Safari is over. This makes me really sad. Seven amazing days visiting the parks of northern Tanzania. I cannot recommend it enough.
Now, my bachelor’s degree is in biology. My thesis was in behavioural ecology. (Behavioural ecology of Sable Island seals, not Serengeti lions, but still, there is a point here.)
I have dreamt of going on safari for many, many years. There were things I wanted very much to see. And I believed my background made me the perfect safari tourist. Educated and curious. However, as it turned out I still had much to learn.
In no particular order, here are ten things I learned while on safari:
1. Zebras have bad backs.
Which is apparently one of the primary reasons they were never domesticated like other horse-like species. It has been tried, but they can neither carry a load nor a rider. Also, I believe they may be too stubborn to take orders anyway. Good on you, zebras.
2.Giraffes are much better camouflaged than I ever gave them credit for.
You might not think it by looking at them out in the open, but they blend incredibly well into the trees. Numerous times we were almost on top of them before we saw them. Sneaky buggers.
3. Lions are surprisingly lazy.
Particularly the males. At least the lionesses hunt now and then.
Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise. They are cats, after all. But they sleep and sleep and sleep. All a girl wants is a picture. Stand up. Pose. Roar. Just once. Pretty please?
4. I never want to lose a fight with an elephant.
OK, maybe I knew this before safari, too. But boy was it confirmed. From a distance they appear peaceful, even graceful, despite their girth. But then two elder males get between your jeep and the young, and stare you down. And you notice just how big they are. And you hope they are not angry.
5. Leopards climb trees.
Note taken. Will devise a new escape plan.
6. Hippos stink.
Literally, not figuratively. If you can get past the smell, or just hold your breath, they are interesting enough. But phew! The stink. “Water pigs,” D was calling them. They play around in stagnant water. Splashing and swimming. Fighting and playing. Not to mention urinating and defecating. Ick.
We did get to see one swim, though, and can they ever move. Again, very surprised.
7. Crocodiles are bigger than I ever imagined.
In theory I knew a croc could be much bigger than those I had seen to date, but there is something about actually seeing a large croc that gives me shivers just remembering it. He was in excess of three meters long, and must have been ¾ meter across. He could have eaten me for lunch, and still wanted dessert. We actually saw crocs that had killed two gazelles. Madness.
7. It takes six lions about 45 minutes to devour one zebra.
Actually six mature lions would probably do it in half that time. This was one lioness, 3 young males, and two cubs. From killing to a shell of skin and bones in 45 minutes. It was fascinating to watch. (Perhaps what I really learned from this is I have a very twisted sense of “entertainment.” Poor zebra never hurt nobody.)
8. Cats are awesome.
They really are. All of them. I could watch them for hours. And takes hundreds of photos. Hundreds.
9. Wildebeests are sexy.
Don’t laugh. OK, laugh. I don’t care. They are. All sleek and lean and shaggy and awkward and, well… horny. Enough said.
10. Africa has the best birds ever.
The colours, the sizes, and even the names. Beautiful. Creative. Funny.
Oh, yes. And the 11th thing I learned on safari: Bring toilet paper. And be prepared to squat. Cause this might be the best toilet you get.