Serengeti: THIS IS AFRICA! The Serengeti is what you picture when you think “African Safari”. The Savannah (Swahili for “endless plain”) with its umbrella acacia trees, waving golden grass as far as you can see, and HERDS of animals. I have never seen so many animals! It is the “Great Migration”, and Wildebeast and Zebras in thousands and thousands dot the landscape. THIS is Africa.
We have seen just everything here, from herds of elephants touching our car with their trunks to giraffes looking at us curiously from the side of the road, baboons in the trees, herds of zebra and wildebeest (they are almost always together, they apparently get along fine, and there is safety in numbers.) We have seen bat eared foxes (they are adorable), hyenas who were 5 feet away in the dark as we were escorted to our tent on the Savannah, eagles, dikdiks (the most incredible tiny little gazelle type of animals who always travel in mated pairs), a Cerval which is a smaller cat and a night hunter rarely seen in the day, we were lucky enough to see it just as the sun was rising this morning.
Yesterday we came upon a pride of lions….we counted 19 of them! They were relaxing at a creek, lapping up the water and hanging out. We found a wildebeest half eaten in a tree, but we didn’t find the leopard who must have put it there. The kill wasn’t fresh, but it wasn’t old. We have seen lions and lions and lions. Males who hang out on the rock outcrops (kropjes) and amazingly, lions in trees. I have heard that the lions of Serengeti and Ngorogoro are famous for their tree climbing, and now we have seen it firsthand. The Great Migration brings food a plenty to the lions.
We found 5 separate lions in trees yesterday, one was with a pride, and we even saw a male in the tree (unusual since the males are too lazy to climb trees). Randy took photos of each lion, and one of them had a belly so big he had to photograph just the tummy. These lions are fat and happy, their hunts are paying off and it seems they are eating every day. We did see a leopard in a tree as well, but too far away to even photograph it.
A very full belly! Time for a nap. On every safari drive in Tanzania I have been searching for the elusive cheetah. We never saw one in Sabi Sands (Kruger in South Africa), Botswana or Zimbabwe. The Serengeti and the crater are the prime spots for cheetahs, the endless flat plains of golden grass are perfect hunting grounds.
Samson, our wonderful guide, has been searching endlessly. He knows the name of every animal in Tanzania. He has been terrific. Samson met us at the airport in Kilimanjaro, and he has been with us ever since. We ride in our game vehicle, a four wheel drive, and he is our scout and ranger. He has also been an interpreter and has added greatly to our knowledge of the history of Tanzania and of the animals who live here. There are still tribes here, mainly the Maasai and the Suduku, and Samson tells us about their lives. As in Mozambique the life span of these people who live a rural or tribal life is short: about 45 for men, 55 for women. As I said, Samson has been a fountain of knowledge.
The cheetah is the only animal I have never seen in Africa so Samson has been driving endlessly through the plains, the prime hunting grounds for cheetahs. Tonight, on our last game drive, during our last hour, I had my wish granted. Two cheetahs in a field surrounded by honking Wildebeest with a kill (a small Wildebeest). We did not see the chase but we saw the aftermath. I have never, ever, seen anything like it. The cheetahs took turns ripping at the kill, gorging as fast as they possibly could. Samson drove off road and put us within 10 feet of the cheetahs and their kill! One would rest, the other would eat. Then they would trade places. Samson informed us that cheetahs have to eat fast because lions, hyenas and even leopards will steal the kill from them as soon as they get a whiff of it. Cheetahs are absolutely beautiful, elegant animals. These cheetah’s faces were covered in blood. I filmed them until it started to get dark. The safari guides are supposed to be out of the park by 630p. It was 620p and we were 40 minutes from camp. We left the cheetahs dazed and ecstatic and around the next corner: LION. Lying in the middle of the road with no intention of moving. She did finally move, and came around to the back of the vehicle. She did look as though she might find us a tasty treat. A lovely couple from Canada, staying at our lodge, also was with us at the kill and were following us back to camp when we saw the lion. They must be in their 70s, and I certainly hope I am as curious and active and sharp when I am their age (which won’t be long, 20 years?). They have been delightful. We also ran into our pals from the camp of Lake Manyara here, along with an Australian couple and an aunt with two teenage boys. It has been a fun group to be with for lunch and dinner, excitedly discussing our game drives. It is like being with divers, always excited about the last dive, talking about what you’ve seen and how deep you’ve been and where you have gone diving. I LOVE safari. I can’t wait to post this blog and publish a few pictures of the cheetahs!
Tomorrow begins the journey home. Serengeti to Arusha. Arusha to Nairobi to spend the night (again). Then fly to Joburg, then fly to London, then fly to Dallas. 2 ½ days traveling, but fortunately we are in Club World on British Airways, the loveliest “business” class around. Club World is more like first class, you have your own “pod” with a private tv, drawers and a seat which turns into a bed. They do everything for you except tuck you in, and if you asked, I think they would do that. Anyway, I am very keyed up tonight from all of the exhilarating animal encounters. I will blog more on the long journey home.