Our little West Aussie family of four. Us almost 50. Son in his last year at University. Daughter sitting her final school exams in November. Transitions. A holiday with a difference. A pause before the sprint to the end. A Safari.
An African Dream Safari but…but the ADS office is on the other side of the world. Two long haul flights, 24 hours of non stop travel, Nairobi international airport, quick hop to JRO, midnight African road rules and exhausted to bed.
Tanzania. Cheerful and welcoming. Colours, hard work, busy city, A voice calls ‘Look, white person’, pure happiness on a young face at receiving a football, orphanage struggles and we have still only got as far as Arusha.
Cessna Caravan, snow capped Kilimanjaro way above the clouds, Norongoro collapsed caldera, vast grassland plains, winding Mara reflecting in the sunlight and the Safari begins. First impressions. Impala, Hippo and Giraffe wandering across the airstrip holding up air traffic. Vultures ever present in the trees. Lilac breasted roller.
Ellson, our guide was magnificent. Calm, warm, friendly, an encyclopaedia of knowledge. Everything from the smallest Lovebird to the biggest Elephant was worthy of his considerable knowledge. The patterns on the Giraffe, zigzag of the Zebra stripes and relative plainness of the DickDick. The Black Mamba (the One cigarette snake i.e. enjoy it because it will be your last). The walking safari highlight, the Massai guides making a fire rubbing sticks in a few minutes. Antelope, elephant and giraffe at a safe distance, not forgetting the huge python trail.
The migration. The hillside moves. Barking zebra. Honking Wilderbeast. Hundreds of thousands.
A rhino. Still a few left. A bull elephant, ears flapping we’re in the way, Ellson says I think we’ll move NOW. Cranky and grouchy buffalo, Ellson says I don’t think we will go any closer. The Pride herding the zebra over towards the concealed Lioness, the Kill. Ellson manoeuvring for the best view.
Luxury tenting true to its word. Smoke infused hot water showers, campfires, glowing sunsets, beer and wine to restore the soul, fine dining and meeting new friends from the corners of the Globe. Stars before sunrise, early morning chill.
Roar of the flame. Hot air balloon floating between trees and skimming along at giraffe head height. Roar of the flame. Fire and smoke burning the tall and rank grasses. Sunset magic fading rich red onto the hazy horizon.
Cheetah on the hunt, Lion-King on his kopje, One then two then I don’t believe it eight lioness concealed in the grass, (Ellson says NO, do not get out of the vehicle), Leopards yellow eyes looking down from just up there. Hyena and Vultures arguing over the scraps. Red flash of the Weaver, Blue metallic Starling, Emerald green Lovebird, Golden yellow bee catcher, Pink flamingo, Crested Crane, Bustard and so the dazzle goes on.
Back in Oz. What a trip! Sublime. But more than that, land of spectacle, land of contrasts, land of sunsets, land of the energy, land of surprise, land of wilderness, land of the Safari. Revitalised with thanks to ADS.
Jim, Helen, Alistair and Abbey Leighton
Albany, Western Australia, July 2012