This Malaysian grows more appreciative of nature's beauty after an African safari

Different species of animals co-habiting in their natural habitat at Ngorongoro crater. -- Photos: ANGIE LIM

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I was euphoric standing atop Uhuru Peak, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa but what came afterwards was spellbinding – I embarked on an African safari.

I felt as if I was teleported back in time to the Born Free days. For those of you wondering what Born Free is, well, it was a 1966 hit movie set in the vast African safari landscape featuring a domesticated female lion cub and later the laborious as well as the challenging efforts to re-introduce the mature lion back into the wild instead of caging her in a zoo.

To this day, Born Free remains one of my favourite movies and I still watch it from time to time. Comparing the scenes in the movie and one of my favourite past time of watching documentaries of the African wild life, what was most captivating was the geography and landscape of the vast safari landscape that had not changed much to this day.

Embarking on a safari could burn a hole in the pocket due to our weakening Malaysian currency. Thus, I opted for the most economical and viable option to visit the main safari parks on the shortest duration coupled with going with like-minded friends to share out the total cost, which also contributed to significant savings.

The gateway to the safari parks is the city of Arusha. The journey is via a 4x4 truck along dirt roads which could be bumpy at times. My friends and I know that we cannot be pedantic during trips like this but the food and accommodations during the safari was above average. We even stayed two nights at the Suenos de Africa luxury camp in Serengeti.

The safari parks that we visited in sequential order were Tarangire for a day, Serengeti for two days, Ngorongoro for a day and Lake Manyara for half a day. Some might be wondering if being on a safari for just four and a half days is insufficient and rushed but the opposite is true.

Right smack at the entrance of the Tarangire park is a big baobab tree. Earlier, during breakfast, I had the baobab fruit juice that tasted sweet with a tad of sourness. It was a refreshing drink. The baobab tree is devoid of leaves and fruits at this time as it was the dry season. The dry season too is an excellent time for spotting wildlife as they would not be blocked by the tall grass or seeking shelter due to the rain.

A ‘Baobab’ tree at the entrance of the Tarangire National Park.A ‘Baobab’ tree at the entrance of the Tarangire National Park.

The first thing I noticed about the tree was its “fat” trunk, that’s able to store water. An extremely amicable and knowledgeable safari guide-cum-driver told us that elephants would scrap the bark off the baobab tree to access the water within. Strange-looking fruits and foliage provide food to the various herbivorous animals. Carnivorous animals would hunt other animals for food. Hence, nature has a way of feeding the animals. Such is the ecosystem of this place.

Just a short drive from the entrance of the park, various animals such as elephants, giraffes, gazelles, zebras, wildebeest and many more came into view. My heart leapt! Never had I seen so many different animals close-up in their natural habitat. Mind you, we were advised not to alight from our vehicle due to safety reasons.

If we had to heed nature’s call, there are dedicated toilets at lunch stops or if urgently needed, the guide would advise a suitable place for us to relieve ourselves.

The next morning, we left our accommodation at around 9am and headed to the Serengeti. Serengeti in the Maasai language means “endless plains”. Indeed, the park was vast and at times we seemed to be headed “nowhere” as our driver drove on and on but just an hour on the road, a strange-looking bird suddenly ran out onto the road. The bird was extremely beautiful but its name does not befit its beauty. It’s called Kori bustard.

Later, we saw many other birds and a repeat of the animals in Tarangire but then this is the world-famous Serengeti. Leopards hanging from tree branches, brood of lions with one “posing” beside the road, hippopotamus dipping in pools, hyenas, wild dogs, mongoose, impala, buffalo, wildebeest, zebras, giraffes and many more. It was an amazing two days in these plains.

Just when I thought I had reached maximum contentment in Serengeti, the Ngorongoro crater safari was beyond and above my expectations.

‘Elephant crossing’ at Lake Manyara.‘Elephant crossing’ at Lake Manyara.

The wildlife in Ngorongoro seem to live happily and harmoniously at the crater. Our guide explained that the animals here are “contented” to live at Ngorongoro as food and water sources are aplenty here and the animals considered this place their home. Thus, they seldom wander out of Ngorongoro. What a feast to the eyes! Various animals were roaming the area as far as the eye could see.

The highlight was a cheetah walking alongside our truck for some time before wandering afar. Wildlife in these parks are seemingly tame if unprovoked.

On the last day of the safari, we spent three hours at Lake Manyara. It is the smallest of the parks but do not be deceived by its size. We saw an elephant troop “jaywalking” with a baby elephant walking between the adults. Giraffes were aplenty and we even saw a huge chameleon changing colour right in front of our eyes. It was an astounding safari and we ended our trip on a high note.

I am not particularly an animal fan but this safari trip is an eye-opener on nature’s beauty and the urgent need to preserve nature for the future generations to be able to savour this wonderful and spellbinding once in a lifetime experience!

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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