Who’s Watching Who?

I often wonder what wild animals who spend a lot of time around humans must think of us. Those in zoos, for example, or those in big national parks. I thought about this a lot when I was in Africa- specifically in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, which is filled to the brim with Land Cruisers full of camera toting primates every day.

To most of those people, seeing these animals is just this incredible, awe-inspiring once in a lifetime experience. But to them, well, it’s just another boatload of humanoids. It’s certainly a different experience in some of the wilder parts of the continent, but in the tourist-heavy areas, the animals showed a complete and utter ambivalence to human presence. Ho hum.

It struck me particularly strongly when we stopped for lunch in the Ngorongoro Crater at the watering hole. Humans swarmed the grassy area like a hooting herd of baboons, herded into the safe areas under the watchful eye of bemused rangers who were keeping an eye out for the errant fool who wanted to take a dip in the water.

Because no, you dopey human, those are NOT rocks and we do not under any circumstances recommend you try swimming over to them.

They will bite your leg off.

While most tourists attempt the traditional “Safari Bob” look, complete with neat khakis and hats from REI, some go the other direction and attempt to emulate some of the more colorful African birds. Camouflage of a different sort, I suppose. Good for attracting some of those massive African wasps.


Though only the most hardcore go Out Of Africa enough to bring their very own pipe and tobacco all the way to Africa, down into the crater, and then pull it out and smoke it.

These guys read the planning book, and apparently all went shopping together too. Drab colors, long pants, shiny binoculars. I will state now for the record that not a single Tanzanian resident dresses this way, but this is the Official Tourist Uniform described in all the safari books so this is what we all show up with, for the most part. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the easiest way to differentiate the tourists from the ex-pats.

A trio of tourists.

A trio of birds.

In nature, like attracts like. This trio of Tourist Sapiens looked to a trio of birds, gravitating towards one another with the inexorable pull of mutual interest. The birds know by now what they are expected to do. Or maybe they just wanted to investigate the people as much as the people wanted to investigate them.

Note the symmetry of posture as they engage in that most homo sapien of activities, staring. The guy on the right has a little hip action flair going on too, just to be fancy. That is Advanced Tourist Posture. Bam.

“All those humans look alike, Hal. I can’t tell them apart even after all these years.” “I know, Bob.”

I tried for an entire week to get my ranger to tell me some of the strange stories you know he has to tell about the tourists he has met over 20 years of guiding, but alas for me, he wouldn’t spill the dirt. You KNOW he has some.

“And then that one in the buff kept pulling out her iphone and saying-”

“Oh! Hello Jessica! Ah ha ha, just talking about rhino preservation and all. Ready to go?”

He was SUCH an amazing guide though that I had to forgive him his utter professionalism. If only the animals could talk.

Filed: Adventures, Blog, On Safari Tagged: , , ,
  • Excellent post! Love it!

  • Hi Y’all,

    This has to be the greatest post one could ever enjoy over morning tea. Smiled, laughed and enjoyed the hip action!

    BrownDog’s Human

  • Sue W.

    Love reading the point-of-view reversal. My actions are inexplicable to my husband – I can’t imagine what the animals think! Delightful reading!

  • Cathey

    So funny! We humanoids continue to think we’re the only smart ones! If only knew what they were thinking!!

  • Tamara

    I’ve always wondered what the animals really think of us ๐Ÿ˜‰