Tanzania #9: Serengeti Unplugged

Dylan Camp ’24, embraces the unplugged nature of this trip and the importance of being fully present. 

Awakening on Sunday morning after a long restful night of sleep, we were fully prepared to continue our safari. The previous day we had seen three of the “big five” with water buffalo, elephants and some up close encounters with lions. However, we were still looking out (especially Davey) for any leopards, as well as the rare black rhinos. We got an early start on the day and almost immediately encountered a ginormous sea of black and white, as we got closer, the countless zebras and wildebeests came into view. This herd, making its way south for the rainy season, is the largest migration of wildebeests in the world. The line of safari cars was enveloped by thousands of migrating animals, stretching for miles across the plains. Suddenly, there was a disturbance to our left, as a family of lions crept out of the tall grass, looking for their next meal. We watched in awe as a female lion carefully attempted to isolate and kill a grazing zebra. However, even using the tall grass to her advantage, her efforts were unsuccessful, as the zebras frantically outraced the attacking lioness. The chase continued on into the distance as the rest of her pride waited in the shade of a nearby acacia tree. Unfortunately, our land cruiser drove away before the conclusion of this incredible encounter.

Jesse, a park ranger and our driver, took us to a landmark called the Maasai rocks, a large collection of boulders that juts upward from the Serengeti landscape. He explained how, in the past, these rock outcroppings were used by the Maasai people for the grazing of their cows. After driving through this hidden piece of history, we followed the bread-crumb trail of safari cars to a sighting of a leopard, another of the elusive “big five.” In this incredible setting, the intricate patterns of the leopard, as it calmly sat on the branch of a tree, blended smoothly with the muted colors of the savanna landscape. However, this moment was tainted by the 30+ safari jeeps, circling like sharks, trying to get in position for the perfect photo. As I looked around, no camera or phone in hand, I realized how much beauty many visitors were ignoring as they frantically tried to capture a perfect image of the lounging leopard. I felt fortunate to be able to experience this scene without worrying about getting the right angle or brightness or focus, I could just enjoy the magnificent cat in its natural surroundings.

Going into this Tanzanian trip, I was worried about the “unplugged” policy, never having gone two weeks without technology. However, I’m glad I embraced this part of the trip, as it has made the experience so much more enjoyable. I have taken in so much more information and experiences, and have also been able to deepen my connections with many more people than I would have if I was focused on my phone. The absence of technology has forced me to break out of my personal bubble and become much more outgoing. I am truly grateful for this experience.