>On Safari – Making the little things count


by Jean Campbell

When we were young, my grandfather and my older brother bridged the gap of generations, and found a common interest in bird watching.  At the time I didn’t have the maturity or the peace of mind to appreciate this hobby or understand what the appeal was.   It was only years later, while sitting in a vehicle in the wilderness of Africa, that I came to comprehend what a wonderful world was out there in clear sight once I was able to see beyond the obvious.  

I admit I first had to get over the excitement and anticipation created when looking for, and then finding the big game; still a wonderful awe inspiring experience every time. Once I realized, however, that every moment on safari does not have to be spent on a wave of adrenalin, I turned my attention to the smaller things in life as pointed out by the guides.   Watching the birds and  butterflies; learning about the plants; understanding connections between the animal world and the plant kingdom, and other such subjects became the focus. With that came a true learning experience right there in the classroom of the outdoors; the guides being our teachers.  What better opportunity is there!  This trip was no exception, and again we were impressed by the many facets nature has to offer, and again she did not fail to deliver.

Whistling Thorn and Cocktail Ants.
In what other setting would we learn about the whistling thorn (an acacia tree) so called because in addition to the long thorns the acacia is known for there are also, what are called stipular spines, and at the base of each of these stipular spines is a 1 inch swelling.  These swellings are home to four different kinds of ants who pierce the swellings, creating holes.  When the wind blows through the holes serve as a flute, and produce a whistling sound.  

Butterflies (Papilio demodocus)
I read somewhere there are 1370 species in Tanzania. These are just the common variety but they are still so beautiful to look at.   I didn’t know, in spite of the very dramatic markings often found on butterfly wings, the wings are actually transparent.  

Yellow fever tree
Early explorers or pioneers were under the false impression that the yellow fever tree actually caused fever.  The issue was not the trees themselves but the swampy area in which the trees grow that was the problem.  The swampy environment that the trees thrive in is also an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, which of course, carry malaria.  The tree however got the blame first, and the name stuck.  

White Backed Vulture
Despite the perception that the vulture is a scavenger, and therefore can be perceived as nasty and dirty they are actually among the cleanest birds; often bathing and preening carefully after eating. 

Kori Bustard – The Kori Bustard is one of the largest flying birds, though it doesn’t do it very much flying. The male Kori Bustard averages about 3½ feet in length, stands 2-3 feet, tall and has a wingspan about 7½ – 9 feet.  That’s a big bird!

Whistling Thorn and cocktail ants – Ol Donyo Lodge
Butterflies – Lake Manyara Tree Lodge and Gibbs Farm
Yellow Fever Tree – Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
Kori Bustard Grumeti River Lodge
White Backed Vulture – Klein’s Camp
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