The grizzled bull elephant, perhaps 10 feet tall, approaches our Land Rover. We momentarily tense up in case it wants to steam-roll over us. Fortunately, it stops and observes, ancient eyes sizing up the latest batch of visitors to his savannah home.
We Pinoys are on safari in Northern Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, on a mission to peacefully observe and photograph wildlife. We’ve been in Africa for nearly two weeks, exploring areas brimming with animals – herds of skittish antelope, grumpy cape buffalo, lordly lions and playful monkeys playing in misty rainforest canopies.
We were lucky enough to see Africa’s ‘Big Five’ – the lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and cape buffalo. We also saw the ‘Ugly Five’ – the warthog, hyena, marabou stork, vulture and wildebeest.
Each foray would reveal a menagerie of animals – from sprinting ostriches to small, secretive antelope like duikers.
There was an enormous male lion, sleeping just two meters away from our vehicle. “Don’t worry, it won’t attack. It’s too hot this afternoon and it doesn’t want to overheat,” explained our guide Ray Shirima. Still, we kept the Rover’s doors locked.
In neighboring Kenya lay lovely Lake Nakuru, an alkaline lake painted pink by thousands of honking flamingos. On good years, the number can reach millions. When the birds took to the air, the sky became a blur of pink.
On safari in Africa, the sights, sounds and scents never cease. Your photography opportunities are infinite.
Wildlife safaris are typically booked months ahead via highly-reputable, ethical operators. We were outfitted by Top Climbers Expeditions in Tanzania and Ndurumo Safaris in Kenya. Each provided a hefty all-terrain Land Rover, as large as a small Philippine truck. The Rovers’ roofs swung open to provide us with 360-degree views while letting in cool breezes (countries in East Africa like Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia can be colder than Baguio, especially at night and in the early mornings).
Accommodations were basic but comfortable enough for those used to the outdoors. Large, dome tents about six feet high were set-up by the guides as soon as we entered a park. The food was superb, prepared by a trained chef. Here are some snaps from the wildlife safaris we undertook. If you’re interested in booking your own safari, let’s talk on Facebook or Instagram and we’ll help you get started.
Gregg Yan’s Safari Snaps:
Known in Swahili as nyumbu, blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) are among the most commonly-encountered grazers on the African plains. In the Serengeti Park, nearly two million of these cow-like antelope travel up to 2000 kilometers in an epic annual journey known as the Great Migration. (Gregg Yan)
I saw this kifaru or southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) grazing beside Lake Nakuru in Kenya. Next to African elephants, these are the world’s largest land mammals. The conservation organization where I started out, WWF, began its work conserving these magnificent animals back in 1961. Largely due to conservation efforts, populations of the southern white rhino are hanging on. Sadly, populations of the northern white rhino have been completely decimated due to poaching. They are now extinct in the wild, prime examples of why we need to care for the world’s endangered species. (Gregg Yan)
Mbuni are skittish and rather hard to approach. Here’s an immature ostrich (𝘚𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘰 𝘤𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘭𝘶𝘴) looking for food in the Serengeti. (Gregg Yan)
Mbogo or cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) have always been one of my favorites! These massive bovines are considered one of Africa’s ‘Big Five’ – the five most dangerous animals one can encounter. When enraged, cape buffalo are said to be unstoppable. Nothing short of a direct heart shot will stop one. In the field, I found them to be very docile. Often, when we don’t bother animals, they won’t bother us. (Gregg Yan)
Skittish herds of swala or Thomson’s gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii) can commonly be seen prancing across the savannah. The goat-sized antelope are naturally curious but bolt at the slightest sound. (Gregg Yan)
Painted horses! Burchell’s zebra (Equus quagga burchelli) are among the most beautiful of all the animals on the African savannah. Their stripes are unique to each individual and serve to confuse predators, especially when the zebras travel as a herd. Africans call them punda milia and they can aggregate in groups thousands strong. These zebra are grazing contentedly with blue wildebeest inside Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. (Gregg Yan)