A Bantu myth from sub-saharan Africa tells of the tree where man was born; a great baobab sentinel of the savannah. Their creation story isn't so far from what fossil evidence and genetics tell us about our origins. The African wilderness is infused with legend, history and meaning, and to set foot in it is to step back into geologic time, into our deep past. The power of the landscape travels through your boots and reverberates with your DNA itself.
The plan was to camp for three nights in the Selous Game Reserve. We hoped to spend that time exploring the park in our new truck and the river in a hired boat in search of tigerfish.
The park is the largest in Africa and is the size of Switzerland. Being a game reserve as opposed to a national park, we did not have to stick to the single road evident on the 'map'. We bushwhacked for 75km and laid a trail of breadcrumbs using a GPS, which was absolutely necessary if we wanted to get back to our tents by dark.
The Selous is the epicenter of elephant poaching in Africa. Estimates are the 40,000 elephants have been slaughtered in this park alone in just the past 10 years. Corruption, a lack of man-power, unfathomable poverty and a thriving Asian demand for ivory has brought poaching to levels approaching the highest levels ever recorded.
Our time there was incredible. Driving yourself through a wilderness as wild as that has you constantly on edge. You and your partners are all that you have to rely on if things get hairy, but a healthy respect for the animals, the terrain and an understanding of the limitations of your vehicle will keep you safe.
For redundancy and in case of getting stuck, we took two capable trucks along. A 1995 FZJ-80 Land Cruiser that we just purchased, and our friends capable and trail-proven Toyota Surf. We had 40 liters of extra gas, 10 gallons of water, tow ropes, jacks, shovels, rad seal, every fluid the car might need and rolls of duct tape. We were ready.
Nice Crocs on the lake shores
A whole lot going on in this photograph.
Elephant Skull - seed of the cyclops myth.
The Tree Where Man Was Born
Little Bee Eater
White-fronted Bee Eater
Pied Kingfisher, doing what it does best
Braids of the Rufiji
A fresh kill
Stacy's first time driving the Land Cruiser had her tasked with navigating a dry streambed and deep tire ruts to sidle up next to a fan palm harboring 6 juvenile male lions in its shade at mid-day. They showed no interest in us, and we were able to photograph them through open windows at a distance of 5 meters.
They could not be bothered
Hippos watch as we scoot past
We approached cautiously but got to within 40ft of two small females that had stopped to feed on some palms. Their trunks moved as nimbly as fingers as the stripped the fronds of greenery.
The Matriarch and her family
We passed by the lions again on our way back to the lodge. Our vehicles flushed a herd of Lichtenstein's Hartbeast as we approached, visibly disappointing the lions as they watched their departures attentively. We watched them for some moments as Fork-tailed Drongos and Imperial Woodpeckers flitted in the trees above our heads.
Headed back to camp
The voice of Africa
FZJ-80 Land Cruiser, living up to its legendary reputation
Back to camp to prepare for a morning of tigerfishing