Thursday, November 1, 2012


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

Grey-headed Kingfisher 

Braids of the Rufiji 


 We spotted some wheeling vultures in the sky not too far from our current positions.  We decided to spend 30 minutes to try and locate the kill they were indicating.  Somehow, the forest opened up and we found the dead Impala.  There was no sign of the killer, only 20+ vultures of 3 species that were busy feasting.

A fresh kill

Yellow-billed Stork 

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 fit the cruisers through a narrow opening in the foliage to reveal an iconic African scene; Yellow-billed Storks stalked the shoreline of a shallow lake with Open-billed Storks in their shadows as Spoonbills swept the coast for a meal.  A family of Warthogs with 6 piglets cross the path in front of us as hippos settled into the swamp, hiding and supporting their bulk as Cattle Egrets perched atop their backs.  In the middle distance, a family of perhaps a dozen African Elephant moved from right to left, led by an old matriarch towards the setting sun.  In their number was a newborn, whose skin seemed ill-fitting, like a pair a grey trousers a few sizes too large.

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 

Playful female 

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