African safari 2013: Part 9

July 9, 2013

“Jambo Jambo” was scheduled for 7:00 AM, but I was up much earlier than that. The older I get, the less sleep I seem to be able to get. I miss the days when I could sleep in. I try, but it just doesn’t happen for me much now. The good news is that I get to see a lot of sunrises that I missed when I was younger. One pleasant thing about sleeping in the tents is being able to hear all the night noises. You can hear the occasional lion roar or call, the zebras make a barking sound, and so on. However, at sunrise the Serengeti really makes a racket. Birds begin to sing or squawk, insects chirp, wildebeest grunt–it’s a cacophony. I walked around the tent camp listening to the Serengeti’s song and watching the sunrise. I saw several sunrises in Tanzania, and some of them were quite pretty. However, the sunset was, for the most part, much showier.

We left the Central Serengeti nyumbas at 8:30 after breakfast. As per custom, we lined up alongside the camp staff to shake hands, say goodbye and pass out the tip envelopes. The kids had their own car, and Greg and I ended up with Simon in the private car while the other couple shared the third Rover. We were driving to the Eastern Serengeti to private land owned by Thomson Safaris. Along the way, we looked for game and were richly rewarded.

The giraffes were so close you could almost touch them:

The lions were hanging out on the kopjes:
 

So were the lizards:

Another kopje, another lion:

Why did the elephant cross the road?

Our guide was the only one who saw this girl. Can you see her?

How about now?

The Klipspringer is specially adapted for walking on the kopje and cliffs. I wouldn’t hang around there with all those lions if I were him:

Just as we were about to leave the park, our guides heard about the big bonanza: a group of lions with a fresh kill! We went out of our way and got to see something truly remarkable. The pride had taken down a large water buffalo and were chowing down. The king must have already had his fill. Lion society isn’t fair. The lionesses do all the hunting, but when a kill is brought down, the big man moves in first to eat. Then the ladies get to take a turn. Cubs go last. It reminds me of the Aylett family reunions. When my grandmother was still alive, she would insist that all the menfolk go through the buffet line first. Her request was met with good-natured jeers from the crowd of Aylett women, but we obliged her! She is gone now, and the pecking order with it.

Anyway, back to the lions:

As we left the feeding frenzy area, we spotted another male lion, hiding in the bushes:

Our guide explained that this male was likely an interloper and not related to the big male we had just seen eating with his pride. This lion was hiding to avoid provoking a fight with the pride leader over the fresh kill. A male’s domination over a pride does not last long, perhaps 2 to 3 years at most. The males are challenged constantly for control of the pride. The loser of such contests is driven from the range area. The winner will kill all the young cubs fathered by the loser so that the lionesses will come into heat again and be available for breeding with the new pride leader. It’s tough out there in the animal kingdom.

We saw a new mother elephant with her baby, which was no more than a couple of weeks old. I thought it interesting that as soon as Mom saw us, she maneuvered so that she was between us and the baby.

We drove on to our camp in the eastern Serengeti. We went on some of the roughest roads I have ever seen, and I have seen some rough ones. My dad was a forester, and I spent a lot of time on logging roads with him as a teenager. This was rougher than anything we ever encountered. In some places the road was completely washed away, and the solution for the people in this area is simple: they just make new roads by driving off into the desert. It is a pleasure to see the Land Rovers doing what they are designed to do. In Houston, everyone drives a giant car to get the kids to soccer practice. It’s not really necessary, but we are a car culture and so we zoom along. The Rovers and Land Cruisers are an absolute requirement in this rough country.

Simon warned us that we were about to see some more exotic varieties of the two-legged animal. He was right. We drove through several bustling villages with shanties and Maasai boma. Some waved at us. Some ran to the road and held out their hands and begged. Others simply went about their business and ignored us. We even saw a group of Maasai gathered around a muddy water hole and soon figured out what was going on: clothing and blankets were strewn in all the bushes. Laundry day! The lives of these people look very hard, but many of them had only smiles and waves for us.

We arrived at the eastern Serengeti camp at 1:30, and lunch was ready and waiting for us. We had a delicious meal of ground beef with sauce, salad, squash, carrots, flat bread and pineapple with cocoanut for dessert. The camp chef even got all the special orders from the group correct, making everyone very happy. We were all happy to get some down time and spent the afternoon reading and relaxing.

In the late afternoon, we went for a one-hour nature walk around the property. One advantage of being on Thomson land was the ability to stroll among the animals. At all the Tanzanian national parks, you are not permitted to get out of your car, except for bathroom emergencies. (Our guides told us to refer to this as “checking the tire.”) Anyway, it was nice to be able to amble about, particularly since we had an armed escort and a guide. Watching the guide, you would think he was walking at a slow mosey pace. You would be mistaken. He was covering ground in those sandals! As with everything else, Genene piddles when she walks, and we were soon the tag-end Charlies of the group. I didn’t mind because you see more things on a slow walk than a fast one. We were never out of sight of the man with the gun, so I didn’t worry.

The whistling thorn acacia has hollow galls, which attract aggressive biting ants. The tree encourages ants to live in it and even produces a sugary excretion as food for the ants. In turn, when animals try to feed on the tree, the ants come out and give them a bite. Symbiosis:

As the sun went lower, I got a chance to practice my silhouettes:

Genene enjoyed being able to walk out after the giraffes. All the kids wanted to chase after these graceful animals. The giraffes wisely kept their distance:

Another day ends with a stunning sunset:

We had another delightful meal at the main tent: pumpkin squash soup, lamb and chickpeas casserole, cauliflower, zucchini squash, peas and passion fruit tarte.

After dinner we went for a nighttime game drive. I realized with a laugh that I had come halfway across the world to do what we did for fun (and because we were bored with nothing better to do) in Arkansas: spotlighting deer. Our guides drove the three cars, and we rode as families.  Each car also had a spotlight operator. They used the red spotlights to avoid traumatizing the animals too much. Our light man was particularly good, I thought: he moved the light very quickly across the plain, intently searching for glowing eyes and movement. There were countless Thomson gazelle, like sand at the beach. They were laying EVERYWHERE. We caught a glimpse of something called a spring hare: it looked a bit like a rabbit but moved like a kangaroo. He was fun to chase:

Wildebeest on the move in the dark:

Our most exciting moment was spotting an aardvark. Our spotter found him, and the chase was on! Our car took the lead, and the other two cars came racing from behind. It was hilarious to see the three Rovers zipping across the field, trying to run that little beast to ground. We did. He jumped in a hole and stayed there. (Wouldn’t you?) Our guides toyed with trying to pull him out but in the end, wiser heads prevailed and we left the poor thing alone. Only our car got a good look at him: the other two cars caught only a glimpse of something running and then saw the dirt flying out of the hole after he went in and started burrowing.

Trying to catch an aardvark:

We also saw a lesser mongoose, and the spotter found a bushbaby way up high in a tree. I still don’t know how he saw that little thing!

After about an hour of driving around with the spotlight, we had seen enough and headed back for the camp, tired and happy. Tomorrow is our last full day on safari. I am tired and sad that this adventure is coming to a close.

One thought on “African safari 2013: Part 9

  1. Lori, I am so indebted to you. As you know, Ken and I always wanted to go on a safari. Now thanks to you, your descriptive words and your wonderful pictures I feel as if I have just arrived home from my own safari trip. I had a fantastic trip and I thank you all. It’s good to know we all arrived home safely. Your blogs were sent to Lorene and to Lauren, who is the young lady that is our activities director. I’m betting that it will be the end of July before you all settle back down on earth. Glad you’re home.

    ________________________________

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