Adventure, Africa, Nature

The Wild-Tame Peculiarity of Safari (and 10 Wild Photos)

Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Mpumalanga, South Africa

A male leopard wakes from his nap and stretches lazily.

Three safari cars—Land Rovers, I think—have parked just meters away.

The leopard yawns, stretches again, and begins to move.

His eyes are amber-grey, and he gives us only the briefest of disinterested sidelong glances before deciding to ignore us entirely and amble along the road. He remains impervious as the three cars crisscross his path to allow their passengers optimum angles—a bizarre new animal behavior pattern to which he and many other species in the bush appear wholly adapted.

At one point he passes so close to my side of the car that I can see the individual hairs that make up his spots and the supple play of muscle beneath his skin.


There is something both bizarre and breathtaking about finding yourself within hand’s reach of a wild animal and knowing that you’re safe.

That is the wild-tame peculiarity of safari. Or, at least, of my safari.

Over the course of three days, my family and I found ourselves nose-to-nose with elephants, zebra, giraffes, leopards, and lions, thanks to the skill of our third-generation guide and the collaboration of the game reserves. We observed hippos, white rhinos, hyenas, and vultures from just a couple meters away.

The sheer size, power, and wildness took my breath away—and it made me wonder about this paradoxical dynamic whereby wild animals accept wacky, camera-toting tourist behavior as the norm and an ecological system seems to evolve to accommodate it.

Predator and prey alike enjoy the ease of travel on dirt roads cut for the convenience of safari trucks. A mother leopard defends her cubs against hyenas as you would expect, but observes our approach with indifference. Some—though not all—impala (a species of adorable antelope) fail to shy away at the no-longer-alien sounds of car engines and human voices.

One thing is certain: This industry is a boon for the anti-poaching efforts across the safari-regions of the African continent. It brings revenue to places that desperately need it, and government protection to the wild animals responsible for it.

Perhaps even more important, it has the potential to raise awareness about and appreciation for species and environments slipping into endangerment or collapse. A key element of environmental protection not to be underestemated.

I hope to share more as I learn more, but in the meantime, here are some “up close and personal” photos of the wild animals that allowed us to share their space:

Mama leopard with cubs.
Fun fact: A herd of zebras can also be called a dazzle.


“They look at you like you owe them money.” — Unknown, on water buffaloes
No introduction needed.
Who wants to go for a swim?
So many elephants!
The animal that evolution seems to have forgotten.
My brother, the rarest of the wild animals.
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Playing Tourist—Because, Penguins

More tourist-ing on the way to the Garden Route.

Sometimes, it’s fun to play tourist in your own town—or, you know, any town.

Funny, coming from me, the anti-tourist. I know.

And sure, I believe the following to be true:

1) There are no “have to’s” in travel. (No must-see’s, no can’t misses. Things are only as meaningful as the value we ascribe to them.) 

2) Tourist traps are just that—traps. (You want me to pay how much to play with a tiger? Which, by the way, I’m pretty sure has been drugged.)

3) There’s nothing better than simply being wherever we are. (Sitting at my “local” cafe all day reading? Check. Wandering aimlessly through a new city? All the time.)

Still, once in a while, the tourist things call.

Because, well, penguins.

Need I say more?

Tuesday before last found me and a friend driving south out of Cape Town, bound for Boulders Beach and Simon’s Town.

Boulders Beach, if you didn’t know, is home to the largest colony of African penguins in town. They come for the slightly-warmer-than-icy water, and stay for the spectacular turquoise water and blinding white beaches.

Oh wait, that’s us. The penguins just come for the warm water. Thousands of them.


And yup, they are adorable.

So there we were, one local and one wannabe-local standing on the viewing platforms along with dozens of other camera’d, sunblock’d and visor’d observers, utterly entertained.

Funny, because the penguins seem committed to accomplishing as little as possible during their stay at Boulders Beach (the ultimate beachgoers). I watched one duo (African penguins mate for life) for a solid ten minutes, and neither moved a muscle.

“Do you wanna do something else?” “No.” “Good, me neither.”

They are also brilliant waddlers and unrivaled loafers.

Afterward, we ate fish and chips, wandered through beachside shops oddly reminiscent of New England charm, and reviewed our pictures.

These are our happy penguin faces.

Sometimes, it’s fun to play tourist.

You get to see penguins, climb spectacular mountains or window shop on streets overflowing with “custom designed African culture.”

Shop on Long Street—my favorite street for tourist-ing.

Fun. Nothing more, maybe, but nothing less, either.

Many penguin acquaintances were indeed made.

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Cows on the Beach (Photos)

There is something delightful about seeing herds of cows wandering along the beach.

Sure, when I stop to think about how much manure is probably swept up during high tide, it’s suddenly much less delightful. But still, they’re adorable and particularly photogenic, so I’ve found myself taking a (uselessly) large quantity of pictures of cows on the beach.

Lest they be wasted, I am sharing the best ones here.

Don’t worry—more are surely on the way. I will update this post with more cows on the beach as I see them!
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Animals Who Think They Are People

I can’t believe I never got around to posting these. I spent a good chunk of my 2012-2013 travels photographing animals who seemed to really believe they were people. One part photos of animals standing on things in entertaining ways; one part dogs being dogs, goats being goats, etc; these photos never fail to make me chuckle.

Something about this rooster standing on a motorcycle is so delightful. These roosters really want to go for a joy ride, but they can’t find their keys!

“I could have sworn I tucked them in here somewhere.” “Dammit Bob, it’s always something with you!”

Dogs are notorious for thinking they are people.

“Who? Me? I’m not a dog. Nope, no dogs here.”

This dog really wants to go to school, but they won’t let him in.

And this dog is still waiting for his meal to be served.
“Um, excuse me? I think you forgot something.”

This monkey may or may not think he is a person, but he knows he is pulling one over on that silly lion.

“I sit on your head, lion!”
And last but not least, my favorite travel photo, which I have definitely posted before, deserves to join this list: a goat riding a cow.
I hope you enjoy these moments of classic animal behavior as much as I do!
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The Goats of Nepal

Sometimes, words are inadequate. So without further ado, I bring you the Goats of Nepal…
(This is only the beginning; I will be adding to these photos throughout the semester.)

It’s a goat, standing on a cow!!

They’re not goats, but they’re super cute!

Goat in a door.
Goat in a basket.

Sikkimese goats!

Mustangi goats, coming home from pasture.

 Uploading pictures is proving far more difficult than expected. I am off on excursion/trek to Tsum for 17 days, but I will have lots of new and exciting things to share when I get back!

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