Safari So Goodi

There is a lion jogging warily around the open sided land cruiser no more than four feet away. There is nothing between us but warm air, dry throats and tension: no windows, no doors, no rifle. Just a lion circling. It had been trying to mate with a lioness. Then we arrived.
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At moments like this there is nothing you can do but sit still and wonder what the hell is going to happen. In general the streets of London are probably more dangerous than the view from the Landcruiser in the Selous National Reserve but they are urban terrors. No matter how many hooded gangs or dangerous drivers you can pass in the city I have yet to confront anything that might eat me. Do not think I am exaggerating here, the day I returned from my trip  the English daily papers featured footage of a tourist being mauled by a lion in Kenya, and that was supposed to be tame.

If travel is a journey from start to finish and the accumulation of experience along the way I know of nowhere more stimulating than my trip to the Beho Beho Luxury Lodge, Tanzania. I’ve been to a few places across the globe but nowhere that quite compares. In fact the only  life experiences  I can compare coming face to face with an irate lion is free-fall whilst skydiving and bringing my son into the world. You don’t truly feel you are alive until you genuinely fear you might be about to die.

At the time it felt like the world had slowed to the longest of seconds but once the cat had passed and we’d moved off and found safety some distance away my heart settled back down to a more reliable pace and I truly realised just how much adrenalin had kicked in.

For me it was a moment I will never forget but for the people of Beho Beho it’s just another day showing their guests life-changing locations. Beho Beho is a luxury lodge in 50,000 square kilometres of lush green Tanzanian wilderness. If you need to escape everything then this is where I recommend you head. Arriving by small plane from Dar Es Salaam, you spend days eating fine food and bumping across the plains and through creeper covered woodland by land cruiser. If you are very lucky you see the highly rare Wild Dogs chasing and hunting down a gazelle. If you are alert and quiet you can bush walk until you come across an elephant bathing in perfect solitude.

One of the reasons there is such a power to the place is there’s nothing man-made in sight. No cars, roads, jets, advertising, no sharp edges and no smog

If you arrive and merely experience an average day you will find families of elephants and giraffes just across the landscape from the hippos and the water buffalo. You will see a view that stretches forever and comes to rest beneath sunsets and sky scapes the likes of which we just do not see in Europe.  And if you take stock for a second you will have to remind yourself that this isn’t an experience you visit for a day before the animals are locked up and the place closes down for the night. This is the real deal.

The view from Beho Beho across the Selous feels timeless, not so much representing a different place as a different age. If you have no concept of this type of environment (and I previously hadn’t) then I can only quote our chief guide Sasha, who quite simply equated it to the lush endless wilderness in the film Jurassic Park.

The place doesn’t just give you sights and memories but a heightening of the senses, particularly the adrenalin rush of the lions up close or the excitement of seeing the first giraffe as you dip into land.

At one point as Sasha had led us on foot through the bush we came to rest a mile from the camp, high above a ravine with a river stumbling through it. Deep down below the sun caught on the shining rubbery back of the hippo with its baby waggling a foot behind, they were heading unsighted around a sharp bend to where a water buffalo was washing, Sasha was intrigued to see how the encounter would pass, but it did so without incident. Meanwhile across the gorge a giraffe pushing through the ceiling of jungle foliage and staring out from a darkened gap in the trees – almost camouflage in the shade- the ears and face of a mighty elephant.

You think images like this only appear on the covers of children’s picture books but here it is in front of us. To cap it all to the right, hanging off the edge of the planet, is one of the biggest rainbows you’ll see, arching up over gray walls of rain thirty miles away.

One of the reasons there is such a power to the place is there’s nothing man-made in sight. No cars, roads, jets, advertising, no sharp edges and no smog.  You can stay here and know nothing of the world’s economic status or wars, politics or television.  Mobile phones don’t get a signal and during our stay in this fantastic spot the internet was down.  It truly is a paradise, an escape from humanity.

When it does come to visit it shocks you, a faint buzz of a bumble bee grows louder and down across the plain ahead of us comes a World War One Spotter aircraft with it’s fabric wings and wooden propeller, it’s pilot slowly banking from beast to beast, hoping to see the rare Black Rhino. Go and discover Beho Beho and the timeless glory of the Selous.

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