Beautiful Ruaha

Dear Maxine,

Hodi! Hello there! How are you?

I am still in Tanzania and will remain here for quite some time. I know that I have a habit of hopping from one country to another, but despite my continual hopping around, I still find myself deep inside the endless dry miles of central Tanzania.

This is a very big place, with very big animals roaming about. Small ones, too. I think that’s what I love about this place—that life is booming, from the big giant foot stomps of old elephants to the rapidly palpitating heart of the dainty dik-dik and the beating wings of so many iridescent insects.

I would send you a postcard, but Ruaha National Park is so remote and unknown, I have not found any that say “Ruaha” on them. So instead, I am sending you this little homemade video.

None of us will ever be David Attenborough (especially me) but I still wanted to show you some of what I saw from the back of a safari jeep and while walking along the banks of the Ruaha River or when I pushed away the mosquito netting from my bed in the glorious pink dawn of one of the driest, hottest parts of Tanzania.

527 bird species live in Ruaha and over the four days that I spent there on safari, I saw maybe sixty. My favorite was the lilac-breasted roller in this video, who posed so nicely one morning, sitting on a nearby branch and preening just for me. If you have never seen this bird, you need to—it will change your life. The roller is a bird that shines with every color of the rainbow and then some colors unknown to rainbows, too. They fly around and seem so common in Ruaha, that I must keep reminding myself what an uncommon bird this is.

The Maasai of Tanzania have their own culture and language, and their word for the lilac-breasted roller is alanga, which means simply “beautiful.”

And so, Maxine, I am sending you this beautiful bird and a whole heap of other lovely animals. Thank you for traveling with me online for so long. I know how impersonal the Internet can be, but you should know that I read every single one of my readers’ tweets. Maxine, I’ve always appreciated having you along on our travels and thank you for your curiosity, informed questions and terrific comments.

Say hello to great gray Manhattan for me and whenever you see a pigeon, imagine instead that its underwings are turquoise and royal blue, its chest a light lilac color, and its beak a shiny gold-tinged black. Then you maybe will understand some of what I am seeing now.

Thanks again and as they say in Swahili, Nakutakia heri–blessings upon you.

Your Friend,


View Images
Beautiful Ruaha, right before the rains come. (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler)