"I had known from the first day of my first safari that I would return to Africa.  But my initial conviction that I could be wholly content revisiting, over and over, the same gloriously remote places, and embracing whatever each presented to me was abruptly overturned by the sight of screeching scavengers feeding on what, mere hours before, had been vibrant and robust antelopes.  I was now compelled to recognize that for all of its stand-alone wonders, Africa was much more than a succession of picture-perfect tableaux, neat and discrete.  It was a vast stage upon which great, messy dramas were enacted.”

"When it happened, none of us caught it all.  It was instantaneous.  Those observing the antelopes saw the impalas and giraffes scatter in flight.  Those watching the cheetahs saw them leap to the chase.  No one even glimpsed the four others that had disappeared into the bush.  We knew only that the trap had been sprung.  Lionel slammed the Land Rover into gear and we were off."

"Our eyes made contact.  There was nothing hostile in her look, or fearful or anxious – or even curious really.  Rather it was the kind of relaxed, comfortable look I get from our family dog when he is content and curled up at our bedside at night.  I wondered what the gorilla was reading in my eyes, for there was no doubt she was reading something.  After our brief shared moment, her eyes shifted away from mine and closed.  That simplest and most understated of acts seemed to me an extraordinary display of trust – one undeservedly extended to a representative of a fellow primate species that has mutilated and murdered and driven these gentle giants to the threshold of extinction."

"The sound was raw and unattenuated – a paralyzing call of the wild – and with each angry bellow, I could feel the ground vibrating through the tires and frame of our minivan.  The display continued for the better part of a minute, each roar expelling a whoosh of vapor from the lion’s lungs that hung on the chill morning air before fading away."

"Adept at reading body language and behavioral cues, our boat guide eased up to the old tusker, closer than I would have considered prudent, then cut the engine.  The churning rumble of the outboard motor – strangely comforting in context – was abruptly and unexpectedly silenced, supplanted by the quiet lapping of water against the side of the boat.  Momentum carried us to within twenty feet of the elephant, who stood attentive, yet relaxed and composed, ears flapping rhythmically as we gazed up and into his eyes.  He was totally in his element.  We were totally out of ours."

"I smelled them before I saw them.  It was a strong musky eau de gorilla kind of smell – the kind of smell one might expect from big hairy beasts with a reputed aversion to water.  Our guide beckoned us forward into a tight group.  Then, with a slight theatrical flourish, he parted a curtain of foliage – and there was a mountain gorilla, not twenty feet away."

"It took me a while to realize what was there.  Then I saw the eyes – amber eyes – and everything else snapped into focus.  Deep in the enveloping foliage was a full-grown male lion.  And he did not appreciate the intrusion.  I craned for a better view, and he met my gaze with a penetrating go-away look and a rumbling subwoofer growl of annoyance."

"From wildlife documentaries, I knew what to expect.  Working like a crack combat unit, the wild dogs would identify the most promising target animal and then run it to ground in a full-throttle sprint that could last up to three or four miles.  So much for expectations.  What took place before us could most fittingly be characterized as chaotic.  The startled antelopes bolted in all directions – and the dogs did pretty much the same."

"The young baboon advanced to within arm's reach of me, extended a tiny hand and clasped the toe of my tennis shoe.  Not wishing to encourage further interspecies bonding, I retracted my foot, ever so slowly, but the youngster started and leaped back in alarm – and before I was even aware of his proximity, the dominant male charged at me and screeched, his flashing three-inch canines looking like a sabertooth cat's from my eye-level perspective."