My wife and I met many years ago while we were both working at a local humane society. Animals were part of our courtship (our two old dogs fell in love, and that seemed like a good idea to us) and animals have always been a big part of our family. Back when we first married we promised ourselves that someday we'd travel to Africa and see the elephants and lions, there where they belong, and we just fulfilled that promise by celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary on safari to Tanzania. We traveled with two friends, also animal people (one the recently retired director of another humane society, the other a veterinarian).
A pleasant side benefit to this remarkable journey: we had no email, no Internet, no cell phones for the two weeks we were gone. Old school, I kept a journal. What follows here, and what will follow for a number of days, are posts which started out written long-hand while laying in a tent or under the shade of umbrella acacia trees.
Day 1: We don't know all that we'll see. Wildlife, of course, does not get programmed and it will be what it will be. But even though everyone told us we wouldn't be able to miss seeing elephants up close even if for some bizarre reason we wanted to (among those animals Carolyn and I both find completely fascinating, both in terms of their physicality and what really can only be referred to as their culture) we really were not prepared for how many elephants, or how quickly and easily we'd come across them. This, our first morning, flying in a little bush plane, there was a small herd of elephants (including two babies) just leaving the dirt landing strip. We stayed aloft a bit longer than planned to let them move on at their own pace.
It is amazing, just amazing, to be here. We are so very fortunate!
At the moment and for the next 24 ours, "here" is a bush tent in Tarangire National Park, the northeastern corner of Tanzania. After 22+ hours of air travel from home, straightening my body was like unfolding wood, but that ache is completely trivial in comparison to the wonders everywhere we look, for the few elephants who were with us when we landed were just the start. At times today we found ourselves sitting quietly among herds of hundreds of these remarkable animals as our guide Julius drove us slowly through the bush for several hours in an open-side/open-top Land Cruiser. (An elephant is trumpeting somewhere nearby while I sit writing this.)
And, of course, not elephants alone. Today, all in all, we counted 69 different species of animal , including: Maasai giraffe, yellow baboons, impala, dik dik, four species of eagle (brown snake eagle, long-crested Eagle, tawny, and spotted), the rather gorgeous superb starling (iridescent blue back and robin-red chest; hard to imagine most people at home using the words "superb" and "starling" next to each other), the very cool crowned crane.
A late afternoon drive ended with a small herd of 7 Cokes Hartebeest running alongside the Toyota, matching our speed for several miles. One of the several types of antelope we've seen this day (with more, likely, to follow in the days ahead), this is a large animal sloped from the taller forequarters back to the hind and white rump, the large ringed and sickle-shaped horns curving first forward and then back. I've read that we may see herds of up to several thousands of these majestic animals.
One exciting post-script (OK, I find this exciting) to an already exciting, incredible day: Walking to the tent, a shine in the dirt proved to be a broken bit of an ancient stone tool knapped into this shape centuries ago, the reflection calling attention to the dime-sized bit of quartz which otherwise would have surely continued to go unnoticed. I am reminded that we, too, are an animal who began life here in Mother Africa.