Move out the way Disney Animal Kingdom. During my two week visit to Senegal, Africa I went on a real safari at the Bandia Wildlife Reserve, also known as the Foret de Bandia. A 30 minute drive from the coastal town of Somone lies 9,000 acres of protected land and wildlife. Visitors and locals go to the Bandia Reserve to get an up close view of animals in their natural habitat.
There was an option to remain in our vehicle and have a tour guide join us, or to rent a safari truck. That was a no brainer. Even without the Covid-19 virus, I would have opted for the open air 4×4 so I could take better photos. One person drives while the tour guide taps on the window to tell them when to stop at a sighting.
We toured this wildlife shrine later in the day when the animals are more likely to be active. The only two predatory animals on the reserve are the hyenas and Nile River crocodiles which are kept in contained areas. The crocodiles can grow up to 6 meters long.
Warthogs tend to dig under the fence and roam outside of the reserve’s grasslands. There is a quarantine area where new animals are brought from other parks. Right across from the hyenas is the tortoise enclosure.
We weren’t five minutes along the dirt road when we witnessed the majestic beauty of the giraffes. It’s amazing how these tall animals can blend with their surroundings. The guide had to point out another giraffe that was walking in the savanna that I would have never noticed.
The videos I took are way better than still images. (IG: @kelsielou.c0m) The male giraffe has darker spots. Towards nightfall, we saw a male giraffe walking by himself because he was kicked out of his family. I felt so bad for him. I would not want to be out there all lonely, especially at night. The guide said he needs to fight to win back his companion.
Another male dominant species is the ostrich seen with the dark feathers. This alpha male was seen several times and had no problem walking in front of the approaching 4×4. The female was more low key and hidden in the bushes.
The African buffalo were the opposite of the ostriches and giraffes. They roamed the savanna in all sizes. There were about 20 in the herd we passed and that number can get up to 300 in some areas. African buffalo are considered one of the Big 5 Game Animals, meaning they are considered one of the hardest and deadliest animals to hunt along with lions, elephants, leopards, and rhinoceros. One looked like it was ready to charge.
Another animal that roams in herds is the Cape eland. Elands are the world’s largest antelope. There was a spiral horned eland grazing alone.
The roan antelope were very cautious around our 4×4 because it is a white truck that drives around to capture them for slaughter. Their meat is served in the Bandia Reserve restaurant that is on site. I would imagine it tastes like deer meat. I will never know!
The patas monkeys run the show. They are all over the place and not to be trusted. They will snatch your phones and cameras if they catch you slippin’. The monkeys’ behavior was the most nonchalant. They carried on with their business unbothered by humans. They are best viewed on video versus still shots because they move so quickly.
The animal that I admired the most was the impala. There were three of them dashing across the terrain like the elite runners of the reserve. I was lucky to capture a photo of an impala in the middle of the trees as it glanced back at something. I see why Chevy uses this name; much respect.
The Bandia Reserve is the home of hundreds of baobab trees. One in particular has a shape that earned the name of Elephant Baobab.
The core of the baobabs are so large that Griots, or elders/storytellers of a tribe are buried inside of them. I heard two stories about the logic behind the burials. On this safari I heard about the baobabs being sacred, and it was a form of respect to preserve the Griots inside of them. When I visited Senegal’s largest baobab in the Fatick region, I was told the Griots were lazy and did not like to work. It was considered bad luck to bury them in the ground that they did not like to farm. Either way, the ritual was banned in 1962 due to biological hazards of decomposition and discrimation. The Tombeau de Griots is located inside a 1,000 year old baobab.
The so-called “Tree of Life” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom does not compare to the natural beauty and fails to acknowledge the cultural significance of Africa’s native creation. It made me reflect on how Disney is a culture vulture in that aspect.
Hopefully, this post will highlight the natural beauty of Africa. It will help to change the narrative that Africans live in the jungle with wild animals. No, if they want to see exotic animals, they go to the zoo, or reserves like Reserve De Bandia like we do in America.
I will be covering more about my trip to Senegal in several posts. Stay tuned.