Think Africa and it’s likely to be the incredible wildlife that first springs to mind – impala, ostriches, zebra, gorillas and of course the ‘Big Five’, elephant, rhino, leopard, lion and buffalo. Creatures big and small add to the appeal of Africa as Intrepid’s Ellen Sziede discovered…
“All the animals of Africa are astounding, but I have to admit that I also find some of them quite threatening. While working for a lodge in Malawi it wasn’t all that unusual for a hippo to lose its way into our village. I soon became wise to checking before I used the outside bathroom at night, as hippos graze on land after dark, and this also happens to be when they are at their most aggressive.
One time I was running late to meet friends based at a river lodge in a densely forested area. It wasn’t just my tardiness that caused me to gnaw at my finger nails – I was hoping not to be attacked by an elephant annoyed by the car headlights!
Discovering a smaller Africa was far more fascinating and rewarding for me. Lake Malawi boasts over 500 varieties of fish, and snorkelling through huge clouds of neon-coloured Mbuna never ceased to be a thrill. I’d hold my breath and drift underwater for as long as I could while the fish would surround me and nibble at my fingertips. On resurfacing, at times I was faced by very playful and curious otters, stopping just short of actually poking me, but my favourites by far were the lizards.
Coming in all shapes and sizes, from impressive foot-long fat grey dragon look-alikes to the small and nimble blue-green lizards, I could sit quietly for hours watching them slither over the rocks. To me that was the real face of Africa – not the dangers, but the beautiful everyday things you’d see if you stopped and lingered. That’s also why there is now a permanent little lizard crawling up my shoulder – it was my tiny piece of Africa to take home, when I eventually had to leave.”
* photo by Emma Jacobs – Intrepid Photography Competition