We board a small aircraft, find our seats and settle. We are off. We fly real low and soon we are treated to an aerial view of the Serengeti beneath our feet. Its easy to see the ground and we peel our eyes for animals. I fantasize seeing a lion catch an antelope for dinner and fondly recall childhood memories of watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild kingdom. In a pinch me kind of moment, here I am in Africa in the Serengeti, searching for animals.
We land in the middle of no where, on a dirt landing strip. There are four safari vehicles and their drivers stand by ready to greet us. We are introduced and split into two main groups, campers and lodge dwellers. John and I opted for the experience of camping. We wanted to be as close to the animals as possible and be immersed totally in the experience.This seemed like a great idea back home, but now I’m not as certain. My stomach remains queasy from Kilimanjaro and I wonder if we will regret our choice.
We further split into our respective safari vehicles. We will be riding with Stephen. Our vehicle name is Chui, Swahili for Leopard. We say good bye to half our group and begin our adventure. Moments later we are all at the same place where the drivers need to do paperwork presumably to admit us into the park, though we are not certain. We use the time to take photos. I find curious animals behind a building and happily snap their photos. They seem used to the attention and I become worried as I wonder about my safety. I know nothing about them and I’m alone. I find John and tell him about the cool animals, he rushes off to take their pictures. I spot a brightly colored lizard and take 50 or more pictures, thanking technology for digital photography.
We will travel through three parks. Our driver has told us that the Serengeti would be the appetizer. Ngorongoro would be the main course and we would end at Tarangire, our dessert. The Serengeti and Tarangire are National parks, Ngorongoro is a conservation area. It’s interesting, but I’m just excited about whether we will see Giraffes.
We are off in search of animals. The Safari vehicles bump along the dirt roads and we stand up in search of animals. Stephen seems to have amazing sight and sees the animals far in the distance. John and I did not expect to take photos so soon. We try using the tripod but it is of no use in the Safari vehicle. The pod beanbag is packed, we make do with two camera bodies, a 200mm lens and a 500mm lens and stabilize using the vehicle. This is less than optimal but we persevere. It’s exciting to see Cape buffalo, Cliff Springers, Ostriches and just as we turn into our home for the night we see Giraffes. They are covered in birds who are foraging on the mites on their bodies. The Giraffes move gracefully and seem to float. We spend much time watching them move and graze. The lighting is poor for pictures though I happily snap away recording the moment as well as possible. I take the camera away from my eye and am present in the moment as I snap a photo for my internal memory.
Our campsite is mere moments away and tonight we will sleep with Giraffes close. We ask the drivers about the possibility of lions eating us and are told that we will be fine. They tell us that the lions are not interested in us at all. Still, we are told not to leave our tent at night and if we have no choice, we should leave in pairs. We ask if someone will stay awake at night to keep us safe. This seems funny to them as they tell us no. It seems odd to us that only canvas separates us from the animals.