. Success came so fast and furiously that within four days, the company was supplementing its efforts with twice-daily, three-hour-long “WILDwatch” broadcasts in collaboration with WildEarth on Facebook and YouTube, where the longtime purveyor of safari videos is also garnering record-setting numbers.

These livestream game drives aren’t just a promising pathway toward economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic, says Robinson. They’re also a desperately needed balm for quarantine wanderlust and, in less obvious ways, an important lifeline for the animals on screen.

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