Tag Archives: Safari

Discovery Channel Live

There are far too many thoughts, to really ever sum up our safari in one post. I am sure we will make a couple posts over time about specific parts of the trip, or reviewing G adventures whom we did the trip with. In the end though, there is an overwhelming amount of feelings and thoughts that you have over a 24-day overland Africa trip. I won’t begin to try to cover it here, but I did want to write out a few thoughts before they fade from memory. (From Erin — the long and short of it is that it is awesome and you can totally hang. [Even we totally hung, and if you ask around, you will find that I am not low maintenance.] If you are thinking of doing a 24-day overland African safari…just do it…it will be amazing. Sure, sometimes you will be uncomfortable, but mostly, it will be just fine. We had a good time on our G Adventures tour — one awesome guide and one fine guide. We are guessing that other operators do it just fine too. Find an operator with a sale going on, and just book it.)

1. A safari is like a really long unedited version of Discovery channel.

Seriously, all the things you see on animal planet are real, and common — not even that hard to find. You can find a sleeping lion next to it’s kill with baboons taunting it for fun, while a jackal tries to creep in and steal some loose meat from the kill.

2. You will appreciate zoos a bit more

I am not talking about sad zoos that mistreat animals. I am talking about ones with breeding programs for endangered animals. Ones that are helping study animal behavior in responsible ways. Even things like Disney’s animal kingdom, which is massive, and really simulates open wild game parks. There are tons of animals in the wild having their habitats split up and destroyed in ways that will decimate the animal populations. Without study and intervention, some species will die because we don’t understand their migration patterns and we destroyed a part of it.

Some of the breeding programs are the best bets to help some animals survive. Also, when an environment is built really well it can help study animal behavior in less invasive and destructive ways than completely invading the space of the few remaining wild groups of animals.

Finally, having seen some animals in a zoo and as a child, I thought the animals just laid around boring like that because they are in captivity — so not true. Free and wild lions will sleep 20 hours a day, and really don’t give a crap about tourists or most other animals if they aren’t hungry at the moment. So, what you see in a good zoo is a pretty accurate sample of their lifestyle. If you are at a humane zoo, you can see real animals behavior without hours in a hot truck. I am not saying that zoos are the same as safaris, or that we don’t need protected parks if we have zoos, I am just saying that good zoos can be part of the overall solution to protect and fund habitats for the planet’s animal population.

3. Everything is 50/50 in Africa.

  • Is it going to rain? 50/50
  • Will we reach camp before sunset? 50/50
  • Does the campsite have hot water? 50/50
  • Will we be chased by hyenas when we try to make it to the bathroom in the middle of the night? 50/50

4. After the Safari I have come to appreciate some things much more than I used to, a few examples below:

  • hooks (particularly in bathroom showers)
  • hot showers
  • showers that don’t electrocute you (we ran into slightly electrocuting water faucets at two different campsites)
  • flush-able toilets (although I will still take the “long drop” over a flush-able squat toilet)
  • traffic laws
  • a back-lit kindle
  • good headlamps or lanterns
  • a real bed
  • non-instant coffee (thanks Joel, for the coffee pot filter trick)
  • really cold beer (this one is for Mauricio)

5. You will watch something amazingly beautiful and brutal at the same time

Probably the most interesting thing we watched on safari was a leopard that carried it’s Red Buck kill across the road and then up into a tree. It was pretty incredible to watch and  it seemed a bit odd to so casually watch the rawness of life.

celebrating its victory
celebrating its victory

“When you see a herd of animals with a predator nearby, you always cheer for the prey. ‘You can do it, run, run…stay together… ‘ but once it is obvious that the predator is going in for the kill, you begin to cheer for the predator, ‘kill, kill,’ because you realize that the lion is hungry… and you want to see it happen.” -Erin

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Kenya and Uganda Overland, Days 1 – 6

Over the course of four days we rode across most of Kenya and Uganda in an overland truck (it’s a truck, not a f***ing bus), crossing the equator a couple of times, and camping along the way. We advanced from standard users to advanced users of squat toilets. I got safari ants up my pants all the way to my crotch, so that when they started biting, I had to actually drop trou in the middle of the trail and in front of our African guide and half of my truck crew, while Dan and I both worked to peel them off. (Travel tip: ALWAYS tuck your pants into your socks in the bush, plus, it’s a super cool look.) And all we got were these awesome pictures.

We tracked wild gorillas through the Ugandan mountains. There are only 600 mountain gorillas remaining in the wild, roughly split between Uganda and Rwanda. Of the roughly 300 gorillas in Uganda, approximately 100 are habituated to humans — that is, to fund conservation efforts, they tolerate humans taking pictures of them for about an hour each day. The trick, of course, is that the trackers just track gorillas, using GPS to find the approximate location of the habituated groups, but if the groups cross paths, they cannot be sure whether they are tracking the habituated groups or wild families. Our trackers found truly wild mountain gorillas, and then brought us along to track them, through the “deep bush” (i.e. you need a porter in front of you cutting away the forest, helping you find your footing, and grunting in order to stop the wild silverback from charging you) for three hours. Our total hike time was about 7 hours — so it took us about two hours each way to get to where we left the trail. But we did get to see truly wild mountain gorillas — the silverback protected the females and their babies (often giving our trackers and porters a bit of a scare and causing us to nearly need a change of underwear), and the females carried their babies on their backs, running away from us large, machete-wielding, picture-taking, fellow primates. After three hours in the bush, and getting a few, half-decent shots, we were — as several of our truckmates might say — completely knackered. So we went back to our bags for some much needed lunch and water (we had left all our provisions behind when we thought we were just five minutes away from an habituated group.) While sitting on the side of the trail, stuffing our faces, one of the guys in our group stood up, looks back on the trail and says, “There are three gorillas right there. I shit you not.” A mom and a three-year-old and a baby from the habituated group made a brief appearance right on our trail, due, likely, to the famous curiosity of said three-year-old, and the fact that the habituated group hadn’t had their daily visit.
More pictures from our gorilla tracking adventure:
In preparation for our gorilla trek, we spent a morning tracking chimpanzees through Kalinzu Forest Reserve. We found a wild group way up in the canopy that did not care one way or the other about us looking up at them from below. They cared so little, in fact, that one of the males took the opportunity to copulate with a female having her estrus for the third time. (You can tell a female is in heat by her swollen rear end. They go into heat frequently — often twice a month — until they get pregnant.) The reason that the non-dominant male was able to copulate with the female was that the females often don’t get pregnant until their fourth or so estrus, which is when the dominant male begins to be protective of their copulation.
A few more pictures from our African overland adventure so far:
Sunset in Nairobi.
Sunset in Nairobi.
Our truck.
Our truck.
Erin on the bus, I mean truck, after eight hours.
Erin on a bus, I mean truck, after eight hours.
Rift Valley.
Great Rift Valley
Buying fresh veg for dinner on the side of the road.
Buying fresh veg for dinner on the side of the road.
Equator.
The Equator.
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The Equator.
Campsite in Uganda.
Campsite in Uganda.
Campsite in Uganda
Campsite in Uganda.