The Birthplace of Humankind

June 3, 2013 Unique Safaris | Lion at River in Tanzania

My wife and I traveled to Tanzania with Safari Professionals and Unique Safaris in January of 2011.  We’ve been to Africa several times through the years for both work and leisure, including trips to Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa, but our trip to the Serengeti was by far the best we’ve ever taken.  With the help of our experienced and accommodating Unique Safaris guide, we were able to observe nearly 100 species of birds and 50 species of mammals, including 50 lions, 15 cheetahs, and 8 leopards, and my personal favorite, the unusual bat-eared fox. We watched in awe as massive herds of wildebeest and zebra moved into the southern Serengeti during the great migration—so many that, at times, they seemed to literally fill the entire landscape.

One day, my wife decided to sleep in late, and our guide drove me deep into the central Serengeti. At one point we approached a mother cheetah with two older male cubs, one of which decided to leap onto the hood of our vehicle to get a better look at his surroundings. Later on, we encountered a large pride of 15 lions, including two large males, several females and young. We observed and photographed them at a waterhole at close range for over two hours with no other vehicles present. Except for the wind and the occasional vocalizations of playing cubs, we sat in complete silence, watching the animals go about their business. My heart raced and a chill ran up my spine when a long line of adult females strolled past our open-topped vehicle, each briefly glancing up at me as they casually walked by.

The power of such an experience is hard to describe, especially for a wildlife professional like myself. It was great to be so remarkably close to these large, powerful predators, but in the back of my mind, I also knew what they were capable of doing if they suddenly decided to join me—something  they could have easily done in the wink of an eye. Of course, I was perfectly safe as Serengeti’s lions are habituated to the vehicles and perceive them as nothing more than another neutral aspect of their surroundings.  Nonetheless, this experience was not the same as watching lions on television from the safety of one’s easy chair. These animals were real and their presence stirred my blood and ignited a deep passion for Africa and its incredible wildlife. My wish is that many others will choose to have similar experiences and – through their tourist dollars – help to conserve this incredible site – home to many unique species and the birthplace of humankind.

About Dr. Michael Hutchins

As Director of Conservation and Science for Tom LaRock’s Safari Professionals, Dr. Michael Hutchins is now leading tours to the Serengeti and other destinations in East and Southern Africa. With a doctorate in Animal Behavior and minors in Ecology and Statistics from the University of Washington in Seattle and as a former Director of Conservation and Science/William Conway Chair for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and former Executive Director/CEO of The Wildlife Society (TWS), the premier scientific association representing wildlife professionals, Dr. Hutchins is uniquely qualified to give nature travelers a unique and educational experience.

Dr. Hutchins will be leading a safari in January 2014 and there are a few remaining spots. If you are interested in a professionally escorted safari with Michael, you can contact him directly at (301) 367-5053.

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