It was a fun couple of days at The Wedge. Enjoy.
Words by Jess…
Experiencing the African wildlife first hand was incredibly surreal. It changed my life. Brian and I could not be more grateful for the amazing experience. It seems almost cliche to say, but it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not to say we did not immediately add “African Safari” back on the bucket list, but it was once in a lifetime in the sense that we will never experience Africa the same way twice. Many fellow travelers on the trip that had been on a prior safari expressed this sentiment as well.
Enjoy some of our most memorable safari stories…
While Brian was taking memorable photos, I was observing, journaling and marking my animal checklist. Throughout the week we saw 38 animal species and over 50 bird species. At first I used the checklist to help remember what we saw, but soon it became a challenge to spot rare species. Though the rare animals were exciting to see, some of our favorites were more common.
Most people who know me know that I love elephants and they are one of my favorite animals. Near the end of the second day, we saw a very large heard of elephants from afar. We made our way down to a dry river bed to find a family of 12 elephants. We watched them for over half hour as they used their powerful trunks to pull branches and leaves from trees and thick grass from the ground. As they continued to eat, they moved closer and closer to our jeep. I could have sat and watched them for hours – they are such gentle and beautiful animals. The 3-month-old baby was most fun to watch as he clumsily followed his mom. As the sun began to set and the elephants moved on, we made our way back up to the main dirt path to discover tons of elephants moving across the road to green land. It was estimated by our guide to be a heard of 250 elephants. It was such an awe-inspiring experience.
Of course our encounters with lions were breathtaking as well. In the Ngorongoro Crater we were so fortunate to see a large pride of lions (4 males, 3 females and 5 cubs) with a recent kill. At one point we followed a lioness and her cub to a watering hole, where the mischievous cub played as mom hydrated. Later we returned to the kill where the males were showing whose territory it was by rubbing and peeing on the jeeps. They were so close I literally could have pet one (though I wouldn’t be writing this if I was stupid enough to do that). Needless to say lions are incredibly powerful, which I found to be so beautiful. They were certainly another animal I could have sat and watched for hours, even as they slept.
Lions sleep almost all day and are much more active at night. So as we slept at night in our tents, we could hear many of the animals nearby. In fact many heard lions roar, hyenas and zebras in the dead of night all around our camp.
Before the sun rose each day, we were up and in our jeeps ready to catch a glimpse of wildlife. A few of the rare and fortunate sightings were of a black rhino and baby, cheetah, kudu, spotted eagle owl and a reed buck.
Though one of the most common, the wildebeest were entertaining to watch as they followed each other in a straight line wherever they went. Their leaders were the zebra, which were much more vibrant and stunning in person than I ever imagined. The impala, and Thompson gazelles were fun to watch as they pranced around – in fact, the dozen different antelope we spotted were all unique and interesting to watch move about.
Though I could tell story after story about each animal and the experience seeing them, enjoy another view through Brian’s lens…
Tarangire National Park
Words by Jessica…
Our trip to Johannesburg was somewhat of a whirlwind, but it was well worth the few days we were able to spend there. Our first full day in Joburg was spent with four beautiful South African women who took us to a school. The humble school was the learning hub for many children in the surrounding shanty town. Though most of them were away due to school holiday, there were a few classrooms filled with kids ages 2-7. As we entered the classroom, the kids swarmed around us hugging our legs and putting there thumbs out as a gesture of “hello.” It was so touching to see their smiling faces as they played in the small yard just beyond the classroom. We were able to learn more about the school as we were given the tour. Three of the four women who guided us were from another branch of the organization called Orange Farm – where their goal is to empower women who are mothers of children with disabilities, and to create schools where the children can learn in a safe and welcoming environment. Each of the women told us their stories about the struggles they face due to a lack of education on disabilities, abandonment from the child’s father, and the fight to provide health care and education to their children. We were so thankful for them for sharing their touching and inspiring stories with us. Our experience with them is certainly one we will never forget.
We also had an opportunity to walk around the shanty town as we were escorted by the women and two high school boys. They said the shanty town had significantly improved as we would not have been able to walk around 10 years ago. Though we did not feel unsafe, we did feel like we stuck out quite obviously and it was a strange experience. In all, it was humbling to see so many smiling faces in the midst of such severe poverty in the shanty towns.
From the moment we stepped foot off the plane, we were warmly embraced by the people of Tanzania. Our safari guides were the first to welcome us to their beautiful country. From South Africa we traveled to Kenya and then to our safari starting point, the infamous Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
Though we spent most of our safari interacting with animals in the bush, the people we met along the way made impactful impressions on us. Throughout the safari we switched jeeps so we could meet different guides – all which were very knowledgeable and friendly. It was interesting to learn about them, their families and perspective on life in Tanzania. Through them we not only learned about the animals we were seeing, but about the culture of the people and the many tribes. In Tanzania the official language is Swahili and English, but each tribe has their own language.
We were fortunate to meet people of the Maasai tribe. We went to one of their villages near the Ngorongoro Crater. They are nomadic people who raise cattle and farm the land. We were welcomed to enter one of their huts made of cow dung, straw and wood where families share a very small space. The also welcomed us in a traditional dance, showed us the beautiful beadwork they do for a living and showed us how they live.
The Manyara Ranch School was another opportunity we had to meet some incredible people. A large group of children sang the Tanzania national anthem to us when we first arrived. It was such an amazing introduction.
On the road from one national park to the next we saw many smiling faces and children excitedly waving to us as we drove past. It was amazing to get a glimpse into their culture and their world – and it is something we appreciate and will always remember about our travels.
I hope you enjoy the view through Brian’s camera lens…
Tarangire National Park
Words by Jessica…
Brian and I have been so fortunate in life especially when it comes to travel, which is one of our greatest passions. This last month, my parents generously took us on an African Safari, which turned out to be one of the most amazing trips of our lives.
Since Africa has been on my bucket list for some time, I had certain expectations of what it would look like as I’m sure all of us did. Somehow it exceeded all of those expectations.
We visited three locations in Tanzania: Tarangire National Park, the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park. It was incredible how beautiful and vastly different the landscape was even within the same national park let alone from one side of the country to the other. The sunrises and sunsets were always spectacular especially with Acacia trees, rivers or rocky terrain in the forefront.
It amazed us how the animals adapted and blended in with the earth, and how everything seemed to fit so perfectly. We really enjoyed soaking in every bit of Tanzania, from the red clay dirt to the sun in the sky – so much so that we cannot wait to return again one day. Enjoy.
Tarangire National Park