We were trekking across the Wonderopolis savanna the other day when we overheard an interesting conversation between a giraffe and an elephant:

Giraffe: Ugh! Melinda, you're not going to believe this!

Elephant: What is it, Reginald?

Giraffe: There's a Land Rover headed this way. It's full of tourists with cameras.

Elephant: Seriously? That's the third one this week! It's an invasion of privacy!

Giraffe: I know, right? What should we do? The usual song and dance?

Elephant: I guess. I'll trumpet and you can eat some leaves off those trees.

Giraffe: Right. As soon as they're gone, though, we're playing cards like we had planned.

Elephant: Absolutely! I invited the monkeys, too. They're bringing pie.

Giraffe: Excellent! I love banana cream pie.

Elephant: Who doesn't? I need to cut back, though. I think my thighs are getting too big.

Giraffe: Nonsense!

Elephant: Said the giraffe with the skinny neck!

Tourists with cameras in an off-road vehicle looking for wild animals? In Africa? What's going on here? If you guessed a safari, you're right on!

The word safari got its start in the English language in the 19th century, courtesy of English explorer Sir Richard Burton. He borrowed a Swahili word that was itself based upon an older Arabic word — “safariya" — that means “a voyage or expedition."

In the 1800s, British hunters began to explore the areas of Africa below the Sahara Desert. They encountered magnificent views and wild animals that had never before been seen. As their stories and pictures traveled back to Europe, others soon wanted to take their own expeditions to Africa to hunt and see the sights.

These organized off-road treks through the wilds of Africa came to be known as safaris. Even today, the word “safari" conjures up images of wild African animals, beautiful scenery and a sense of adventure.

Of course, a lot has changed since the first days of safaris. Today, many of the animals once hunted are now either extinct or endangered species. Hunting is no longer a primary draw for people who want to go on a safari.

Instead, today's safari trekkers are happy just to see some of Africa's spectacular wildlife in the wild. Rather than skins and tusks, visitors take pictures and capture memories. Many African countries have invested in attracting safari visitors to develop ecotourism as a way to create jobs and conserve precious animal and natural resources.

What animals can you hope to see on a safari? Africa offers a wide variety of animals, but most safari trekkers still hope to see the “big five" animals: elephant, rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, lion, and leopard.

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s palm-sized Wonder of the Day often has a long tail and is sometimes gray. However, we’re not sure if it likes cheese.