We enjoy when our readers submit their memoir-writing samples to us! The following story is from the memoir of one of our blog readers, Lori Robinson. We hope you will enjoy this sojourn in Africa:
Two kinds of people sign up for African safaris. Most, myself included, want to see “The Big Five”–-lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, and elephant. The other people are the birders. So when my birder father announces he wants to join me on a trip to Botswana I have planned for myself, I clarify, “This is not a birding trip.”
“I won’t mention my interest in birds to anyone,” he replies.
As we climb into the open Land Rover for our first wildlife drive, our guide Tim asks, “Are either of you birders?”
“I’m not. I want to focus on mammals, especially lions and elephants,” I respond with an I’m –in –charge attitude.
Then my father says, “this is my daughters trip, but if we see a bird or two, that would be great.” Tim’s face lights up, and I realize I’m doomed.
A few minutes into our drive, we stop.
“My first lilac breasted roller,” my dad announces with pride.
Lilac-breasted Roller, Photo credit: Lyle Wood
The colorful feathers shimmer in the first morning light. I must admit, it is a beautiful bird.
During the next hour we stop and stare at every brown, yellow, big, little, flying and sitting bird. I listen to discussions of wing-spans, beak shapes and throat colors, and I learn new names like Hammerkop and Bateleur.
Twelve lilac-breasted roller sightings, and many other bird species later, we see a pride of seven lions. I focus my binoculars on the cat’s blood stained fur.
Photo Credit: Henry Holdsworth
After a few minutes, Tim interrupts my big cat trance, “They aren’t going to do anything, so let’s push onward.”
At our last tented camp on our trip I explain to my father, “It is probably obvious by the name of this place, Savute Elephant Camp, that I really want to focus on elephants here, not birds.”
“ Of course,” he agrees.
I hire Clive, a private guide, to lead us on a bush walk.
“We have no interest in seeing birds,” I tell Clive.
“We’ll try to find the rogue bull elephant that has been in the area,” he says.
I follow Clive and the shotgun slung over his right shoulder; my father behind me. When we catch up to the massive grey bull Clive’s hand motions us to be quiet, and stay close.
Rogue Elephant Photo Credit: Lori Robinson
“Adolescent males can be unpredictable and dangerous,” he whispers.
Clive signals us to stop; any further would be too close for comfort. The bull moves from one mopane tree to the next, snapping branches like twigs. I turn around to share this adrenaline pumping moment with my father but he is nowhere in sight.
“We can’t follow the elephant until we find your father,” Clive insists. I know he’s right, but I’m reluctant to let the elephant get away from us.
Then I see my father in the distance, half hidden behind a thick bush, his binoculars focused on a lilac-breasted roller.
Lilac breasted Roller Photo Credit: Lyle Wood
“Dad, you have seen hundreds of lilac-breasted rollers already, please can you walk with us, the elephant’s getting away,” I plead.
“You’ve seen a hundred elephants,” he retaliates.
We stare at each other for a tension filled moment, and then start to laugh. The noise causes the bird to fly off, while my elephant disappears into thick bush.
Back home in the States my father sends me a gift. It’s a two by three foot size poster of a lilac-breasted roller. He may just make a birder out of me yet.
About Lori Robinson
Thirty years of traveling to and living in eleven African countries – from my first trip to southern Africa on assignment as a fashion model, to my recent role as Africa Adventures Specialist in East Africa for the Jane Goodall Institute – has nourished my lifelong passion for the natural world. In 2009 I sold my big house and most of my stuff so I could live more simply. When I'm not traveling in Africa I’m writing about it from my small cabin in the Teton National Forest in Moose, Wyoming. You can find me at www.AfricaInside.org