How best to summarize my many trips to Africa? Impossible. Each was a distinctly different and unique adventure. Africa is a land where expectations are consistently exceeded. Every experience, exceptional – trip to trip, day to day, hour to hour, moment to moment.
The continent is home to massive deserts, dense tropical rain forests, rugged mountains, deep valleys, large lakes, long rivers, expansive plateaus, and sweeping grasslands. The abundance of resident wildlife is astonishing and much of it can be found only on this continent.
What percolates to the top as I consider recent trips? It’s tough to isolate just a few favorite memories but I’ll give it a try.
Beyond our very first trip to this continent many years ago with Don Young @bwanadon (deserving of a separate post), gorilla trekking in Rwanda takes first place among the most recent trips.
DON’T MISS THE SHORT VIDEO AT THE END OF THE TEXT!
“While tracking primates, guests will trek up to eight hours through thick jungle at elevations that may reach 10,000 feet. Treks can be arduous; and the terrain can be steep, uneven, wet and muddy.” Nat Geo
Yup, we experienced it all. And more.
Some gorilla families are found at low, easy-to-access, altitudes while others are at higher elevations. Ours was a five-hour hike up to 8,000 feet and then another five-hour slide down a forty-five-degree volcanic slope. It was The Toughest Thing I’ve Experienced. In My Entire Life. Feet tangled in tropical vines at the top, I literally fell face-to-face into an encounter with an enormous, gorgeous male silverback gorilla.
No long lens required for these shots. Because gorillas are prone to the same viruses as humans, travelers are limited to an hour with these gentle giants. Our hour evaporated in a flash and we began our way down the slopes in calf-high mud during a tropical downpour. Arduous is an understatement. The trek was utterly exhausting and unbelievably exhilarating. And the experience remains one of the most memorable of my life.
Experiencing nature’s recycling system at work. Hyenas and vultures enjoyed cape buffalo while jackals, many more hyenas and larger vultures waited in the wings to tackle an apparent lion kill from the previous night. Fascinating to witness the interactions and ongoing squabbles. Astonishing.
Enjoying humongous hippos from a distance. And realizing that they kill more humans each year than any other land mammal in Africa. They’re capable of surpassing speeds of twenty miles an hour with jaws that house 20-inch canines. Thrilling is an understatement.
Celebrating the fact that we actually located lemurs in Madagascar! Who knew just how difficult it would be to find and photograph these endemic primates? Miraculous to finally find a few!
Photographing this big, beautiful cat. Such a Beyond Words experience then. And now as I sort through my favorite images. One magnificent morning.
Navigating at night in an amphibious Land Rover. Our hood and headlights were submerged as we plowed through crocodile-infested waters. Wild!
Tracking one of the top predators in Africa. These wild or painted dogs are known as killing machines and are able to take down an animal, consume it while still alive and clean it down to the carcass within minutes. It took patience, perseverance and the expert tracking skills of our driver and spotter to experience this phenomenal series of events. It was the first time I’ve cheered for the predator. We then lingered within a few feet of the pack after their lunch while we changed a flat tire. And then, as we were trying to fly out, the pack came to send us on our way. Heart stoppingly memorable!
Admiring a Malagasy Giant Chameleon endemic to Madagascar. They reach lengths of a meter long. Beautiful and gigantic! They, along with other chameleons, can move their eyes independently, with each eye having a field of 180 degrees. This means they can see 360 degrees if they need to. Wildly wonderful to witness.
Making several visits to the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary. Started by local Samburus, this indigenous community works to save orphaned elephants. It was hilarious watching the antics of babies who will ultimately be released back into the wild. A heartwarming, soul-satisfying time together.
Visiting a Bara Village. This small collection of mud huts was set miles away from any hint of civilization. Access wasn’t easy. The Bara are one of eighteen ethnic groups in south-central Madagascar and the largest of the Zebu (cattle) herders. Their wealth is determined by the number of Zebu in their possession. Women create a paste made from the bark of a tree to protect their skin from the strong sun, creating elaborate designs for festive occasions. Delightful people who opened their homes and lives to us for an afternoon. Not a tourist destination/this was the Real Deal. Fascinating and fun.
Flying over Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya. And finding it tough to distinguish where the shoreline ended and lake life began. The abundant bloom of blue-green algae is the main food source for the masses of flamingos.
Often described by ornithologists as “the most tremendous bird spectacle in the world.” Mind-bogglingly beautiful.
Enjoying a Maasai boma from the air. And then again inside the village on the ground. The circular fence of thick, thorny bushes protects the tribe and their cattle from other tribes and predators. One truly fascinating lifestyle.
Arriving just in time to take a front-row seat on the edge of the Mara River. This is one of several locations where millions of wildebeest, zebra and antelope descend steep slopes on their annual migration. The dust and the noise was unforgettable and the crossing of this particular group happened within just a few fast-moving moments. Beyond magnificent.
Winging our way along the Skeleton Coast. Located in the northern part of Namibia, this is one highly inhospitable coastline, littered not only with the carcasses of long-dead animals, but also scores of shipwrecks that were unable to navigate the heavy surf under foggy conditions.
Spotting a little lilac-breasted roller. Considered one of the most beautiful in the world, it’s the national bird of both Kenya and Botswana. More than one visitor to Africa, in search of large animals, credits this little roller for prompting an interest in becoming a “birder.” When you see one, you can understand why.
Photography: Lois Anderson / Video Production: Mariya Anderson Music: Soweto Gospel Choir, African Spirit