Words by Jess…
Experiencing the African wildlife first hand was incredibly surreal. It changed my life. Brian and I could not be more grateful for the amazing experience. It seems almost cliche to say, but it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not to say we did not immediately add “African Safari” back on the bucket list, but it was once in a lifetime in the sense that we will never experience Africa the same way twice. Many fellow travelers on the trip that had been on a prior safari expressed this sentiment as well.
Enjoy some of our most memorable safari stories…
While Brian was taking memorable photos, I was observing, journaling and marking my animal checklist. Throughout the week we saw 38 animal species and over 50 bird species. At first I used the checklist to help remember what we saw, but soon it became a challenge to spot rare species. Though the rare animals were exciting to see, some of our favorites were more common.
Most people who know me know that I love elephants and they are one of my favorite animals. Near the end of the second day, we saw a very large heard of elephants from afar. We made our way down to a dry river bed to find a family of 12 elephants. We watched them for over half hour as they used their powerful trunks to pull branches and leaves from trees and thick grass from the ground. As they continued to eat, they moved closer and closer to our jeep. I could have sat and watched them for hours – they are such gentle and beautiful animals. The 3-month-old baby was most fun to watch as he clumsily followed his mom. As the sun began to set and the elephants moved on, we made our way back up to the main dirt path to discover tons of elephants moving across the road to green land. It was estimated by our guide to be a heard of 250 elephants. It was such an awe-inspiring experience.
Of course our encounters with lions were breathtaking as well. In the Ngorongoro Crater we were so fortunate to see a large pride of lions (4 males, 3 females and 5 cubs) with a recent kill. At one point we followed a lioness and her cub to a watering hole, where the mischievous cub played as mom hydrated. Later we returned to the kill where the males were showing whose territory it was by rubbing and peeing on the jeeps. They were so close I literally could have pet one (though I wouldn’t be writing this if I was stupid enough to do that). Needless to say lions are incredibly powerful, which I found to be so beautiful. They were certainly another animal I could have sat and watched for hours, even as they slept.
Lions sleep almost all day and are much more active at night. So as we slept at night in our tents, we could hear many of the animals nearby. In fact many heard lions roar, hyenas and zebras in the dead of night all around our camp.
Before the sun rose each day, we were up and in our jeeps ready to catch a glimpse of wildlife. A few of the rare and fortunate sightings were of a black rhino and baby, cheetah, kudu, spotted eagle owl and a reed buck.
Though one of the most common, the wildebeest were entertaining to watch as they followed each other in a straight line wherever they went. Their leaders were the zebra, which were much more vibrant and stunning in person than I ever imagined. The impala, and Thompson gazelles were fun to watch as they pranced around – in fact, the dozen different antelope we spotted were all unique and interesting to watch move about.
Though I could tell story after story about each animal and the experience seeing them, enjoy another view through Brian’s lens…
Tarangire National Park