We’ve seen some amazing animals here – you can get so close with no boundaries. When I was young we used to go on field trips to Wild Life Prairie Park outside of Peoria – there you see animals in their ‘natural habitat’. It offered the animals large areas to roam – larger than your average zoo basically. It was a kind of Central Illinois Safari I suppose. However – there were fences. We loved to go to the place – it seemed dangerous in a way – which made it exciting. You had to walk a long way to the animals and the animals eventually got smart and they just hid from you.
However, here in Samburu National Park – the animals can’t really hide – you go to them. This is a great in theory – until one of them doesn’t really want you around chasing it. We drove right up to giraffe eating, we parked 10 ft. away from water buffalo, and even raced other vehicles to the cheetahs. We drove right up to a family of elephants and watched as mom and son crossed the road not more than 20 ft. in front of us. We watched them eat and rub against trees. They seemed so harmless and happy. We noticed that as they walked away across the road – a younger elephant was still on the other side of the road and seemed to be forgotten. It seemed to be a rebellious, teenage girl elephant that was trying to assert her independence and stay away from her mom and brother. Our guide made an elephant call/noise/grunt (it seemed convincing to me). The teenage elephant looked up and slowly came toward us – click, click, click – I’m getting some great shots of it coming towards the truck. It gets closer and closer and starts to run – I peak from behind the camera to see where it really is in relation to me and realize it’s about 10 feet from us – and it doesn’t look happy.
It stops and stares at us and starts making elephant noises. I realize that the motor of the truck is not even running. In my mind – this was the time to move the truck as I’ve got a mad teenage elephant staring me down. I keep staring at the rebellious teen and say to the driver “Ummm – are we going to move now?” in a calm, yet concerned even tone – never taking my eyes off the elephant. The stare down continues, there’s no sound of the engine starting – I feel like I’m in an old western movie at a standoff. It then suddenly walks away to it’s mom and brother. I guess our green truck looked pretty menacing. It was at that time when I decided that I may not ever make a great ‘field photographer’ as I was ready to bail at the first sign of a charging elephant.
As we drove around the rest of the morning hunting for the elusive lions – I was sickened by the thought that ran through my head – Disney really did a great job on depicting Africa in the Lion King. I hate the fact that my only visual reference of African Safari is a Disney movie – that’s just silly. But I have caught myself referencing back to the movie many times in my head. But this is the real thing – and it’s beautiful and impressive and most importantly – real. As real as that angry teenage elephant.