We see all the big five and get drunk in the Serengeti!
21.03.2011 - 28.03.2011 32 °C
Following a week of relentless trekking up Kilimanjaro, our aching bodies were in need of some well earned rest. So off we went in search of the big five!
Before we set off on safari though, we spent a day in Arusha where we were told to 'Be Born To Tanzanite'. They also tried to persuade us to part with $500 for a stone. As beautiful as they are, I unfortunately don't have that kind of money. On our way back to the hotel, we meandered through the maze that is Arusha market. Everywhere you looked, there were stacks and stacks of fresh fruit, endless numbers of kangas and fly infested meat. Needless to say, our group - which consisted of myself, Ben, Olivia, Ian and Stacey from the Kili climb, and also Elise, Vitor, Malinn and Henriette - stayed well clear of the pig carcasses. On our way back to the hotel, I stubbed my toe, (exactly the same as what happened to me in Turkey in the summer!) resulting in blood gushing out of my toe. Bizarrely, our rather camp guide, Peter, nonchalantly waved it away as a minor cut.
With my cut cleaned and bags packed, we piled into our safari vans and headed to Mto Wa Mbu, which translates as 'mosquito river'. Here, we took part in a cultural tour - the highlight of which being the tasting of banana beer! Then it was time for the real deal. Lake Manyara National Park was a short trip down the road and we certainly weren't disappointed. Despite only being in the park for three or four hours, we saw a colossal amount of wildlife. The baboons were our first taste of African wildlife - one of whom gave us an eyeful of his schlong with a 'casual stroke'! On our way to hippo pool, giraffes gracefully galloped past the zebras and buffalo lazily munching the grass. At first, there didn't seem to be much going on at hippo pool, but then came 'the money shot' - a hippo arching out of the water and stretching it's massive mouth into a yawn! We thought this was all, but on our way out, a herd of elephants came within five metres of the car too!
The next day, we were taken to a local Masai village to further our cultural experience. They performed a welcome dance, which we were invited to take part in, and offered fresh milk from the cows. However, when a mobile phone went off in the pocket of a Masai, the authenticity was somewhat spoiled... Regardless, Philberth, our Gap Adventures guide, took us into the Serengeti, which in swahili means 'the endless plains'. On the way, we bought Masai blankets, which has earned us the moniker 'white Masai'. The heavens opened and we all thought we'd struggle to see any anmals. But right on cue, a pride of lions appeared and strolled right past the car! One of the lions actually brushed the door of the car as it walked past! With everyone still gawping at their pictures, word spread of a leopard close by. It didn't take long to find it. Perched on top of a log, the leopard turned right on cue to give an imposing glare right into the lens of the camera!
After another night camping, we awoke in our tents at Seronera Campsite. There were no fences, no rangers with rifles and no boundaries stopping animals getting in. At breakfast, we were informed that a pride of lions had been stalking the campsite during the night! No less than two kilometres down the road, we saw the said pride of lions: two females with six cubs and a buffalo kill. A hippo lumbered across the road as we drove to see yet another leopard. This time, it was far closer. Strolling between safari vans, it carried a dead hare back to its cub, who toyed with the kill atop a fallen tree. Then came the moment I'd personally been waiting for. The sighting of a cheetah. It was far away on the horizon, but even so, its jagged shoulder blades gave an it air of elegance as it strode through the long grass. That evening, back at the campsite, copious volumes of wine were consumed and certain people don't remember getting into their tent - not naming any names!
The following morning at breakfast, with the mother of all hangovers, we were jovially informed that a leopard was walking around the campsite all evening. For all know, I could have come face to face with this predator!
A scene akin to The Lion King appeared before us as we spent our last morning in the Serengeti. A pride of lions lay perched on raised rocks, before the male lion awoke from his slumber, yawned and surveyed the Serengeti plains. Just one hundred metres away, four female lions hid in the grass, anticipating a kill. A herd of zebra had found itself in between two groups of lionesses and didn't quite know what to do. Luckily for the zebra, an idiotic safari van drove straight through the middle, dispersing the zebra and ending any possibility of seeing a kill. Disappointed, our driver, George, started the engine. Only, it wouldn't start. So he asked us to push-start the car. With a pride of lions no more than 20 metres away! Bear in mind, they'd just missed out on a kill! The quickest push-start you'll ever see ensued, yet Stacey still managed to take a photo! That evening, we camped next to zebra and wildebeest in Simba Campsite, overlooking the vast Ngorongoro Crater. Philberth must have been smoking something that evening, for he sang. And sang. And sang!
Our final day of safari took us into the bowl of the Ngorongoro Crater, where vast numbers of animals are concentrated in a small area. With just the rhino left to see, we weren't disappointed. We saw five in total, the fifth of which was just 20 metres away - the Gap Adventures staff said they'd never been so close! George was sensible enough to keep the engine running this time! With everybody well and truly satisfied, we all headed back to Arusha to share our photos and have one or two (or six!) cold beers.
On the Sunday, people began to leave. It was strange to say goodbye to Ian and Olivia, who we got to know so well over the two weeks - they've become like family to us! Elise also went back to Canada, but Stringer and I are to see Stacey, Vitor, Henriette and Malinn in Zanzibar where the white beaches and turquoise waters (hopefully) await us!