Saturday, May 19, 2018

On Safari

In the lions' den.
"Safari" is a kiswahili word extracted from the Arabic "safara" and originally meaning merely "journey"  From that, it came to mean hunting for big game in the bush of East Africa.  In contemporary times, it means hunting for game with a camera rather than a gun.  For me, a safari is a uniquely East African occupation.  One does not go "on safari" to South Africa, rather one tours there -- the pursuit of game is not the sole reason for the journey.  If your bucket list includes safari, East Africa is the place for you.  No place can equal the landscape or the plenitude of the game in Kenya, Tanzania, and increasingly once again Uganda. 
Our Driver, Dennis

An East African safari is centered around "game drives" which usually take place twice a day, in the early morning and late afternoon, the times during which game is most active hunting or feeding.  Animals are sensible enough to hunker down during the hot noon-day hours. 
A rare solitary hyena.

Male impala
Game watching on safari is a competitive sport.  Gaggles of tourists bundle themselves into Land Rovers, closed and open, mini-vans, and other assorted vehicles and head out with a sense of adventure.  (My personal "safari vehicle" when I lived in Kenya was a Volkswagen Beetle which could bump along off-road with the best of them. The African veldt does not have the huge boulders and rocks we have in Colorado.)  From the time you depart the tented camp, the competition begins to see who can spot the most game, both in number and variety.  Extra points are awarded for sightings of the Big Five (elephant, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, and rhino).

Our group was divided into two cars, and we set out on our first game drive with great anticipation. The Laikipia plains were full of animals and we gazed with awe at herds of impala, ostrich, zebra, and elephants, along with big birds such as bustard and ostrich.  Our Turkana driver was very knowledgeable and seemed to enjoy the animals as much as we did.  One of our number spotted a leopard in a bush, and we were off tracking the leopard as she enticed us on by showing her spots here and there meandering through the bushland.  Our guide radioed the other vehicle to let them know of the sighting.  They arrived shortly thereafter and the leopard, of course, stopped near their car and posed for close-up photos!  Later our driver learned by radio contact that the other vehicle  had spotted two rhino in the act of fornication!  We rushed off to join that party, but by the time we arrived, the two had separated and the male was trailing after the female, spraying his scent and pleading with her to return. 

Game Drive Bragging Points:  Our group: 1/2 point for leopard sighting; Their group: 2 points for rhino fornication and leopard photos.  The game was on!

Bush Sundowner
Mother giraffe with newborn
The day had begun with a bush breakfast (see last post).  It ended with a bush sundowner, that is, a drink to toast the ending of the day.  And, it was on the way to the sundowner that we saw the greatest view of the day.  A giraffe had just given birth and we sat with hushed voices and watched as the mother encouraged the baby to get up and take his first steps.  We were all winners!  Safari! What an experience!   

No comments:

Post a Comment