We speak of the blue planet, and praise the beauty of our living green Earth, but I am swiftly discovering that much of our world is simply brown.

This is not a bad thing.

Brown can be beautiful when it goes on forever, as it does on the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania. The dry brown land is an endless ocean here, a rippled landscape that disappears into the single blue horizon in every direction.

This sea of dirt is brown, the dying grass is brown, the dead trees are brown, as are the ominous vultures that roost in the branches. Brown is the color of elephant dung; the color of my khaki clothes and the color of so many different antelope that pop up from the grass—the gazelle, impala, topi, dik-dik, waterbucks and wildebeests. I watch the smaller antelopes as they twitch about in the knee-high grass like self-conscious teenagers, always unsure, never relaxing, ready to spring away if needed.

We are all looking for lions—the hunted and we, the hunters, armed with cameras and binoculars, cooing when we see the big cats hiding in the brown grass, giving away their location to the world and causing a swarm of safari jeeps to gather like security to a shoplifter.

Perhaps the lions hate us or perhaps they don’t care because they are so full. The blinking lioness has streaks of red blood on her fur cheeks—the first bit of color I have seen on the savanna.

The lions have taken their reward, and we take ours as well, though we have worked so little to find the king of African wildlife. It seems there are lions everywhere—our first night we see two separate prides and I count out the individuals through my lens: twelve amazing lions.

This is not a zoo, nor is it some wildlife park with fences. This is the great Serengeti—so great that in the thirty-six hours we are there, we spot some sixty different lions.

“You are all incredibly spoiled,” I tell my friends but I am worried they don’t believe me. My fellow travelers compare this round the world trip to a tasting menu, and that we are sampling one exquisite course after another. Our feast of delights would be incomplete without Africa, and Africa would be incomplete without lions.

But unlike our other visits—the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, the terra cotta warriors of Xi’an and the Pyramids to come—the wildlife of Tanzania is not some static site that you can buy tickets. There is no gift shop for the lions, warthogs or shining birds of Tanzania, and yet all of this is just as much of a world wonder as the great tombs and temples we have visited.

The joy of safari—the delight of traveling where animals roam freely and finding them in their freedom—this is key to our expedition of a lifetime. I feel this most at midday, when the African sun hits its high note in the sky and the land begins to bake.

We drive on with purpose, searching, watching  . . . until we see it, taking shape in the brown shadows, another animal, lithe and spotted—cheetah!

A mother cheetah with two young cubs, lounging in the grass, unbothered. We stop only a few feet away and she doesn’t move.

Other safari jeeps follow our example, and soon the roadside is crowded, the mechanical repeat of shutters recording over and over again this moment of nature.

Cheetahs are rare—too rare, sadly—but we are in awe, honored to witness them here. The clicking of cameras trails off—the cheetahs are not leaving or skittish like the antelope. They are nonchalant and ignoring the attention.

And me? I am devastated by the beauty of the mother and the cuteness of her two young cheetah cubs. They bat their long lashes like any other well-fed babies who, when waking up from a nap, deserve all the affection and attention in the world.

They have intricate fur—tinged yellow, with the dark black spots of their species and white tufts of mantle around their necks. And yet there in the grass, when I squint my eyes, these remarkable animals simply vanish—and everything goes back to being brown.

Comments

  1. Natina Harris
    October 27, 2012, 1:20 pm

    Fantastic descriptive article! I thoroughly enjoy this magnificent adventures!! :-)

  2. Natina Harris
    October 27, 2012, 1:21 pm

    Fantastic descriptive article! I thoroughly enjoy these magnificent adventures!! :-)

  3. Erma J
    Abilene, Texas
    October 27, 2012, 3:16 pm

    Thank you, Andrew, for taking us with us into this part of the earth. Are you having trouble remembering where you are when you watch up in the morning? Did any of these animals contest your being in their space? Take care.

  4. Michèle Legault
    Québec
    October 27, 2012, 10:58 pm

    Love the Lilac-breasted Roller pic! Looks like a symphony.

  5. Lions of Serengeti | The Safari Post
    October 30, 2012, 5:30 am

    [...] can read the full article here. This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Admin. Bookmark the [...]

  6. Kate
    Los Angeles
    November 1, 2012, 5:47 am

    Andrew, you made my day good and awesome. I’d like to travel and make safari and make some great shots like you.

  7. christian
    Canada
    November 13, 2012, 12:50 am

    wow these are amazing photos bro.

  8. Jane
    Atlanta
    November 18, 2012, 10:15 am

    Lovely post Andrew –I also just returned from the Serengeti and your description puts into words what I wasn’t able to do. Hope to see you again next year in Namibia at the Adventure Travel Summit.

  9. Back 2 Africa – Digital Nomad
    November 19, 2012, 4:58 pm

    [...] Channel (set for release in early 2013), and then, just a few weeks ago, I stopped by the great Serengeti on my hopscotch around the [...]

  10. Ten Tanzania Travel Tips – Digital Nomad
    December 29, 2012, 9:31 am

    [...] Serengeti —No offense to Tanzania’s most well-known national park (which is beautiful—I know, I was just there), but frankly, it’s the midtown Manhattan version of going on safari, [...]

  11. Mara Timbo Camp
    Masai Mara, Kenya
    March 19, 2013, 4:45 am

    what, … there is no “shop to buy tickets to watch Lions” in Tanzania? What a mess! Then come to Kenya! For the yearly “Big Migration” there is a guarantee for spotting one of the biggest wonders of the world, as soon you enter Masai Mara National Game reserve. The whole “show” starts each year mids of July till roughly end of September/beginning October (depends when the rain sets in)… and it´s all “live”. This is more than just “breathtaking”. You missed it Andrew, so come back, I´ll take you there.

  12. […] The wildebeest’s relentless semicircle-of-life tour—the largest migration of land animals on Earth—reaches its most famous and frenzied crossing in fall. Witnessing the swirling mass of a million-plus wildebeest and about 200,000 zebras as it oscillates back and forth across the crocodile-infested Mara River (where hungry predators lurk on each side) is the ultimate Serengeti experience. […]

  13. Daniel
    New York City
    February 23, 5:38 pm

    Awesome pics! Another website that also has great pics and information about Tanzania is http://www.africa.com/tanzania/ Keep up the good work!

  14. simon
    Tanzania
    July 3, 1:38 pm

    I real like my country cos it has wonderful features guys.

  15. Charles Benjamin Safari Tanzania Expert
    Arusha,Tanzania
    July 18, 1:07 pm

    What a good Shots man.
    Keep it up and let all the people who does not know about Tanzania to know it better.
    for all your Travel needs in Tanzania and Kenya http://www.safaritrackersadventure.com/