Saturday, July 19, 2014

Animal Planet: 12 Safari Game Drive Shots in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater

I was too mesmerized by live ostrich porn to take video of it (the male's mating jig, which sort of looks like he's flapping his wings to fan the flames of lust, or just attempting an African tribal dance, must be seen to be believed), but I did catch a few decent animal shots during my four-day safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, the latter of which was my favorite part of Tanzania.

Riding through the massive hole in the earth past the crater lake in a 4x4 with the rooftop popped up was like being transported through a painting or a movie set with the most jaw-dropping panoramic backdrop. Yes, the mountainous terrain surrounding the crater, the low clouds enveloping it and the pale blue sky above were so unbelievably gorgeous. The scenery just had to be fake, or retouched by the hand of God, or Engai, until it was a stunning shade of perfect.

Every so often I had the same thought about the animals in the Serengeti, especially on the first morning game drive when a horde of elephants surrounded our vehicle while they crossed the road. It felt like a scene from a movie, or REM sleep. Was I dreaming of Africa? I blinked hard, then pinched myself to be sure I was awake. I was. But could it really be real?

Oh, and where were the rhinos? They were the only one of the "Big 5" (which also includes lions, leopards, elephants and buffalo) that we didn't see. Apparently, rhinos are severely endangered in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, thanks to the inexplicable human need for their horns. Leopards, like cheetahs -- my favorite big cat -- are also generally quite elusive here, though we did spot at least one apiece. Unfortunately, they were too far away and/or too camouflaged to make for a decent photo.

Occasionally, I'd stare at a giraffe gliding across the savanna, seemingly in slow motion, or nibbling at the leaves on a tree, and wonder if it was fake. I knew the jackal carrying the corpse of a baby gazelle wasn't; it was survival of the fittest, up close and impersonal. These were scenes I'd only seen on TV and movie screens, or in a zoo. For four days, they were unfolding right in front of me, in their natural nature setting.

Now that I'm back in the big city, once again far removed from the beasts of the African wild, I'm not completely convinced that I didn't imagine the entire thing.

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