When we took off for our Tanzanian safari I was looking forward to seeing (and getting pictures of ) giraffes’ eyelashes and lions’ big, gold eyes. We got those shots (and many other amazing images):
But there were other images (and experiences) we had no idea we’d encounter.
For example, we had no idea how beautiful hyena could be:
Hyenas are often viewed with fear and contempt; can you imagine associating those emotions with that face? According to Wikipedia:
in Tanzania, there is a belief that witches use spotted hyenas as mounts. In the Mtwara Region of Tanzania, it is believed that a child born at night while a hyena is crying will likely grow up to be a thief.
Sure, a sweet face doesn’t mean they’re not interested in biting your face off (given the motivation and opportunity), but they seemed genuinely curious about us. The hyenas’ den was near the road we used to get in and out of our campsite on the Serengeti, and every time we drove by they were sure to come out to the road to check us out. Our first night on the Serengeti there was a hyena hanging out by our parents’ tent when we returned from dinner (it was scared away by our host’s flashlight). Each night we heard them sniffing around the tent, and each morning we noted their paw prints. We never once felt threatened.
Another animal more charming and fun to watch than we expected was the warthog.
We didn’t mention it in our post about all of the interesting accuracies we found in Tanzania that were depicted in Disney’s The Lion King, but warthogs’ personalities are remarkably Pumbaa-like. The root of the apparent oblivion may be the warthog’s extremely short memory. We witnessed a warthog start running (tail raised vertically in the air, as always, to allow piglets to follow mom and dad through the tall grass) that apparently forgot why it was running… and stopped, looked around, then put its head down to resume eating.
They’re also entertaining as they eat. Warthogs’ necks are so short they have to kneel on their front legs to get their mouths down to the grass they munch almost constantly. As our guide described it, “they’re always praying over their meals.”
Sure, warthogs have warts. They’re not terribly beautiful. But they provided a lot of laughs both on our game drives and as they grazed near the pool at our first camp.