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EXPLORATIONS - Eye to Eye With an Elephant, and Watching for Hungry Crocs, on Safari in Africa

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VOICE ONE:

I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

Safari explorers on the Chobe River
Safari explorers on the Chobe River

And I'm Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we go on safari to experience the sights and sounds of Africa's rich wildlife. The word "safari" comes from the Swahili and Arabic words for a trip or journey. Tourists from all over the world go to Africa to enjoy the excitement and wonder of safari explorations.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Imagine climbing into an open sided four-wheel drive vehicle early in the morning.

(SOUND)

Going on safari in a four-wheel drive vehicle
Going on safari in a four-wheel drive vehicle

Your expert guide drives you through the entrance to Chobe National Park in Botswana. All around, you can see the huge pink sky at sunrise. The trees and thick grass move slightly in the wind. Then, suddenly you hear the movement of leaves nearby. A few meters away a huge elephant walks out of the green bushes. He is so close you can see his white ivory tusks and the deep lines in his gray skin. He seems to look right at you, then moves on to continue his search for more food. Welcome to Africa and the excitement of safari.

VOICE TWO:

There are many national parks and game reserves in Africa where you can go on safari. For example, many tourists visit Kruger National Park in the northeastern area of South Africa. This park was established in nineteen twenty-six in an effort to protect the wildlife of South Africa. It has a surface area of almost twenty thousand square kilometers. Many kinds of plants and animals live in Kruger, including the famous "Big Five." The Big Five are five large animals: the elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros and buffalo.

Big game hunters created the term Big Five. For hunters, these five animals were some of the most difficult and dangerous to catch. Many tourists think mainly about seeing the Big Five while on safari. But there are many other interesting, and much smaller, animals as well.

VOICE ONE:

Kruger National Park represents a good example of the many kinds of safaris that are available to visitors. For example, in parks including Kruger, you can rent a car and drive around some areas on your own. There are also wilderness trails for safaris where you walk on a path to see the animals. A guide or ranger comes with you to keep you safe and tell about the animals. There are also mobile safaris where you sleep in a tent. The campsite moves with you as you travel through the park.

Private hotel companies operate some areas of parks such as Kruger. These hotels can be very costly. But many people think it is worth the cost to enjoy fine food and service. After all, it is not every day you can look out of your bedroom window and see a monkey or elephant standing outside.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

There are several general rules to follow when traveling on safari. For example, most people wear light-colored clothing such as light brown or tan. This is because lighter colors take in less of the strong heat of the sun than dark colors do. Darker color clothes are also more likely to attract mosquitoes. It is also important to wear a hat and sunscreen lotion to protect your skin from being burned by the very hot African sun. Binoculars are also very helpful for seeing animals that are far away.

VOICE ONE:

When you are out in nature it is important to speak softly so as not to frighten the animals away. Also, never try to feed or go near one of the animals. And, if you are in a boat, keep your arms and legs out of the water. You might want to touch the water to cool off. But you never know if a hungry crocodile or other creature is nearby. By following these guidelines you can enjoy a safari that is both safe and exciting.

VOICE TWO:

Tanzania is another country with many parks and game reserves. People who like chimpanzees can visit Gombe Stream National Park on the western border of the country. This is an area of thick forests, ancient trees, and beautiful lakes. Animal expert Jane Goodall made the chimpanzee populations in this area famous. She spent many years studying the behavior of these endangered animals.

A guide can take you deep into the forest. As you sit waiting, you might hear the screams and calls of the chimps coming closer. Chimpanzees share about ninety eight percent of their genes with humans. Their actions and noises can seem very human. Being able to watch these animals playing, eating and communicating with each other in the wild is a special experience to treasure.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Chobe National Park in Botswana is another popular place for safari travel. This park is home to one of the largest elephant populations in the world. Mist Setaung is a professional safari guide who often takes visitors through Chobe. Listen as he tells about himself and how he got this exciting job.

MIST SETAUNG: "My name is Mist Setaung and I was born and raised in Botswana, a place called Maun which is a gateway to the Okavango delta. To become a guide you actually go through a course. There's a six-month course of the Department of Wildlife, which is run by the government. Then, after this course you take an exam. My father offered me a job as a trainee guide and I went into the bush. Slowly and surely I started learning and eventually it got into my blood, and I just got devoted to it."

VOICE TWO:

A hippopotamus eating lunch
A hippopotamus eating lunch

With a guide like Mist you are guaranteed to see new animals and learn a great deal. One excellent way to see the wildlife of Chobe is by boat. Mist can take you on a boat ride up and down the river so you can see the animals as they come to drink or play in the water. Hippopotamuses like to stand in the grass and eat most of the day. Or, they enter the water to stay cool. In fact, a hippo can stay under water for up to six minutes. They are very good at hiding in the water. If you look carefully, you can see their two eyes looking out of the water at you. You know they are near when you hear the strange deep noise they make with their nose.

(SOUND)

These animals look too big and fat to be dangerous. But they can be very aggressive and protective of their territory.

VOICE ONE:

A paradise whydah
A paradise whydah

If you do not see any big animals near the river, Mist can tell you about birds instead. He can point out the male paradise whydah with its unusually long black tail feathers. Or, he might show you one of many guinea fowl, which he jokingly says are also called "Chobe chickens." He can even make noises that sound just like the birdcalls.

VOICE TWO:

There are also many smaller animals to watch for. Antelopes of all kinds live in the park. There are gnus or wildebeests with their flat wide faces. Fine-boned impalas walk around as gracefully as dancers. Solid warthogs explore the bush on their short little legs. These strange-looking wild pigs are dark with long yellow tusks coming out of their mouth. They are not very pretty animals. Mist says "they have a face only a mother could love."

Mist can also tell you about conservation efforts to protect wild animals. Some animals such as the black rhinoceros have almost been destroyed because poachers illegally hunt and kill them. Many parks across Africa have had trouble with poachers. In Chobe there is an army camp with workers who make sure that poachers stay away.

VOICE ONE:

It might surprise you that there are too many of some other animals. For example, in parts of Chobe the large elephant population has actually harmed the environment. When elephants eat huge quantities of leaves and grasses, other animals have trouble finding enough food to eat. And, elephants are not gentle eaters. They can tear out trees and bushes as they feed. In the dry season these dead plants can increase the danger of fires.

VOICE TWO:

Chobe elephants at sunset
Chobe elephants at sunset

If you are lucky, you can enjoy sunset while floating down the Chobe River. Yellow and orange colors fill the sky at this hour and are reflected in the water. The sun slowly starts to slip behind the trees. But before it is dark, you see a large movement of gray bodies. Three families of elephants have come to the water's edge.

More than thirty elephants are quietly drinking and eating. There are huge old elephants with large tusks. There are the mothers who lead each family group. Then, there are the babies who play and run around the thick legs of the adult elephants. The elephants look up and watch as your boat turns away and you head back to camp at the end of another day on safari in Africa.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Barbara Klein. You can read and listen to this program on our Web site, www.unsv.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

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