Sunday, April 02, 2006
The West Africa Experience
We actually saw 2 lions, a male and his female partner, on our safari to Pendjari National Park in Benin. You may notice that this male lion looks a little different than the ones you've seen on the Discovery Channel. First of all, even though this is a fully mature adult male, he's a little on the small side as far as the King of the Beasts are concerned. Second, he lacks a prominent mane. These are the two main differences between East and West African lions.
Even though his appearance is not quite as impressive, this lion sighting was actually much more exciting than an East African sighting. Why you ask? Because in East (and South) Africa, viewing lions is more like going to a zoo. They are so used to people that they usually just sit there and pay you no mind. Two of my teammates, Matt Miller and Dave Reeves, recently went on safari in Kenya, and they both much prefer the West African experience. Viewing a lion in the wild in West Africa is actually a pretty rare experience, even though there are plenty around (Pendjari alone has over 300 lions).
West Africa is much less glamorous than East or South Africa. They don't film movies here. Teddy Roosevelt never hunted the Big Five here. AND it is hotter than the surface of the sun here. But West Africa doesn't get enough credit. It has amazingly diverse wildlife and landscape, without the touristy feel and nonchalant attitude of the animals. So please, by all means, continue taking your vacations in other parts of this vast continent, and my teammates and I will continue to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the place we have been blessed to call home!