On safari

This post is a little random in that the topic dates back to safaris some years ago. However, being in Texas very often reminds me of being in the Serengeti—the flatness, the enormous and sometimes dramatic sky, even the smell sometimes. That prompted me recently to revisit my photos from those times. Without wanting in any way to make it sound like I’m rubbing this in, I want to share something of my experiences of safari. For those of you who have considered one, I hope it’s an impetus; for those of you who haven’t, I hope you’ll enjoy the virtual journey, here and through my photos.

What do I remember from my safaris?

Going for a guided walk with a park ranger in Arusha National Park—I don’t know how to describe it other than to say it was like walking into a story. There was something very different about being at ground level and not in a vehicle. At one point, I was quite close to a male giraffe—other giraffes had moved away when they saw us coming, but this one stayed where he was. It was incredible!

Driving through the town of Karatu and buying rice for my bean bag (used to rest the camera on for stabilization) and finding not just fruits and vegetables in the open air market, but all kinds of rice and grains.

Seeing wildebeests and zebras spread across the plains of the Serengeti during the migration – the first time I ever understood the phrase ‘teeming with life.’

Becoming fascinated with birds—I’d never been a birder, but I like watching and taking pictures of the birds in East Africa (what can I say—grey crowned crane vs. city pigeon). It helps that many of the birds are huge and spend a lot of time on the ground—much easier to take pictures of them there!

A kori bustard in the Serengeti.

A kori bustard in the Serengeti.

The iconic image of acacia trees against a sunset sky.

Acacia trees in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Acacia trees in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Being in the Serengeti / Ngorongoro Conservation Area at the time of the wildebeest migration—it’s not just the wildebeests and zebras one sees, but the big cats, who are following their food source and the vultures and scavengers, who are doing the same.

Parking near a kopje and watching a group of lionesses and cubs interact.

A day that was all about cats when I saw a group of lions before breakfast, had cheetah cubs use our vehicle for shade on the pre-lunch game drive, and had a leopard go under our vehicle on the evening game drive. Unlike the cheetahs, who moved out from under the vehicle when the motor was started, the leopard did not and I got a fabulous photo of him when we pulled away from him. Tesha (my guide) and I could not stop smiling and exclaiming on our way back to the lodge that evening.

A four-hour thunderstorm in Ndutu one night that brought the wildebeests and zebras back into the area within 24 hours. There were sections of the plains that were literally black with wildebeests.

Taking a picnic breakfast with us on a dawn game drive so we could stay out longer. That was the morning we witnessed a cheetah hunt (from a distance so as not to interfere) and then spent hours watching the cheetah mum and cubs eat and play. No cup of tea has ever tasted as good as the one I had that morning in the open air.

Clockwise from left: a cheetah cub uses a tire for a perch; cheetah mum "Eleanor," renowned for producing a first litter of six cubs in 2008; Eleanor and one of her cubs.

Clockwise from left: a cheetah cub uses a tire for a perch; cheetah mum “Eleanor,” renowned for producing a first litter of six cubs in 2008; Eleanor and one of her cubs.

Meeting Tesha, who has been my guide three times—I feel like he is my brother.

Driving into the Serengeti and encountering a herd of over 200 elephants. I love elephants and I was so overwhelmed, I could hardly take photos. I had tears in my eyes at seeing all these elephants and I just kept saying ‘omigod, omigod, omigod’. There were young of all sizes, including babies that were barely higher than the grass, and I was trying to look everywhere at once. It still gives me chills to think of it.

While I hope to eventually to explore more safari locations, it is the Serengeti that has resonated with me since my first trip and the place I dream of when I think of going back to East Africa. I know it’s part of a larger ecosystem, and I know it’s just a line on a map, but still, when we enter the Serengeti, my soul is at peace.

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