The List: Number 31 – Rock an African Safari

This has been on The List since it's inception. Let me tell you right now, it was phenomenal, but no where near as phenomenal in my head. For example, in my head I didn't have secondary degree burns (complete with blisters) to my face. In my head I wasn't exhausted or sore from climbing Kili. Literally, we got off the mountain, spent one night in Moshi and the next morning? Into jeeps, where we would spend the next three days, easily eight hours a day, baking in the sun. You can see how that might affect a safari.

Still, it was fairly amazing. That first morning I climbed into the front of a jeep (we had such a big crew that we had 3 jeeps for all of us) and our driver, Steven, was awesome. He was big and cheery and well spoken. He laughed all the time, which made for an amusing safari. He also had keen eyes, and would point out all sorts of things we would have missed otherwise, like dung beetles pushing their little ball of poop down the road, about half the size of your fist (seriously, how did he spot that?). Once he realised that one of us was a bird enthusiast, he started pointing all of the birds, the gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous birds. So many that I stopped talking photos of all of them.

We drove through Tarangire + Ngorongoro Crater, and you wouldn't have believed all the wildlife we saw. Lions, and elephants and zebra and warthogs and just, it was phenomenal. It was also a bit weird, because for most of it, it was just like watching cows in a field. The zebras graze, and the lions nap and the elephants wander as they please. They ignored you, just like they would in a zoo (apart from one elephant, who was determined she was going to cross the road where she wanted, and the cars could get out of the way). They got pretty close, and really didn't worry about us at all. We weren't allowed to go off the road, so we didn't, but we also really didn't have to.

The worst thing was that in the beginning, I was all ZOMG ELEPHANTS! OMFG THAT IS A BABY ELEPHANT! and then twenty minutes later, after hordes of them had crossed our path I was all, meh. More elephants. Which kind of blows my mind. By the end of the trip I was excited to see all the animals out in the wild, but it was a bit like at the end of long day at the zoo. You're a bit tired, and really you just want to go home and nap. Still, reliving it through all the photos and telling people about woke up some of the excitement.

I was a bit worried in the beginning about how our presence would effect the animals lives. Would it change their behaviour? Would it be detrimental to them? Turns out, yes it changes their behaviour. They care very little about cars that drive past them. Also, if some of the bigger carnivores realised that cars were basically cans of sardines packed with soft fleshy unable to run very fast people, I think their behaviour would change even more. However, I don't think it's detrimental. As long as people stick to the roads (and safari operators are very careful to stick to the rules, else their permits are revoked) then I think its okay. We don't leave anything behind us. Also, tourism like this helps bring in much needed funds to countries like Tanzania, and I think the bulk of the park fees go towards maintaining the reservations for the animals and keeping them as safe (as possible) from poachers. I was okay to be there in the end.

So then, how about a million photos of all the animals? These were all taken by me, off the back of the safari jeep. Aw yeah.

Tarangire.

God, what a gorgeous place. It's all dirt roads and dust and heat. There are ridiculous amounts of elephant here, a mammoth amount. I couldn't even believe it. There are also the super annoying tsetse flies, the kind that bite. I spent forever covering myself in deet and banging shit around the back of the jeep trying to kill them.

This is the elephant I was talking about. Look how close she got to us!

The dung beetles. Apparently the male pushes the ball around, the the female just chills out.

These guys! What thieves! They hung out around the cars, and if a window was open, or a door unlocked they scavanged for food. I even saw one peer (with his paws around his eyes to block out the sun) through a front windscreen to see if there was anything in it!)

Tis an elephant skull. Massive, right?

Ngorongoro Crater Was also a pretty phenomenal place. The view from the top was unbelievable. It was gorgeous! And offered such a range of different ecosystems. It was definitely a highlight. Also, there are designated eating places where you're allowed to get out of the car. I thought they were fenced, but no way. You watch some lions napping, drive over a hill and have lunch by a lake filled with hippos. Madness. Even more mad was one of our cars got a flat, so everyone had to get out so they could jack it up and change it. We were all, wtf, where were those lions?! It was insane.

Watching the lions was incredible, though. They napped for a lot of it, but when they spied a warthog at a water hole, the started moving. It was a very slow business. A few steps here, and then a lie down. Watching, being very aware of their prey without appearing to care at all. Goodness. We watched about a half hour of very careful and slow stalking. I could have watched all day, but alas. There were other things to see!

What else can I say? The pictures pretty much speak for themselves. It was AWESOME.

So yes. Number 31, done!