Saturday, February 4, 2012
Dizzy in Manyara National Park (Literally and Figuratively)
Today was our first day driving to a national park, where we would conduct basic research and field exercises for identifying various wildlife. 5 hours driving across Lake Manyara National Park, world-renowned for its vast baboon population, driving with our heads popped out of the top of our Land Cruisers. Hours of yelling “simama” to our driver to stop when we saw an animal, followed inevitably by a “twende, tafadhali,” which means “let’s go, please!”
So I’m guessing you weren’t expecting me to begin with a word of advice. No, I’m not giving advice on proper camera etiquette, or how best to protect your binoculars from the dusts of dry, red-dirt roads. No, my piece of advice is fairly simple, and common, and something I wish I would’ve followed today:
Always follow the directions on your prescription medication packages. Why? Because if, say, you were to take your malaria pill without food in your stomach, then your day at the park might be somewhat challenged by the nausea and dizziness you’d be experiencing.
When I say it was a dizzying experience in the park today, I meant it both figuratively and literally. Our eyes and ears were attuned to nature, seeking out all natural wildlife that we could lay our greedy sights on. Baboons so accustomed to vehicles would sit idly by the roads as we drove by, grooming or screaming, or watching the young play. Giraffe peaked their heads out from the trees as if wishing to greet us. Hippos, wildebeest, zebras, blue monkeys, vervets and grivets, impala, warthogs, dik dik, and elephants were only an arm’s length away from our vehicles at times. We were so close to the elephants, or tembo, that we could hear the sounds of their ears flapping.
Did you know that dik dik mate for life? Just like penguins, it’s always the cute animals that take life-mates.
I can honestly say that I’m living the Lion King dream. My favorite movie, hands down, and I’m actually here where it was all based in. The forests are lush and green, while the savannahs are brightly lit and baked by the sun. Lebo M and his Zulu warrior singing-crew were staging a concert in the back of my mind all day.
Them, as well as a pounding headache accompanied by dizzy spells. I believe the hippos might have been laughing at my pale-white face.
Being sick could not surpass my awe for being so close to these African animals. We had fun, and as long as the wind was on my face I was okay to go. It was hot, and slightly breezy, with animals all around, and I couldn’t have been happier.
Our second day excursion is tomorrow, where we’ll spend all of our time recording baboon behavior. These baboons aren’t terribly concerned about being watched, which I guess is a good thing. I will, however, need to recharge my camera battery tonight.And my day would end with a nice cold shower, to rinse the dirt and grime from my body. You’d be surprised how wonderful a cold shower feels after being out in the sun all day.