A Safari in three parts: Part One

On the edge of the Albert Nile, the dusky almost-light of rising dawn casts shadows in the clearing. Canvas tents speckle the dirt ground between trees, and the flames of the kerosene lanterns linger by each tent to keep away utter darkness, as well as the baboons and warthogs that bravely treat those of us on safari with unabashed curiosity. It is 6:00am. Across the clearing and throughout the tents, you can hear the sudden chirping and beeping of alarms clocks and watches as the tented campers are woken before sunrise.

We stumble in the shadows cast by the lanterns, slipping on worn trousers and long shirts as we prepare to spend the morning searching for game. Using flashlights and headlamps, we grab packed bags of chapatti and fruit before climb into the awaiting vehicles. we drive, but we do not drive long, for at the edge of the river waiting for the raft to ferry us across the Nile, we pause and watch the sun rise saffron and pink over the still silver water. A hippopotamus surfaces a few feet from the boats, snorting and blowing out water to announce its presence. The toursists, mostly from Europe and Israel, cluster with their cameras, eagerly capturing photos of the mostly submerged beast…but I cannot take my eyes off the sun. It is beautiful.

Once across the river, we engage the service of a game park ranger, who not only knows the usual locations of most of the animals, but also carries a loaded rifle—just in case the lions were not fully satisfied by their evening prowl, or the elephants offended by our presence. The roof of the van pops up and out in typical safari style, and we alternate between standing and letting the cold morning air rush over our upturned faces and sitting down to eat our packed breakfast.

“Theyah ah Cob deah,” the ranger explains pointing to the small deer filling the plains that stretch out before us. “And theyah ah the cape buffalo and the antelope…” we stare out the windows, as we rush past the wildlife that warily regards our presence with uncertainty.

A dozen girraffees stand by the side of the road snacking on leaves. We stop and stare, snapping photos and giggling as their long necks turn to regard us with appropriate disdain. Slowly, they amble away, farther into the bush and away from the road. A tall male giraffe remains close, unmoving, and I notice that his left hindleg in cut and swollen twice its normal size. He cannot move easily.
“Poachers,” the ranger explains, “He cut his leg in the snare of the poachers.”

We stop to let some elephants cross the road, hushing our squeals of excitement to be almost close enough to touch the noble grey beasts. A male with large tusks stares at us, and when he trumpets, signaling a charge, we quickly drive away.

We follow a lion. She seems unconcerned by our presence. Perhaps she is used to vehicles. Perhaps she is merely not hungry.

Stopping at another bank of the river, we get out of the car stretching our legs and watching swarms of dragon flies twist their way through the tall grass. Nearly a hundred hippos lie together in the cool water, lounging in the morning sunlight. We take pictures of ourselves and them…but mostly them.

The morning game drive comes to an end; we thank our guide and pause for lunch in the sticky heat of midafternoon. Then, we return to the river...


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