Come On and Safari with Me

Posted by on Aug 5, 2011 in General Travel, Tanzania | 2 Comments

Watching lions, whether they’re hunting or lounging in the shade of an acacia tree, doesn’t get old. Nor does observing wildebeest snort and snuffle their way past you, or elephants scratching themselves on trees, or warthogs darting through the grass, their tails sticking straight up like antennae. In short, I really think I could go on safari every day.

While Pierre was scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro with his group, I was camping in the Serengeti, Lake Manyara National Park, and the Ngorongoro caldera (it’s not a crater, our guide adamantly informed us; calling it that is scientifically inaccurate). Just the wealth of animals in these places was mind-boggling. Try to think of any place in the world outside of Africa where you can go to a national park and be guaranteed to spot at least 20 species within a few hours – I can’t think of a single one. The abundance of life on the continent is absolutely incredible.

Herbivores everywhere!

Herbivores everywhere!

In South Africa and Botswana last summer, Pierre and I were fortunate to see four of the “Big Five,” including the extremely endangered Black Rhino. Even though the Big Five is a hunting term indicating the five animals that are the most difficult to kill (elephants, lions, rhinos, buffalo, and leopards), everyone who goes on safari – even vegetarian animal lovers such as yours truly – secretly feels the need to check all of them off their list. So naturally, my primary goal this time around was to see the one I missed last year: the leopard.

Within ten minutes of starting our first drive through the Serengeti, we pulled over and our guide pointed to a tree. “See that tail?” He said, pointing to what looked like a branch. “That’s a leopard!” I sort of saw it, but not really. Nonetheless, I decided to be satisfied that I’d seen my leopard. But no more than five minutes later, we pulled over again. “Another leopard!” Our guide was gleeful. This time, there was no mistaking it. I could see the spots, the two paws lazily hanging down from a tall branch, and, when I looked with binoculars, two yellow eyes looking right at me. Mission accomplished!

Can you see him?

Can you see him?

As it turned out, the double-leopard spotting (heh) was a harbinger of just how great this safari would be. We saw a lioness unsuccessfully hunting a hartebeest with her two adolescent cubs, crocodiles lazing on the shore, zebras galloping across the savannah, an elephant mock-charge our group’s vehicle, and so much more.

Lioness and her cubs.

Lioness and her cubs.

Post-mud bath elephant.

Post-mud bath elephant.

Love the light in Africa...

Love the light in Africa...

So handsome.

So handsome.

Graceful giraffes, the symbol of Tanzania.

Graceful giraffes, the symbol of Tanzania.

Poor hyena. So unfortunate-looking.

Poor hyena. So unfortunate-looking.

My favorite kitty.

My favorite kitty.

Just after this picture was taken, two wildebeest fell in the water. It was heartbreaking to watch them try to get out. Luckily, there were no crocs in the water and they scrambled out unharmed!after

Just after this picture was taken, two wildebeest fell in the water. It was heartbreaking to watch them trying to get out. Luckily, there were no crocs in the water and they managed to scramble out unharmed!

We also made some stops to see a Maasai village (fascinating, though I questioned its authenticity a bit when one of the villager’s cell phones went off during a demonstration of how they make fire from two sticks), a cultural village in a place translated as Mosquito River (completely and utterly contrived), and the Oldupai Gorge (with an interesting, if small, museum about the archaeological discoveries made there).

The Maasai welcome us to their village.

Maasai women welcome us to their village.

Oldupai Gorge -- home of the Nutcracker Man and some very old footprints.

Oldupai Gorge -- home of the Nutcracker Man and some very old human-like footprints.

Overall it was a fun few days, and I really enjoyed the company of my fellow Gap Adventures travelers, some of whom I spent more time with on Zanzibar the following week. Sharing Scotch around a campfire in the middle of the Serengeti, dancing with the Maasai, and, of course, making eye contact with the leopard are experiences I won’t soon forget.

2 Comments

  1. Ed
    August 5, 2011

    Just great!

    Reply
  2. Eileen
    August 24, 2011

    Gorgeous photos!

    Reply

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