Wild to Inspire: Danzania

Dan Duran is the winner of the first annual Wild to Inspire short film contest, launched last year in partnership with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and the Sun Valley Film Festival.  As the winner, he’ll be documenting  Tanzania’s dynamic Manyara–Tarangire ecosystem, which includes Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks and the AWF-managed Manyara Ranch Conservancy. This is the first post in a series where he’ll spotlight Africa’s wild side and share his experiences from the field as a wildlife filmmaker.  

Where do I even begin? I feel like I lived a lifetime is just a matter of days. I’m so incredibly blessed and humbled to embark on amazing opportunity thanks to Nat Geo WILD and the African Wildlife Foundation. Just a brief recap, I’m the winner of Nat Geo WILD’S first annual “Wild to Inspire” short film competition, which they held in partnership with the Sun Valley Film Festival and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). I won the competition last March with my two friends and colleagues, Brendan Nahmias and Sam Price-Waldman, with a short film called WOLF MOUNTAIN. We all decided that I would go to Africa if we ended up winning and here I am, 8 months later, in Tanzania. Surreal to say the least… It has always been a dream of mine to film for Nat Geo and I can’t believe the dream has become a reality. I keep pinching myself because none of this seems real.

I’m currently staying in Tarangire National Park, but will be filming throughout the Maasai Steppe Landscape, profiling the work of AWF and the abundant wildlife in the region. Throughout the month of December, I’ll be filming in Lake Manyara National Park, Manyara Ranch Conservatory, and Ngorongoro in addition to Tarangire.

Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park

My first day, I landed in Arusha and met the AWF staff and Director, John Salehe, who I found to be incredibly accommodating. John is quite the character and he does amazing work in the region to insure that the development and growth of the country are sustainable and receptive to the needs of wildlife. This includes elephants, lions, rhinos, wild dogs, apes and a wide array of species in the African continent.

John and AWF hooked me up with my very own Land Rover and driver to transport me around the landscape. This Land Rover is literally a production vehicle dream come true for wildlife filmmaking. The car not only comes with a spacious sunroof for shooting, but also houses a cooler, multiple power outlets for charging phones and batteries, comfy seats, and adequate space for all my equipment and tripod. They were also able to remove two seats just so I could have more room. All of this just for me?! I feel like a “Chief”, as John recently dubbed me.

Production Car extraordinaire
Production Car extraordinaire

Initially, I was worried that I’d have trouble filming inside a car the entire time since you can’t film outside of the car without an escort in Tarangire National Park. But heck, I could film in this vehicle for days. And I have! First day out in the field and I’ve already captured more wildlife than I could possibly have imagined. I’ve never been on a safari before so you could imagine how excited I got when I spotted something as common as an antelope for the first time.

Antelope at Tarangire National Park
Antelope at Tarangire National Park

The beauty of this country enamors me. Words simply can’t do Tarangire National Park justice and I keep wanting to shoot and capture everything single thing I see. I could write for days, but another day awaits with more filming, exploring, and life changing experiences. More updates to come!

Want to follow in Dan’s footsteps?  Enter the second annual Wild to Inspire short film contest through January 17th – visit natgeowild.com/wildtoinspire for more details.