Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When Nature Calls: Ask Her to Book You a Safari

Brian Jackman, 2004 Travel Writer of the Year once said, "Everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is worst of all."  It's true, I've been ailing from my safari affliction since our 2009 honeymoon in Kenya.  There is something so wonderful about safari that it's hard to describe if you've never been on one.  There is a feeling that no habitat, or zoo could ever capture - which is that you are really there on the animal's terms.  The privilege of watching a leopard stalk his prey, or a new born baby monkey cling to its mother's back, is just something that can truly not be recreated.  It also reinforces the often ignored blessing of patience.  Animals do not cater to your ego.  Therefore, safari is in some ways a great equalizer.  No matter who you are, or how much money you have, or how important you may be - the rest of mother nature doesn't care.  The animal kingdom isn't trained to make sure you get your money's worth.  To capture all of these moments is luck of the draw, and based on the animals allowing you to share it.  I also love it because it's not all razzle and dazzle.  In a world that gets faster and flashier with each passing moment, we've become accustomed to an over stimulated environment that can often mean we don't, quite literally, stop and smell the roses.  In a day where you see no big game, you being to take solace in watching a bird build it's nest, or listening to the incredible symphony of the various tree frogs, and realize that these things, too, are far more beautiful than you ever allowed your ears and eyes to believe.  

I can't say enough for our safari experiences except to say that I am deeply, deeply moved by the moments that I've witness in the African plains and Savannah and that the addiction to safari is a welcome one, as long as the remedy is to experience it as many times as possible.  There is no experience I can recommend more highly.

The following are a collection of our favorite images from the Kruger National Park in South Africa and Richard Branson's private reserve Ulusaba in the Sabi Sands.  More so now than ever, I do really feel that the photographs speak for themselves.
A stunning male Kudu crosses the road in Kruger.  Check out that car for scale.
One of the rarest animals to see on safari, the African wild dog, stunningly effective pack hunters.
Sharing the open plain with a mother white rhino and her new baby was a truly special place for a sundowner (read: safari happy hour drinks).
Just in case you needed reminding that they aren't just cute and cuddly.  This male baboon makes himself known.
Sometimes you are just too tall to get to the good stuff!
My Achilles heel.  I simply love elephants and seeing the largest land mammal in the world grazing just a few feet away always takes my breath away. 
The beautiful site of mother and (very new) baby.  Only about 150lbs at 2 months old!
A hot shower is always a luxury in the bush but being about to do so outside looking at the dry riverbed was wonderful.
You never go hungry on safari, I think the guides like to make sure you look tastier than they are in case of emergency.
All I want for Christmas is a...
This lady had it rough.  She was tired and hungry, unfortunately she had a near miss with a warthog as we watched her, which meant back the the drawing board for dinner.
A true tailgate.  The bar is open!
Amazing our guide spotted this chameleon at night in a tree, and Matt of course, took the chance to say hello.
No better place for a dinner over the fire than during the full moon.

While we don't see much at night, no doubt this guy does.
We tried a lot of new experiences this holiday including an attempt at facial hair!
The view overlooking the Savannah from the Rock Lodge at Ulusaba.
We got super luck finding this queen hyena's den!  And there were two little cubs to entertain us!
I may have mentioned that you don't go hungry on safari, well you don't go thirsty either...
The grand hall at Ulusaba uses the local foliage to decorate, including building the roof around existing trees.
Impala have three stripes on their backside that form an "M".  You can always remember this because they are consider the "Big Mac" to lions. :)
An adolescence male white rhino soaks up the rays at sunset.
When your the King of the Jungle you can sit anywhere you please.  Including right out in the open.
My most exhilarating game viewing this safari, a male leopard languidly patrolling his territory.  They are very difficult to see, but when you do - wow - it is a truly stunning looking animal. 

We had the very special opportunity to attend the opening of a brand new kindergarten for local school children who live just outside of the reserve.  Two of the guests (Americans from L.A.) at Ulusaba had sponsored the school.  We were so delighted to have the chance to share in this very special moment.

Alas, although travelling makes you get used to a sense of impermanence, you are still never quite ready to leave a place that you fall in love with.  

Thankfully, I know I've got a boy (and a plane) that will always be ready to return.

1 comment:

jimdad said...

Thanks for another beautiful tour!

Both the photos and commentary are tinged with the bittersweet feeling you obviously still feel after leaving an amazing place like this.