I sat down to write this story more than once and stopped. The scale of this journey, like Africa itself, was so vast I didn’t quite know where to start. So how about from the beginning? 😊

This trip was focused on three different locations to photograph wildlife, so I will cover them separately.

Lake Manyara

It seems fitting that my first view of Africa was sunrise over Ethiopia, as the amber light streamed through the windows of the plane. We had been flying for two full days, inching ever closer to Kilimanjaro Airport. There we met our guide, Abeli, who would be our driver and constant companion for the rest of our trip. He told us the locals say that Mount Kilimanjaro is the “roof of Africa” and we could see its towering outline as we drove to Arusha, where our photo safari would actually start.

Traveling through Africa, the concept of “distance” takes on a whole new meaning. Our route would take us through Arusha and neighboring towns, all of them bursting with color and motion as people sold goods next to the road, Tuk Tuks, the infamous motorcycle taxis, weaved in and out of traffic, and huge lumbering trucks, most of them brightly painted rolling art displays, carried goods across the country.

Ancient Africa and modern technology bump up against each other here, making for some jarring irony. I saw a Masaai man herding his cattle in a field just off the road. He was wrapped in the traditional robes of scarlet and purple, carrying a spear…and a cell phone!

But our destination was far from the cities and villages, into the remoteness and serenity of the bush.

Our first location was Lake Manyara Natiional Park, a sprawling wilderness in the Great Rift Valley that encompasses dense forest and open plains around the lake itself. The lake has no outlet, so it is salt water, and the heavy rains of the wet season had caused it to overflow its banks, reaching into the forest and killing the trees that bordered it. Hundreds of them stood in the water, tombstones left to remember the dead.

Within the forest, monkeys and birds forage in the tree tops, and troops of baboons patrol the ground below. Elephants appear out of the brush like a magician’s trick, and disappear just as suddenly.

At one point, three young male lions emerged and began to stalk each other…and us! I photographed one head on as he crouched and approached the safari vehicle. It was all play for them, but seeing his eyes locked on mine was a primal connection that gave me empathy for the prey that would soon be the object of that gaze.

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