Reluctant Traveler: Wildlife Adventures

Enjoy the second in the series by my sister in which she tells us tales of her trip to Africa. Photography is courtesy of her daughter, who accompanied her. And spectacular photography it is!

By Rebecca Borman
bec-closeup-twoIt’s safe to say that most people who visit eastern Africa do so primarily to view wildlife.  Africans know this, of course, so they have perfected the art of showing visitors the best their continent has to offer in this regard.  But, in the end, there are no guarantees.  The rainy season, and thus the great migration, don’t always happen as predicted.  But one always travels there with the hope and perhaps expectation of seeing “the big 5”—lions, elephants, rhinos, Cape buffalos, and leopards.  Not to keep you in suspense…we saw all five!

It’s impossible to describe what it’s like to see these truly wild animals in their natural habitat.  We are all getting spoiled by our great zoos, and some of us are lucky enough to have visited the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  So, is it really all that much better to see the animals in Africa?

Yes. It. Is.

And here’s why.  Because seeing them in their natural habitat means seeing them act like the wild animals that they are.

elephant and babyFor instance, on one of our first drives we found ourselves in the middle of a herd of elephants.  The group included a number of young, one of which was quite small (by elephant standards).  Mother elephant was staying very close by her baby and she was keeping a sharp eye on our truck.  We never felt in danger, but eventually our driver suggested we move on, as mama might be a little over our presence.  This was very cool.

Also early in our trip we saw a cheetah.  Cheetahs are elusive and solitary, so they are not easily found.  We were driving off-road in the Serengeti (I can’t believe I just wrote that!) in an area where it is allowed to drive off the dirt tracks for a few months each year.  Anyway, our driver slowed down, then stopped.  We saw a cheetah, quite close to our truck, with its just killed prey.  It had eaten a bit and was resting…and making sure no scavengers got to his prize until he was finished with it.  Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And lions…we saw lots and lots of lions, doing what lions do.  Lions in treeOne day we came across trees filled with female lions and a couple of cubs.  One tree had more than a dozen lions draped across its limbs.  Another time we saw a male and female, who had distanced themselves from the pride for mating season.  We watched them walk from place to place, always the female in yawning lion and babyfront and the male watching her back.  Best of all, we saw a lion with her two very small cubs.  They nuzzled mom, wrestled a bit, and scrambled after her as she climbed down from the rock they were sitting on.  They walked right in front of our truck to cross the road into the high grasses on the other side.  And, there was the time we watched a group of hyenas circling lions and their prey, trying to get up the nerve to challenge the lions.  We finally had to leave, so we didn’t find out who won that stand-off.

I won’t catalogue every animal we saw, but suffice it to say that wildebeests, Cape buffalos, and zebras are clearly not on the endangered species list.  We saw huge herds of all three.  And, that’s another thing you can’t see in even the best zoo.  There is something special about looking out over a plain with animals as far as the eye can see.  We missed the great migration, but this seemed pretty great to me!

Finally, I must talk a little about the giraffes.  In general, the animals didn’t pay much attention to us humans.  The zebras in giraffeparticular would stroll right in front of our truck, which would of course slow down.  Then they (the zebras) would notice us and, with great drama, bolt one way or the other.  But, the giraffes were different.  The truck would stop and we would stand up with our binoculars and cameras, staring at the animals.  And they, with those big beautiful eyes, would stare right back at us.  Occasionally they would walk along-side the truck.  They seemed to find us as interesting as we found them.

If you love animals as I do, Tanzania is the place to be.  There’s no better place in the world to experience the beauty and power of these beasts.