The Trip to Tanzania Was Simply Mesmerizing
It’s Super Bowl weekend. Excitement is in the air. Bobby had gone back to Florida to start planning another safari with Sharon, possibly challenging Mt. Kilimanjaro in October. I am finally rested enough to start organizing pictures and videos taken on the trip. Reflecting back, worlds apart from my current reality, Tanzania, the scenery, the animals, the sound, the smell, the color, and the people. Each frame and clip transport me right back to the magical land; its primordial essence and life force.
Bobby and I booked the safari with ADS two months before our departure. Unlike Bobby, who talked to everyone and their brother who’s ever been on an African safari, I barely read the handbook and got all the gears just a few days before Bobby and I met at the airport.
I wanted to have a firsthand and empirical experience of my African dream safari so I went on the safari without much preconceived notion or expectation. And boy was I elated and amazed by the entire voyage! Our guide, Russell, was AWESOME! Game drives were exciting!! All the tented camps were great. The food was delicious and everybody we met along the journey was wonderful!!!
Since we got back a week ago, I started reading all the other fellow ADS travelers’ “bush reports.” Ha! Our safari was just as brilliant as they had all described! Out of all the memorable moments forever etched in my heart and mind, I think my biggest amazement was that, not unlike human beings, how lonely and vulnerable a wild animal can be once being “kicked out” of its own group, and how collaboration helps survival, with the exception of the solitary female cheetahs, of course.
Two special sightings I’d like to share here are both with cheetahs.
When Russell pulled the car close to a pair of young male cheetahs feasting on their early morning kill, the poor little wildebeest was more than half eaten. Nearby, 30~40 vultures were waiting, and they waited patiently. As each cheetah took turn feeding on the best part of the meat while his buddy on the lookout over the next hour, more vultures landed from above and inched in on the cheetahs as if they knew the cheetahs were almost done. Their patience finally paid off as one of the cheetahs began to walk away. The flock moved in swiftly before the remaining cheetah left. Annoyed, the cheetah turned to the scavengers to chase them away as his buddy joined in to fend off the birds as if telling them THEY were the boss. Wow…what an ugly sight! Within the next 20 minutes, vultures fought off each other to grab a good bite. They squealed, and they fought. I now have a fresh understanding of why calling someone a vulture is such an insult!
Then one day we came upon a slender female cheetah hiding in the tall grass of the open plain. She appeared to be hungry and weak. We watched her in the car over our box lunch rooting for her to get some lunch of her own with perhaps a weaker prey coming through her hideout spot. Without the usual ease and grace, the girl cheetah paced, lied down, stood up, patrolled, dug the ground then sat upright. Appearing alert and a bit nervous over the vultures overhead, the three of us in the car all wondered what was going on. As an hour passed by without much action, Russell suggested that we’d moved in a bit closer before moving on. As soon as we parked the car directly in front of the cheetah blocking her view, she actually became relaxed and fetched out something and began to eat. Much to our amazement, the cheetah actually had a small gazelle hidden in the bush. With this bigah-ha, Russell explained to us about the cheetah’s behavior that we’ve observed in the past hour. Instead of devouring on the fresh kill, for over an hour, the cheetah was trying to fake the vultures so they don’t attract the hyenas to loot her food away. And once we parked the car in front of her blocking her from the hyenas’ view, the cheetah felt safe enough to start dining on the baby gazelle in a hurry. WOW, we had just witnessed a harsh reality for the survivor of the fittest on the Serengeti Plain!
Aside from all the wonderful safari activities, Bobby and I had so much fun competing to see who could spot the most animals without Russell’s help. We even managed to learn all the Swahili names of all the animals encountered along the way. I won, of course. And Bobby was a good sport. But think Russell was actually the one who got entertained the most in our 9-day-long expedition!
All in all, the trip to Tanzania was simply mesmerizing. I am grateful for Bobby and thankful for ADS for making my African dream safari a reality. Wishing all who hear Africa’s calling would come to this magical land and experience its enchantment for themselves at least once in a lifetime. Surely, I will be back.
Judy Peng and Bobby Snyder
Los Angeles, CA and Highland Beach, FL
Safari date: January 17~27, 2013