AFRICAN WILDLIFE ADVENTURE By Ron Toel

How many of you remember the movie OUT OF AFRICA, with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford? The lodge that was in that movie was the view I saw when I crawled out of a 5 star tent while in Kenya, Africa. If I may update on the lodge……When the filming was finished the movie folks donated the lodge to Kenya, and the government officials held meetings there. The Masaii people said to the government officials, that it was their lodge because it sat on their land. The squabble started…..until one night it burned to the ground. Thus when I crawled from my tent, I saw a pile of ashes every morning.

The runway from which Robert Redford flew in the movie, I also flew from in a similar light plane like his, only newer. This flight ranks in the top ten of my all time experiences. To fly over the bush and see the small herds of animals…..what an experience. The whole trip was an experience of a life time. If the opportunity presents itself to you, do not hesitate, do not pass go and collect the two hundred dollars first, just jump on it and go.

I stayed on the western edge of the Rift Valley, in a boma ( a family structure surround by thorny brush to keep the lions away from the herds) like compound with the Masaii People, who are herders of cattle and goats. Every body ( from age 3 to aged man) in the boma works. Men take care of cattle and goats, and women take care of boma and kids. Each man has several wives with each wife having her own home within the boma. She maintains it with her kids (up to 24) for when her husband visits.

They eat only goat and drink only cow blood as there are no wells from which to get water. The only water available comes from the Mara river which is infested with crocs and hippos, which are even more feared than the lion.

The Mara river runs through the Masaii Mara game preserve and forms the border of the Trans Mara game preserve. We Americans visit a zoo and see the African Wildlife, and think it is beautiful. One has never seen the real beauty of these animals until they are seen in their native habitat. They are habituated to the SUV’s and so the vehicle can get within feet of these animals. I shot mostly with my 500mm lens and there were times the vehicle had to back up because I was to close( 15 feet minimum focus).

Every morning, I crawled from my luxurious tent and headed to the bath room. On the way there was a huge male baboon that greeted me. He would walk toward me and bear his teeth and I would jump at him and he would run. It got to be a game.

I was there not on safari but instead on a mission trip, thus my time in the bush was minimal. However, I saw 14 species of antelope ( eland the largest, and dik-dik the smallest), the cheetah, leopard, and lion, elephant, the cape buffalo, giraffe, hippo, crocs…..huge crocs, monkeys several species, mongoose, 3 species of eagles, hammer cocks mate, several turkey sized birds in the grasslands, all the scavengers both bird and mammal (jackal and spotted hyena), ostrich and secretary bird, several species of flowers, and the people and their way of life. I saw lions mate, lion cubs 3 weeks old, a female lion kill a wart hog. I was eyeball to eyeball with a giraffe, 18 feet tall. I stood on the bank of the Mara river, where the videos seen on TV, shows the wildebeest jumping in to cross the river during their migration….. HUGE crocs there.

My driver and I found a huge bull elephant that was by himself. We tried to get a shot of it but it would only show us his hind quarters. After a period of time he finally stood still. He took a trunk of dust and threw it across his back, and then started pawing the dirt with its front foot. My driver said, “He is angry. We need to go.”

I said, “ Just a few more shots.” The bull charged us in the vehicle. The driver wanted to go and was scared. I told him to stay put, and hang on. The bull ran to within ten feet of the vehicle and stopped. It looked at us, and then sniffed the air, and turned, and walked away.

The driver said to me, “How did you know that when he charged, he would stop?”

“I didn’t….that is why I said hang on, however, most animals will feint a charge to see if they can scare you before they actually fight.” said I. “I am glad he followed the majority.” and we both laughed and headed back

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