A Return to Paradise
By Allen Moss, AWF Kilimanjaro Society Member
Silent, save for the rustling of their magnificent bodies against the tall grass, the large herd of elephants passed close by our Land Rover in grace and majesty. The matriarch's gait was slow, almost leisurely. Yet there was a regal sense to her posture; her head held high and straight. She and her group of calves and extended family members moved off into the distance. Only a whisper of wind was now heard as we sat in our seats, absorbing the wonder of this intimate encounter.
It seemed fitting to me that this experience should occur on the last day of my three week Tanzanian safari; a safari that had taken me back into the welcoming arms of Mother Africa. During this marvelous adventure, she had unselfishly shared so many of her secrets with me and my traveling companion. As with my other two Tanzanian journeys, I felt an incredible sense of connection to the land and its stunning array of wildlife. For twenty unforgettable days, my senses were treated to the most glorious sights and sounds that Africa offers to those who choose to rendezvous with her.
This was, indeed, a trip of breathtaking images. There were millions of wildebeest as far as the eye could see on the Serengeti plains, glorious double rainbows and stunning sunsets over the Ndutu Conservation Area and incredible cloud formations as the last light of day softened to dusk over the Ngorongoro Crater. During a dawn hot-air balloon ride, as we glided silently through the cool, fragrant air, the rising sun bathed the Serengeti grasslands and rivers below us in rich hues of gold and green. And on our small airplane flight from Arusha into the heart of the Serengeti Conservation Area, there were expansive views of collapsed volcanoes, vast grasslands and the stunning Rift Valley below us. It was a most humbling experience to realize that the history of Africa was passing right below my feet.
Then there were the more striking "close encounters:" a chance meeting with a beautiful male leopard on the isolated grasslands by the Gol Kopjes in the Serengeti; a dramatic viewing of two dozen giant crocodiles, jaws agape, basking in the scorching mid-day sun by the Grumeti River in the Serengeti's Western Corridor; a humorous scene as we came upon a huge lion lazily slung over a tree branch; a surprise roadside visit by a five foot monitor lizard, with his stunning coat of emerald green, yellow and blue, and a delightful interaction with a lioness who playfully nuzzled against the right front fender of our Land Rover inviting us to "come out and play." Needless to say, we resisted her charming efforts!
But of all that I will remember and cherish from this trip, it is my own personal "sweet African song" that will remain with me. I hear it as I sit in my office at work, it moves in and out of my consciousness when I am toiling away at those weeds in my backyard and it comes to me, ever so softly, as I lie in bed half-awake and half-asleep. It is a song filled with so many sounds: the trill of the ring-neck doves, the distant roar of a lion, the frenetic nighttime jabbering of hyenas, the whirring of insects in the trees, and the gentle rustling of the grasslands as the wind sweeps over them during the heat of the day. This is what my travels to Africa have given to me and I remain deeply grateful that this "sweet song" will continue to play within me for many years to come.
"Because of my enduring love for African wildlife and my concerns for the loss of magnificent creatures such as the elephant, rhino, lion and wild dog and their habitats, I am pleased to leave a significant part of my estate residuary to the African Wildlife Foundation. I know that their comprehensive approach to conservation, especially in stopping the killing, trafficking and demand for wildlife products such as ivory and rhino horn, is making a real difference."