With Kilimanjaro conquered and the safari complete, a very memorable Tanzanian expedition draws to a close and our team bids farewell to Africa as they head home. Lead guide, Rob Smith, provides the final words on the trip:
Many people have heard of ‘the big five‘ when it comes to African wildlife. The term originated from hunters, for the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot. These are lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino. It is heartening that the term associated with hunting these animals is now synonymous with wildlife tourism and conservation.
We did not see the full set of five, but that matters little as we did see so much. It is the diversity and abundance of wildlife that made our safari so memorable.
Of course the safari was after our main event, the Kilimanjaro climb. The hardships of that are beginning to fade, and the good times are becoming more memorable. Standing on the roof of Africa is not so easy, and John, Jaclyn and Kristin all managed to get there. It has been a safe, successful and enjoyable trip which has packed a lot into a relatively short time. Definitely not your average two week vacation. Thanks for following our journey!
Today’s Swahili: Kwaheri – goodbye; Karibu – you are welcome
Today exceeded all our expectations, as Jaclyn said on returning to camp.
Shortly after leaving this morning we saw several vehicles parked at the trailside. This usually means there is something of interest nearby. We pulled up and sure enough, a cheetah was sitting on top of a termite mound near the track. The fastest land animal in the world sat in front of us, just like that. It was sleek with beautiful markings. Black ‘teardrops’ noticeable on its alert and watchful face. The cheetah moved to a closer mound, rested and then crossed the track between the vehicles. It sat on another mound before dropping off, looking right but moving in a leftward arc. We could not see what the cheetah had seen until soon a Thomson’s gazelle bounded through the grass towards the cheetah. A pounce, a flurry of dust, a kicking of legs and it was all over. We were amazed to have witnessed the spectacle. Whatever your views on animals killing each other, this is the circle of life in the Serengeti.
We continued on to a rest stop, where maybe 50 tourists were gathered. 500′ away a tree stood with a rock by its base. The rock turned out to be the head of a male lion, its large mane bulking its head size. At one point, the lion stood up before lying down, now completely unseen. It made us wonder how many animals lay in the long grass out of sight nearby. The day continued, we saw a leopard perched on top of a Kopje, rock outcrop, much larger and muscular than the cheetah. We wondered what was coming next.
Two large lions chasing gazelles across the plain before stopping at a carcass surrounded by vultures. Hippos, crocodiles, elephants, giraffes, a jackal, hyenas, so many birds. A mother and young cheetah sitting in the shade eyeing up ostrich and warthogs in front of them. Two lionesses squabbled and the winner dragged a Thomson’s gazelle into cover and sat virtually unseen as it feasted on the catch. This is some of what we have seen today. It is no wonder it far exceeded our expectations.
We have another night in the Serengeti Osupuko Camp with the birds calling and wind rustling the tree branches. Tomorrow we leave the Serengeti to drive back to Arusha. Fortunately for us, we get to view more wildlife on the first part of the drive until we leave the National Park.
Today’s Swahili: Kiboko – Hippo; Chui – Leopard; Duma – Cheetah; Serengeti – Endless plain
This morning we visited the Ngorongoro Crater, an area more than 180 square miles bounded on all sides by steep crater walls of a former volcano. The fertile base of the crater provides a haven for wildlife, and today it did not disappoint. Despite a misty start limiting views at the top of the crater, conditions were much clearer when we reached the base after a rough, steep descent. Buffalos and ostrich were seen on the drive down. A pool was filled with hippos, most of their bulk underwater with their backs and snouts visible. They shared the pool with pelicans while egrets, sacred ibis, and Egyptian geese sat on the banks. Two elephants stood in foliage nearby.
In the dry season, many animals are attracted to water sources, and it can be a great place to view them. Along the trails secretary birds with their snake stamping legs strutted back and forth. A jackal paced in front of our vehicle for several hundred meters before it cut off the track. Hyenas slinked around in the long grass, looking menacing. We crested a rise, and two lionesses were just off the track, focussed on a group of buffalo. They blended in perfectly with the grass and moved stealthily. With more ground to cover, we left them to it.
Leaving the Ngorongoro, we bumped and shook along the road to Serengeti National Park. Wide-open plains had us wondering if we would see any wildlife, as the area is vast. But after 5 minutes of entering the park, we spotted two more lions. Two became three which became four, and when a half-eaten leg was seen sticking up through the grass, it was clear we had come across the site of a recent kill. A pile of feathers nearby told us an ostrich had been the unlucky catch. It is disconcerting when a lion with a bloody face stares at you from not so far away. Content with their meal, they all lay down in the sun and slept, and we moved on.
So our adventure continues. Tonight we are staying in a tented camp in the Serengeti amongst this amazing habitat. Tomorrow we have another full day of safari. Let’s see what is in store for us.
Today’s Swahili: Lion – Simba — Buffalo – Nyati