A few life lessons we picked up from the animals of Tanzania’s big safari parks: Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater.
When we humans observe animals and their behavior, we’re often tempted to anthropomorphize them, ascribing to them our human qualities. The zebra “wears” stripes, the cheetah “eats breakfast” and the warthog “hangs out with his buddies.”
While we were on safari in Tanzania, all those lions, elephants, cheetahs, and hippos prompted us to take this one step further and ask: What could the wild animals of Tanzania teach us about life, and possibly even business?
If all the safari animals were contracted for an motivational speaking conference, here’s who might show up and what they might say.
Warning: Cheetahs feature prominently. We were fortunate to run into them several times in the Serengeti.
10 Lessons Learned on Safari
1. Cheetah brothers: Practice Makes Perfect, Learn from Failure
We were lucky enough to see a pair of cheetah brothers two separate times on our safari — once in the late afternoon as they played and again in the early morning as they searched for food and tracked a herd of gazelles in the distance.
Unfortunately, the cheetahs’ morning approach was too slow and far too obvious for the alert gazelles who'd fled long before the brothers ever had a chance.
Their hunt was a failure. But this is how the less experienced learn: by trying, through practice.
In this case, their hopes are pinned on the next outing. Eventually, they’ll succeed. Their survival depends on it.
For most of us, we can’t expect to succeed without practice and a few moments of failure along the way. Failure happens. What makes the difference to your future: if and how you learn from it.
2. Cheetah mother: It All Begins with Vision
Shortly after watching the cheetah brothers and their failed hunt, we came across a mother – likely theirs — lazing about on the cool ground of early morning.
We watched for a bit and almost lost interest.
Just as we were about to abandon her for something more dramatic, she began to move deliberately. She glided past a herd of gazelles that looked to us like the obvious choice for a kill. Then she bypassed another.
What was she thinking?
Little did we know, her vision was to the horizon, something a little less obvious.
This was her strategy for the morning hunt. Only moments later, she amped up her gait. We followed her as she turned her focus to another, much larger herd of gazelles. They began to move quickly, but it was too late.
The mother cheetah moved with stunning speed — the sort you expect from a cheetah — and zeroed in on the slowest moving gazelle of the bunch. In seconds, it was over.
When we left her, she was sitting, panting heavily over her kill. Although she was exhausted, she knew she didn’t have the luxury of time. She had to eat quickly; hyenas and vultures were on their way to take a share.
Three lessons in one. Know what you want. Scan the long horizon. And sometimes you skip the obvious in front of you for a better opportunity.
3. Hippopotamus: Don’t Sh*t Where You Eat
It might sound odd to take life advice from an animal that spends its days in a poop-laden pool of water, but stick with me on this one.
Hippos spend nearly all day in the water in an attempt to stay cool as they digest last night’s dinner. The result: hippopotamus pools fill to the brim with 6000-pound pollution devices farting, pooping and splashing themselves in their own glee. Water churns. (Stomachs do, too.) It’s foul, it’s mesmerizing. It’s stench-laden, almost stifling.
The hippo pool is a battering, an all-out assault of the senses. It’s not a place where you light a match.
OK, enough of the scatology. The point? The survival of the hippopotamus seems odd given their size and circumstances. Three tons, vegetarian, and a sensitive skin that forces them to spend their daylight hours immersed in foul water and nighttime hours searching for and eating plants.
How have they not become extinct?
When it’s time to eat, the hippopotamus knows to go far, far away from their fetid bathing pools.
Good advice, both literally and figuratively.
4. Elephant: Sometimes Size Matters
No one messes with elephants. They aren’t predators, they aren’t ferocious. They’re just bigger than everyone else.
This size advantage confers certain benefits.
When you’re bigger than everyone else (either literally or figuratively), aggression isn't required to earn respect.
5. Guinea Fowl: No One is Too Small to Help
When the two cheetah brothers began their hunt, they passed by a rasp of guinea fowl feeding on the ground.
These birds knew they were safe, for they weren’t the cheetahs’ target. Their behavior went beyond themselves and they raised a ruckus to alert the other animals in area of the approaching danger – a calamitous noise that belied their size.
Never underestimate your ability to play a role, to help, or to make a difference.
6. Leopard: Get the View from Above
Leopards spend much of their day perched in trees, which is why they’re among the most difficult animals to spot on safari.
The leopard’s camouflaged aerial position allows him to take in the whole of the landscape, observing all animals and their movements. Best of all, nobody knows he’s up there.
When the leopard has finished his reconnaissance, he comes down from the tree and makes his move based on the intelligence he’s gathered.
Get an overview, gather your intelligence, then act.
7. Hyena: Persistence Pays
Say what you want about the hyena. They don’t look pretty and they always wear hangdog looks as though they’re up to no good, plotting something unsavory. It’s easy to dislike them.
However, as our guides tell it, hyenas are successful hunters because of their persistence. They rarely give up and they keep trying until they get what they want.
Sometimes persistence isn’t pretty. But it sure can be effective.
8. Wildebeest: There’s Strength in Numbers
On its own, the wildebeest can be an easy target for big cats like a lion or leopard. Yet one wildebeest in the midst of hundreds or thousands is enough to keep the cats away.
The wildebeest know there’s strength in numbers and value in working together.
9. Cheetah: A Solitary Life Can Be Difficult
Of all the big cats, cheetahs are the most vulnerable – in great part because as adults they are among the most solitary of all animals. Each cheetah relies only on itself for food. This means that if becomes seriously ill or injured (and therefore cannot effectively hunt), it will likely die of starvation. No other cheetahs will be there to share food or to help it recover.
Going it alone has its advantages, but a life without community or support may leave you vulnerable.
10. Lions: Live and Share in Community
Lions, on the other hand, live in communities – called prides – whose numbers can grow to ten or more. In a pride, female lions are responsible for hunting, for male lions are too slow and cumbersome.
In order to take down a big animal (like a buffalo) to feed the pride, lionesses must work together. After a kill, food is shared between members of the pride, each member takes his turn depending upon hierarchy, and injured members of the pride are ultimately taken care of.
Who do you want to be? A cheetah or a lion?
11. Vervet Monkey: In Grand Creations, Inject a Sense of Humor
A monkey with blue balls? And they are permanent! Mother Nature absolutely has a sense of humor.
What does this tell us? Perhaps, “Don’t sport blue balls if you are camera shy.”
Beyond that, take a cue from Mother Nature. Every so often, a nod to the not-so-serious — even in your magnum opus.
12. Rhinoceros: Generate Demand
After four days on safari, we were missing one animal in Africa’s legendary “Big 5” – the rhinoceros. On our final day, in our final hour, we saw one – elusive, far off in the distance, a dark silhouette almost more mystical than real.
Oohs and aaahs. Cameras clicked away even though our camera lenses captured the animal as a mere smudge.
Being elusive adds mystery and builds demand.
13. Zebra: From Ordinary to Icon
Add a few stripes and you become an icon. How else can you explain why zebras – in Swahili literally “striped donkeys” — are so prized while their donkey cousins are so under-appreciated?
Next time you’re looking for a new designs, consider adding stripes.
The experiences above were from the G Adventures Tanzania Encompassed Tour. If you plan to book this or another tour with G Adventures, please consider starting the process by clicking on the ad below. The price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission. Thank you!