We booked probably the shortest safari possible – 3 days, 2 nights I think it was. During the day on the way in to the park we already saw enough to be excited about, and we got up early after the first night in the camp to head out again. About 10 minutes out of camp I went to put my long lens on my camera and discovered I somehow had failed to include it in my backpack that morning. Distressed at the thought of bringing that giant lens all the way there and then going out on a safari in one of the situations where it really is necessary, I started to fret out load at my predicament, wanting to gauge if anybody cared enough to be willing to go back for it. The truck stopped, and after sitting there and some discussion, it was clear that nobody was really excited about turning around the truck and wasting more time, but nobody wanted to say it and probably wanted to keep me happy since we’d be spending the next 3 days together. And then just as we turned around I found my lens sitting next to me, which was quite embarrassing, but a relief for everyone.
At first it was very exciting to spot elephants and giraffes off in the distance. But I never imagined how close we could drive up to them. As long as we approached slowly, they seemed almost unaware we were there. I always imagined a safari as sneaking up on animals from 200 meters away, catching a glimpse as they ran away and desperately trying to photograph them with a super-telephoto lens. The elephants, giraffes, various antelope, and buffaloes we came across were none shy. But nothing compared to the lions. They would always just be lying there – we could drive up literally to within 5 feet of these guys. And they would just yawn and stare off into the distance. It was surprising, but then again, I guess with no predators they are well aware they are the kings there. What were we gonna do, get out of the truck? Even when they had cubs there jumping around – couldn’t seem to care less we were there. On the other end of the spectrum, unfortunately, were the warthogs and hyenas (not to mention of course the creatures we never saw). The sound of the truck in the distance would usually send these guys scurrying off. They were both particularly intriguing because of, if nothing else, their ugliness and the ways in which they would carry themselves. The warthogs like giant cute pigs vs. giant rodents. The hyenas were like stray dogs, yet evil with their hunched shoulders and large mouths. The animal that most impressed our guide, because he had not seen one like it before, was a giant snake. It was impressive, but with all the input we were getting so fast I would not have appreciated it as much of we had not been told how rare it was to see.
The landscape and atmosphere out there was really breathtaking. At one point I told myself I was going to smack Mike if he said “This is God’s country” one more time, but there was some sort of feeling of truth to it. Standing out the top of the land-rover, Titanic-style, with the wind though my hair as we cruised over the endless plains of grass with tiny giraffes and elephants always in the distance was unforgettable. I spent a lot of time when we were flying completely alone across the savannahs between animal sightings imagining that I was part of a party here in the 19th century, before photos and video and stories of Africa had really reached the west. What it would have been like to be along with the first new westerners that would explore (and exploit) the region for adventure and tales of adventure, tracking new animals. What it was like to be of necessity self-sufficient in ones travels. Wealthy, but nevertheless putting themselves in extreme danger.
I was able to get a number of nice pictures and a few movies of some interesting creatures, here are some of my favorites (click on them, as well as the ones above, to enlarge):