Michael Appelbaum’s Wildlife Adventures

The year 2020 has affected everyone in some way that you probably never planned. For me it was the year I could finally share my passion without losing friends or boring everyone at the party. Let me explain…I am totally passionate about the wildlife and tribes of Africa. It’s been part of my life since childhood. You see, I’ve spent the last 40 years setting up, organizing and leading people on photo safaris to most of the big game countries in Africa.

I’ve taken thousands of photos on film (slides) and basically filed them away. I also filed away (in my head) the hundreds of adventures and experiences I’ve been so blessed to have had. I never wanted to be the guy at the party boring everyone with his stories, so I simply kept them to myself all these years…or at least until last May when I was convinced to post a few safari photos on Facebook. Every photo had a story and the memories just flooded right back.

Guiding close to 30 safaris there’s quite a lot to share and suddenly I felt like I was reliving every moment…every detail and feeling. I was finally sharing the stories and adventures in living color (to date over 60 adventures with more to come). I’m having a wonderful time returning to each experience and hope you can enjoy these little bite sized adventures.

Every single word is exactly as it happened so there’s no need for me to exaggerate or embellish anything. While I keep a journal of each safari, I seldom need to refer to it. The photos are all mine, for better or worse, unless I’m actually part of the image. Well, that’s my story. Please make any comments you wish. I will respond to every comment and usually have fun with them. You may have been on safari before, but I want you to feel like you’re experiencing each adventure along with me, so if you’re ready, let’s go on this  safari together.

        Mike Appelbaum


In my attempt to share some of these incredible experiences I offer this as one of the best…ever. It had to take place in Botswana’s Okavango Delta because that’s where so many of these things seem to happen to me. I was riding shotgun (the seat position not the weapon) with Nandi, my favorite guide, on our afternoon game drive. We were in the Moremi Preserve and had been out for almost an hour when we came across this mother cheetah with four young cubs.

Four Cheetah Cubs

They were about 6 months old and she was obviously an excellent mom to keep all her cubs healthy in area with such an abundance of other dangerous predators. We kept our distance and stayed with them while they played and instinctively practiced some of the skills that would ultimately be necessary for them to become successful hunters and survivors. After about an hour one of my group members asked if we were going to leave the cheetah to look for other game. I explained to our group (4 others in our completely open, topless and windshieldless Land Rover) that the key to the most amazing game viewing has literally been my motto: Patience…patience to just wait and observe their behavior. Patience so you can be there as something unfolds that might have otherwise been missed. So, during the next 1/2 hour everyone just settled in as we enjoyed the show. I was interested in seeing how comfortable the cheetah would get with our Land Rover, especially since they seemed very relaxed and chilled with us…and there were no other vehicles to distract them.

cheetah cub on hoodWhile mom seemed to ignore us the incredibly cute cubs seemed a bit more curious. It was at this point that I noticed how one cub that I kept looking at seemed to be making eye contact with me as well. As I looked around at the other people in our group no one else seemed to be paying much attention to this little guy. Now, he very slowly started moving toward the front of the Land Rover. What a curious little bugger. Remember, I’m in the front seat next to Nandi, who like me, is watching this little guy. Nandi sees him coming and keeps poking me (like I’m not glued to every move). At this point I asked everyone to remain quiet not make any loud noise or move too quickly ‘cause my little friend is looking directly at me while leaning on and peeking across the bonnet (hood). Such a curious little guy…The next few moments become the best safari moments of my life as he effortlessly jumps up on the hood and with only minimal trepidation, very slowly walks toward me!!  He got so close I had no way to use my camera, nor did I want to. (Remember, there is NO windshield.) This little guy kept coming. I could feel his breath and literally hear him breathing, while mine totally stopped. It was the most amazing moment I’ve ever had. For those few moments this totally wild young cheetah was eye to eye with me watching so closely, but showing no fear of me and I had no fear of him.

Frigging Magic! Everyone in the vehicle later told me they were all frozen in place holding their breath. Cheetah Cub on Jeep HoodWell, unfortunately, it only lasted an incredible few seconds because Nandi waved his hand and my new friend turned to leap off the hood. I instantly lifted my camera to take the fastest grab shot I ever attempted. I just had to have something to prove to myself it wasn’t just a dream.

Now, many years and many great and wonderful adventures later and yet I still feel that little cheetah’s breath on my face and still feel that momentary yet awesome connection. So….might you ever wonder why I love doing this so much? For me there are few experiences in the world that could compare with these incredible adventures I’ve already enjoyed (or in some cases, happily survived). Taking people on incredible photo safaris over the past 40 years and introducing them to nature’s wonders has been my greatest pleasure. If you got through this one why not join me again on another adventure.

22 thoughts on “Michael Appelbaum’s Wildlife Adventures”

  1. Manijeh Badiozamani

    Loved it! I’m looking forward to the next adventure story, so I can enjoy an African Safari, vicariously.

    1. Thank you so much for your response Manijeh. I am happy to have you come along with me as I attempt to share these adventures in a way that you can feel the experience with me. My goal is for you to be a part of each Safari.

    1. Hi Pat. Thank you for your interest. I’ve got many experiences to share and appreciate hearing from you. There’s lots more to come so stay tuned.

  2. You bring every scene alive Mike…can’t wait for some more….keep giving baby…I want to receive.

    1. Hi Sandy. Thanks for your enthusiasm. There’s a good chance you may enjoy coming along on some of these little adventures. My goal is for you to feel some of the excitement that I feel every single day and almost every hour I’ve been on Safari. I’ll try to give you your money’s worth, so slap on some sunscreen and off we go.

  3. Cleo May 22
    I was spell bound and found myself holding my breath. What a Magical moment to connect with a wild animal. Must have been incredible for sure. I am hooked.

    1. Hi Cleo. I’m thrilled that you were able to connect with the emotional reaction I had with the cheetah. I can promise many more experiences and adventures that put me through the gamut of emotions…some not quite as magical. If you’re willing to stay tuned-in I’ll do my best to take you along and share them with you. I really appreciate your interest.

  4. Congrats Apps!
    This is a wonderful African Safari story. I look forward to your next ones until my Safari trip later next month. I hope to have some incredible encounters like yours!😊

  5. Thanks Kathy. I’m looking forward to my monthly column in Breakfast Serial every third Friday with my friends at Hallard Press. I didn’t realize that posting my images would become a platform for me to relive and relate so many of my experiences and adventures. I have no doubt your present level of photography will serve you so very well on your coming safari. If you keep your original itinerary you will have a wonderful chance for cheetah in the Mara. I know you’ll come home with images I will envy.

    1. Mike
      We have been friends, fraternity brothers for 50 years. We have personally enjoyed your Safari adventures through you pictures, slides and Love your passion fir Africa. Last year we did our first Safari with Nuzti and also visited Kruger National reserve. Now I can honestly say that I truly understand your passion for the animals and people of Africa. You have a gift in writing where I can feel exactly what your are seeing. You my friend should write a Safari Adventure Book and share more of
      Your pictures and experiences. Thanks for sharing your passion and experiences with us
      Tony & Karin

      1. Tony, I am so thrilled that you and Karin got to go on that safari so you could get a taste of this obsession that has been so significant in my life. I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t been blown away by the safari experience. Selfishly, I would have loved having you on safari with me, but I’m just glad you’ve had the opportunity. Thanks for being so supportive. Now I’ll try to give you a taste of being on safari through my eyes. Always, YITB

  6. Great wildlife photo to go along with a great story to get my heart pumping.
    Thanks for joining and being a regular contributor of HALLARD PRESS.

    1. Thank you Ben. I’m looking forward to working with Hallard Press and reaching new people through the column. I really appreciate your input.

  7. Wow! Loved the photo and looking forward to reading more.
    I was transfixed by the 3 incredible nonfiction books written by Delia and Mark Owens about their years in Africa and the relationships they developed with the animals – especially the lions and elephants – while they were doing their graduate work. My appetite has again been whetted by your story.

  8. .Janice & Jim Wright

    As retired teachers, we planned our own private safaris in Tanzania & Botswana, Africa. We were in the middle of a 1,500 herd of elephants, up close 12’ at a lion pride kill of a giraffe (with hienas, vulures, etc in the wings waiting for keftovers), wild dogs kill of an impala, 1/2 day watching yellow hornbill seal his mate in their nest, our guide up a tree while he said we were in no danger in our tent as hienas threw large coolers etc. out of the jeep to break open & steal all our food, set up our own camp right next to the exit Hippo route from the water at night to go graze, & how about the purple/orange/yellow/ red sunsets. Oh the roar of the lions across the savannah & all its other sounds. I could go on & on about a potential harrowing experience in Dar es Salam, a couple we met who took us home to sleep underneath a thatched roof house on the Garden Route., getting a herd of carved ironwood elephants home, swimming with dolphins during a tour out of Zanzibar, really experiecing “Death on the Nile,” loving Cairo. Egypt pyramids & sphinx, etc. Oh what we would give to go back again.

    1. Janice and Jim…wow, you almost tired me out just reading about your adventure. I’ve always told people that a safari is a trip like no other. You may be able to plan an itinerary of where you want to go, but you’ll never know what you’re going to see or what will happen on any given day. That to me is a formula for excitement and a true adventure. I’m really thrilled for you and would love to hear more about your experience some time. It certainly proves the point that every safari is an adventure and I can certainly relate to yours. I hope you’ll join me here and maybe even feel some of that excitement again.

  9. What a beautiful story Mike. I always dreamed about an African safari, and you have a unique way of bringing your pictures to life! I could even feel the cheetah’s breathe on my face.

    1. I’m so glad you had that reaction Barbara. My goal is always to have you come along with me and feel some of what I experience. I’ll certainly try to share that kind of feeling each time you join me. Every safari is a unique adventure, regardless of how many you’ve experienced before. And, after all, I want you to remember that soft breath of the cheetah…thank’s so much for your comment and certainly stay tuned.

  10. Oh Wow, Rita. I’m a huge fan of Mark and Delia. I never met them, but discovered Cry of the Kalahari back around 1984 . I had already been doing Kenya and Tanzania for several years and couldn’t wait to get to the Kalahari. I just yearned to do what they had done, but had to settle for a less dramatic annual safari or two rather than pitching a tent and living in the bush for the next 20 years. I loved their relationships with the wildlife, specifically Pepper the brown hyena and Gift the elephant. I’m really thrilled that you are also a fan of theirs. I hope to convey my love of the wildlife and people I’ve been so fortunate to know over the past 40 years in my articles and posts. Being an avid wildlife photographer I have been able to combine writing about my adventures with the photography. I have been inspired by the writing of many naturalists and fortunate to have spent time in Africa with several. I invite you to stay tuned to my adventures (and blunders) and hope you’ll touch base again. THANK YOU so much, Rita for your interest.

  11. Wow!! What an experience; to be almost like one with one of nature’s most beautiful wild cats!!! Jealous!!! 😂

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