25 yards away from this bull

(Dana) Walking for hours through the African bush with the hopes of coming across an elephant, giraffe or buffalo is something man has been doing for thousands of years. In Ruaha National Park in central Tanzania, we are privileged to walk in those same footsteps.

Ruaha is approximately the size of New Jersey and receives about 22,000 visitors per year, or ~5% of those who visit Tanzania’s better-known Serengeti. And our camp Kichaka sits about 40 miles away from 90% of the visitors to Ruaha. Absolutely no other vehicles. No other tourists. Just the pristine eco system, the animals and the seven of us.

Upwind so they freeze

We are not getting closer so they proceed

Each morning, we explore 8-12 kilometers (5-7 miles) behind two men with large rifles… just in case we startle a sleeping lone buffalo or a pride of lion. The uncertainty keeps the adrenaline flowing as we work our way through the forest by the Ruaha River. It is a thrill to sneak up on a group of male elephant, constantly checking the wind direction so that we can stay downwind in order to get within 25 yards of them. Or to watch a group of 10 elephants freeze in the riverbed once they catch our scent. Somehow they figure out that we come in peace as they eventually turn around and follow their original path.

We know that we are experiencing something special on one walk when we suddenly hear the vervet monkeys’ alarm call. Our first instinct is that there must be a predator in the area. Wrong. Our guide Fausto informs us that we are the predators. These monkeys are so unused to even benign humans that they revert to their natural instincts – honed over thousands of years – to fear everything on two legs. Even when driving, we experience the same behaviors. The animals aren’t bored of humans; they are scared of us. They run away, watching us warily.

Often traveling to remote locations is like looking back in time, especially in parts of the world where people still live traditionally, relatively unaffected by Western culture. Our safari in Ruaha National Park went far beyond that, back to the original time of hunter/gatherers.

Massai giraffe checking us out

Impala don’t want to get trapped between the car and the river, so they flee across the road

Queen of the beasts… not phased at all by the jeep and plops down.

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