Smithsonian Journeys Dispatches

A Dream Come True for a Wildlife Lover

A male silverback and baby Mountain Gorilla

Growing up in the Midwest I satisfied my desire to see animals “in the wild” by visiting zoos and watching television programs that explored Africa and the magnificent wildlife that calls that faraway land home. But after traveling to Africa twice in the last year, I realize that absolutely nothing compares to the experience of going on safari in the great game parks of northern Tanzania, or tracking endangered mountain gorillas through the bamboo forest and dense jungle of Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda.

The Serengeti safari experience was beyond my imagination. Within a few days I watched a lone black rhino roam the Ngorongoro Crater, observed two lionesses leading 3 of their cubs across the Serengeti plains from the basket of a hot-air balloon, and witnessed the birth of a wildebeest baby. There's no need for television here where you can fall asleep to the calls of lions, hyenas, and cape buffalo through the night. I even came across a baboon drinking out of the swimming pool one afternoon at our safari lodge!

Gorilla tracking in Rwanda was an entirely different experience. Hiking through lush green forests with expert guides and trackers earned us an hour of quality time spent with a group of 9 gorillas. We watched the dominant male silverback playing with his baby, while adult females were eating and siblings swung through the low branches of nearby trees. As we watched and listened silently in the brush, the gorillas would settle a mere few feet away and go about their daily lives unfazed. Watching this group of gorillas snack and play made me feel like I was watching a family of humans. It was truly indescribable.

I will always remember the endless herds of zebra, wildebeest, gazelle, and cape buffalo that grace the landscapes of Tanzania’s vastly abundant game parks, as well as the rush of excitement that surged through my body as an adult female gorilla grazed past me in pursuit of her young. For all of the animal lovers and Africa dreamers out there, this is an animal adventure not to be missed!

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