Safari Adventures: It’s like the Lion King or Discovery Channel -only real and unedited.

Best photo bomb ever with the giraffes; a sand tornado, our safari jeep & all 25 volunteers on safari
Can you spot the BEST PHOTO BOMB ever? (with the giraffes); a sand tornado, our safari jeep & all 25 volunteers on safari

In Swahili “safari” means trip or vacation. Not crazy-cool-awesome-African-animal-wildlife-adventure as we know it to mean. How much more rad would it be if every time you got away, even on a weekend trip to say Wisconsin, you said you were going on safari? I mean, even in Europe they call it “holiday.” Both sound so much more like a mystical fantasy getaway than “trip” does.

Immediately after arriving in-country, a group of 25 of us volunteers booked a weekend safari with Pristine Trails. Pristine was simply wonderful and I highly recommend them! Adam our coordinator was fantastic (and adorable) and made everything so easy for us! On our way to the safari parks, we stopped to visit the Maasai Tribe. They are the only tribe (of over 140 tribes) that still completely lives by and follows tradition. They believe they get all the nutrients they need from the cow so they only eat cow meat and drink cow blood. I actually felt scammed and pressured to buy jewelry. Tourists come to see them all the time, so they profit off of us. But seeing their tribal dances and their homes were really neat. I guess the cow method works for them – they live long lives, are all over 6 feet tall, and when they jump vertically, man do they get air!

The Maasai

To see animals in the zoo is fun for a little while but then you are reminded they are trapped in captivity and you feel bad for them. To see the animals in their natural habitat, roaming completely free and wild in nature is unlike any other experience I’ve ever had. The animals and terrain – it is literally a live version of The Lion King. It felt very much like an out-of-body experience for me, as if I was watching Nat Geo or Discovery Channel only real and without a TV screen to protect me from the wild animals. This was up close and personal with nature at its best.

We got to visit two National Parks: Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Park. Between the two, we saw four out of five of The Big 5 (cape buffalo, leopard, lion, elephant and rhino). I was bummed that the only one we didn’t see was a leopard. There are only about 4,000 black rhinos left in the world and we saw 3 of them! We also saw a family of about 30 elephants bathing (one of the highlights!), tons of giraffes and wildebeests, water buffalo, a hyena, a jackal eating a gazelle, a baby gazelle just minutes after it was born and struggling learning to walk, zebras, so many gorgeous and vibrantly colorful birds, hippos, ostriches, baboons and monkeys that even stole our chocolate and cookies from our lunches. The zebras seemed to always be posing for photos. They are very photogenic! One of my favorite, most symbolic photos is of a water buffalo standing besides a skull of another water buffalo.

My group for the safari was so much fun. We took dirty photos of the animals and scenery and kept playing songs from The Lion King; even our driver sang along to Hakuna Matata! Whenever I saw the warthogs, all I could think about was Pumba singing, “I clear the savanna after every meal.” 

One of the highlights: seeing the elephants bathe

 My driver spotted two figures out in the distance about a mile away that appeared to be approaching us. It turned out to be two brother lions that walked right up to our jeeps (and peed on the jeep behind me), and then kept walking. As they passed us, I saw two warthogs notice the lions strolling towards them and they took off in the other direction faster than their little legs could carry them. It was adorable and amusing but a reminder that this wasn’t a movie, it was real life, and I was witnessing the power of the food chain. Lions are cool in a zoo, but in the wild, they are absolutely stunningly beautiful and extremely majestic. I was mesmerized by their beauty. These brothers were slowly strutting towards us with such an arrogance kind of like they were saying, Yeah, look at us you silly tourists, we’re The Kings of this savanna, so we’re going to pee on your jeep just to prove it to you.

The progression of them coming closer and closer.
Beautiful brothers. (All photos here are mine except the one where I am clearly not taking it)                                                            Maybe Bert’s? If it is yours and you want photo credit, please let me know and I’ll gladly update it.

The monkeys were everywhere, on the street and in the trees. It was really neat to see the female cleaning the male, just as I’d seen in videos but this was IRL! During lunch, Chris was enjoying his cookie, when suddenly a monkey came from the trees and snatched it straight from his hand. Another one came towards me, I grabbed my lunch and ran. He grabbed the chocolate I accidentally left behind. He was fascinating to watch and he knew to unwrap it just like humans do. Another group went back to their jeep after lunch only to find a monkey sitting in the backseat eating their food. #cuterascals

Bottom middle: the monkey eating Chris’s cookie. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have gotten that close.
Baby Gazelle, Jackyl & Gazelle, warthog, Water buffalo alive & dead, hyenas, hippos & zebras
Baby Gazelle, jackal & gazelle, warthog, water buffalo alive & dead, hyenas, hippos & zebras

This is already photo heavy as it is – so if you want to see more pictures click here.

I wish we could have stayed in tents in the national parks but we didn’t. I think it would be have been so neat to sleep in their territory, listening to them howl before you go to sleep. But we slept at a much safer campsite. I smile every time I look at these photos and still am in disbelief that I did it and am able to cross it off my Life List. There will be a next time because I know I will do another safari at some point. The joys of witnessing nature, no one trip will ever be the same.

Author: Caryn

Hi! My name is Caryn. I'm a midwest transplant living on the east coast. I love games, asking questions, making lists, and sunshine. I dream of someday owning an antique car, starting my own charity, and traveling the world. Welcome to my Blog!

19 thoughts on “Safari Adventures: It’s like the Lion King or Discovery Channel -only real and unedited.”

  1. Aw, please don’t think of zoo animals as trapped in captivity! I’ve worked at a zoo, and I can tell you that the animals in zoos are very well taken care of and are given the best nutrition for each individual creature, big or small. They are provided with daily enrichment to keep their brains buzzing and their creativity flowing. Most zoo animals are born in zoos, so they are not even aware that they are “missing” their natural habitat. Of course, seeing animals in the great big Sahara is incredible and I wish we didn’t need zoos for conservation! But zoos today have come so far from what they used to be. Don’t pity zoo animals, they are living the lush life today!

    1. Oh, I don’t mean to hate on zoos. Chicago has a great (and free!) zoo – Lincoln Park Zoo- that I love visiting during the summers. But at the end of the day, even if they are given good care to help enrich their lives, they are still in captivity in manmade habitats and caged off areas. They are not enriching their own lives, roaming free in the wild in their natural habitat. There is just no comparison to zoo animal life and those in the wild.

      1. LPZoo is pretty fabulous. I worked there. 😉

        This might be a losing battle trying to offer you my point of view. Zoo animals live without the worry of being poached. That’s pretty enriching.

        1. You worked at LPZ? You aren’t still in Chicago, though, right?! The threat of poachers is very real and yes, the animals in the zoo are protected from that.

        2. Nope, I’ve been in the DC area for the past year and a half working at another informal education center. But I’m headed back to Chicago at the end of January. 🙂 Windy City is the best city.

        3. Guys, I appreciate your passion and support of zoos and I’m not arguing about that. Zoos have a purpose, several in fact, and I am not denying that. This post wasn’t about the treatment of animals in zoos. It was simply about my amazing-awesome-dream-come-true safari experience. Regardless of the treatment of animals, there is a difference to seeing them in the wild vs. in cages. Seeing them roam free in the open land, living among both predators and prey, watching the warthog run from the lions, watching the lions, elephants and zebras walk past your jeep without a fence for protection, seeing the circle of life (I saw birth and death) without any human assistance was incredible to witness. To me, personally, even if the zoo animals HAVE THE BEST LIFE EVER, they are still in captivity and in cages and this sometimes makes me sad – even if they are really happy and don’t know any different. And I still visit LPZ because I like seeing animals and supporting the zoos preservational work. In fact, I want to work for a preservation organization that helps protect the animals, so I am not above zoos. Even if they have the best life EVER, there is something magical about witnessing nature at its most natural and raw state. To go on a safari was a dream come true for me and THAT was all I was sharing.

  2. Your photos are great! Thanks for “sharing” this amazing experience with us. What a great opportunity you had…(On a quick side note, what did you use to create the photo collages?)

  3. Love this post lady and I still find it absolutely amazing that you got to have this incredible experience. It looks like the adventure of a lifetime and I think you’ll cherish the memories made on this adventure for the rest of your life.

    1. You are so right, these really are memories I’ll cherish forever. Sometimes I have to look at photos of my in the situations to remind myself it wasn’t just a dream.

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