The first thing you’ll hear about when going on safari is the search for the “Big Five,” which includes lions, elephants, rhinoceros, cape buffalos, and leopards. Many can go on safari multiple times without checking off the big five but if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot all 5. Our group, in fact, was beyond lucky when we saw all 5 in the first two days of our trip!
Perhaps it was our great luck in finding the Big Five so soon, but I quickly decided that you make your own big five on safari – Your favorite wildlife sightings, biggest action on a game drive, and favorite moments of the trip. My big five may be a bit unorthodox, but that is the point, isn’t it? Going on safari is such a unique and life-changing opportunity and each safari is vastly different from the next. You develop a very personal collection of moments to bring home with you, and entice you to go back!
Yes, I have to admit it – I love the warthogs! We lovingly termed each sighting as “a Pumba,” and luckily the sightings of these little guys were not scarce! Their telltale tail running through the high grasses is unmistakable, signaling to their young, “Follow me, follow me!”
With their bright red behinds and affinity for insects, you might not find these guys all that interesting. This is especially true when you realize by your second day of safari – there are thousands of baboons in Tanzania! Often when we stopped at a rest area, or even when we were welcomed to a new lodge, we were warned to keep our possessions close and our doors closed “or the baboons might steal your things”. We passed through 20 or more troops of baboons on our drives, each containing anywhere from 5 to 50 baboons. While the sighting of a baboon quickly lost its novelty, I was extremely intrigued by their behavior. Spend more than 5 minutes watching a troop, and you will quickly see the intricate family structure of their society. From mothers and sisters caring for the young, dominate males staking their claim, to a “scout” walking ahead to scout out a new area and keep the troop safe, the baboons of Tanzania have a mysterious world all of their own.
It isn’t rare to find me on Buzzfeed watching cute kitten or puppy videos, so it’s no surprise that I was completely enamored by the babies on safari. While there may be a birthing season, you will still find young wildlife throughout the year. We were lucky enough to meet a single shy lion cub with his mom (and also a pride containing 9 cubs all playing together!), 2 curious cheetah cubs, and plethora of baby zebras (foals) and wildebeests (calf).
Growing up in the flat plains of the Midwest, I thought I understood what “wide open spaces” meant. Not the case! Tanzania landscapes are absolutely breathtaking and, with such a diverse landscape, each is entirely unique. My favorite view was atop a large hill watching the rain pass in the distance – a complete 360 degree view containing lightning, rainbows, and thousands of the wild animals of the Serengeti.
It is difficult to encompass this in a memorable photo, but my biggest take away from this trip is the stories – stories from your guide explaining what, exactly, you are watching occur on a game drive, stories from lodge staff about growing up in Africa and working so close to nature in the camps, and of course, the stories you bring home to share with your friends and family. And, if you are lucky enough, the same stories that entice your friends and family to join you on your next trip!