On Monday I will book a flight to the safari mecca of the world — Kenya. But, I won’t be going on safari. I’ll be going there for work, and only staying as long as it takes to get that work done so I can get back to my baby.
But, I do hope to come across some wild animals when I’m there. I had such luck in Niger on two occasions, where the types and numbers of safari-like animals were far fewer.
The numbers of West African Giraffes have declined significantly over the years, and the largest remaining herd lives just south of Niamey in Niger. Some of my friends told childhood stories of seeing the “bush camels” approach our village, but now their grazing is limited to a much smaller area.
On the paved road that leaves the capital heading south, about an hour and a half into the journey (assuming the potholes haven’t created major detours), there is a big sign with a crudely painted giraffe, indicating that travelers can stop there for a tour guide to locate the herd. I can only imagine how long and exhausting of a process it would have been if I’d ever gone that route. Luckily, I never had to.
I took it as a sign of wonderful things to come that I happened upon the giraffes as I was on my way to move into Tokoye-Bungou Sud. With only one road in Niger, you’d think the giraffes would have learned how to avoid it, but there they were, walking across the pavement with their graceful, long strides.
Prior to moving to Africa, I’d imagined it would be like the movies made it look — full of wildlife ready to pounce behind every bush. But Niger isn’t stereotypical Africa — although it captured my heart, there is little life in that desert. So when we saw the giraffes we, of course, stopped the car and got out to follow them on foot. They were curious, staring back at us as we approached them grazing at the stubby trees. They were silent and strong and beautiful. Already my favorite animal, this sealed their stature in my mind forever.
Although they moved slowly, their long legs covered a great distance and they were out of sight far too quickly. But I’ll never forget walking beside them for a moment.