Day 3 – Safari (Moru Kopjes & Gong Rock)

Breakfast at the camp this morning before leaving at 7:30. We are heading South today in search of the Black Rhino. It was quite the drive so Ally drove with a purpose today so we could get there, search then begin the long drive back. Driving with a purpose here has a whole new meaning for me…lol!

There is a Black Rhino project here where the monitor the species to help from extension. Poaching here is still a huge problem so there are rangers in this area who live on top of the cliffs to help protect them. We learned that often poachers are just killed here because too many have been arrested but go back to poaching when they get out so it’s easier to just eliminate them. Something to be said for repeat offenders of violent crimes in the states. Visited the Rhino information center to learn about their history. A great guide full of knowledge and passion for these animals. You would have to love it to live way out here. You sure can’t just run down the street for milk if you forgot it on your way home.

No luck in spotting a Rhino today though. Since there are only 23 monitored animals on these planes, and they mostly graze alone, there was no telling where they were. The trip however gave us the opportunity to see the Kopjes, which are forms of rocks like none I have ever seen. There are many difference Kopjes, named for the tribe that lived there many centuries ago. This is Massai country. When in Arusha, we saw many of the Massai tribe which are easy to spot as the men still wear the red draped clothes as their daily attire. Would have been something to see these people still living upon on these rocks. There was one particular area where steps have been built so that you can climb to the top. Ally said he normally would not allow us to climb there unless there were other vehicles around because it has been known to have lions up there. But we all agreed we were game to try it. I know…wreckless right? Ally led the way making lots of noise to scare anything that might have been visiting the area. A few remnants of lions were present but no lions to be found. Let me say how glad we are we made that decision. What an amazing site from up there.

Back in the jeep and off to a lunch spot for a packed lunches. Arrived a favorite spot by many and were told we couldn’t be here because the President of Germany and the President of Tanzania would be visiting there soon. They were already setting up a huge spread for them by the Zebra refreshment company…lol! So we left in search of a new lunch spot.

Now for the excitement of the day. On our way to find a new spot we ran across a pride of lions laying in the shade of a huge tree not far from the road. It was an amazing site. 10 juvenile cubs in all and 7 lionesses (we never did see the males) however it was the same pride we saw yesterday, noted by one with a monitoring collar and one with a huge gash in her nose. Within a few minutes, one of the females raised her head and they all looked in one direction towards a herd of zebras who were making their way across the road into the area of the lions. In a split second 5 of the lionesses each rose and moved with grace to do their particular job. Can you believe this? A kill is just about to happen right in front of us. I didn’t think I wanted to see this at all until I watched how these amazing animals worked together with patience and purpose to feed their family. In a matter of maybe 15 minutes, they had completely formed a parameter around the herd and were waiting for their opportunity. In a split second one lioness made a move and the herd scattered, charged, ran…you name it. One of the lioness had to lay down in the road to keep from getting trampled. In that split second their opportunity was lost…they got away! We have a video of the whole thing and believe it or not it was sad. I hate to see the zebra loose it’s life but it was such an amazing thing to watch. Ally put it well, the lion laid down because no one wanted to die that day. They all made it back to the tree with the cubs to rest from their big chase.

We needed to make a trip back to the airstrip anyway (I’ll mention in a future post why) so decided to just have lunch at the airport. Now, keep in mind, without thinking, when were going to the same airstrip where both Presidents were expected in shortly. A guard at the entrance just let us on in, we parked and walked to the small building with our lunch boxes. We laughed because you can’t even get within 5 miles of the airports at home when our president is flying in. Tons of safari vehicles lined up to meet their arrival. A few armed guards and mostly people like us standing around with cameras. There was no concern to be standing along the strip for a photo op so I took it. Now, I have no idea who the president of Germany even is but figured it would be a great moment for Ally to have photos of “his” president. Planes landed and I snapped pictures of anyone coming off the plan. Ended up with great pictures of the German president but the Tanzania president was not there. Only the Interior ministers were there to meet him. Fun adventure to this trip, even though our original trip to the airstrip was not a success :(

Before heading back to camp we saw another Leopard in a tree. It’s so funny to see how they just chill and are so uninterested in us.

Back at camp at 4:30. Showers again at 6. Dinner at 7. Tonight we were joined by all the staff of the camp, except the chef. We had asked them all to join us when we first got there and they said they would on the last night. It was a great meal and a lot of fun. This crew has over exceeded our expectations. It will be hard to top it at the next camp. During our dinner, we were joined by a Hyena, just beside the tent. That just sort of cracks me up. I watched JJ leave the dining tent and walk to the kitchen tent, in the dark, with the Hyena sitting right there. He said, He knows me! They also shared that a few weeks ago a pride brought down a buffalo right in the camp area and stayed there for a solid week. JJ said they had approached him carrying the buckets of water to the tents to get a drink. He just dropped the buckets of water, walked away, let them get their drink and then picked up his buckets and carried on. OMG!!!! I guess there is something to be said for living in this country and feeling comfortable.

Back to the tent to be zipped in at 8:30. We packed, well Rich packed, played a few hands of gin and I caught up on my blog posts. Heard several lions throughout the night. I don’t think I will ever get tired of this. We leave for 2nd camp location tomorrow.


Day 2 – Safari (Seronera, Maasai & Sametu Kopjes)

Still excited from last nights activities, JJ shows up at our tent for our wake-up call at 5:15. Told him all about the night but I’m pretty sure he didn’t believe us. He flashed his light back in that area and there were lots of Impalas which he said would not be there if there had been lions. I’m not sure how far away it actually was but I am 110% sure of what we heard so I’m sticking with it.

Ally brought along picnic breakfast and lunch boxes for our full day in the bush. We started at 6:00, before the sun even rose. As we drove standing out the top of the jeep with the sun coming up, seemed almost surreal! I had waited most of my lifetime for this very moment. Shortly down the road Ally spotted a Cheetah. Let me just tell you, this guy has the best eye-sight I have ever seen. He spots things just like that. We were able to pull right up beside her. It’s amazing how uninterested they seem to be with us. To see her sitting up tall checking out her surroundings was a sight to see. She stretched showing her sleek body – what an awesome creature. We had a later spotting today of a Cheetah and her cubs but they were pretty hidden in the grass so it was harder to see them. A short drive later we are in front of a marsh area with tall grass, sort of looked like a resort area for animals. In the grass we saw the heads of two magnificent male lions. It was almost erie how well they were hidden. Behind them on the rocks along the water laid the rest of the pride. Hard to say how many there were because they were laying very close to each other…amazing spot so we decided to have breakfast there with the lions

After breakfast we went in a different direction and within maybe 30 minutes we were in front of yet another pride of lions. This time they were laying right along the side of the road. Two males just resting trying to stay cool and several lionesses. There were also several juvenile cubs just hanging out. They all kept smelling something in the air and it wasn’t long before they were all up, moving across the road towards something, but what? We never did figure out what they were moving towards and just eventually disappeared.

Next stop was the Serengeti National Park information center. There we had lunch with 100’s of Hyrax. The cutest little animals that look like a cross between a ginny pig and a ground hog. I could sooo have one of these in my home. If you have ever see Born Free (shame on you if you haven’t) Patty was a Hyrax. While I was busy taking pictures of these little cuties, we missed a Green Mamba that was strolling through the landscaped. Sort of glad we missed it. We went through a quick tour by a student going to school for employment in the safari field. Very informative info and a nice touch to the day.

Next we traveled to the Hippo pool! Ally told us we couldn’t leave until we had a photo of one of them yawning. Now close your eyes, image a huge pool of water that does not flow so it gets stagnant anyway, add 100’s of hippos laying in it and you can only imagine the smell, but they were so much fun to watch. Got the picture we needed with no problems. Drove to a second Hippo viewing site in hopes to find a crocodile, but no such luck. On the way however found the cutest spider monkeys. I could watch them for hours.

Throughout the day we have seen all sorts of birds that are amazing to watch and each have their own sort of beauty. On our way back to camp we spotted a leopard in a tree. She was a good ways back from the road, but through the lens and binoculars she was a beauty.

Arrived back at camp at 5:00, lets see, that makes for an 11 hour drive. Loved it but it was also an exhausting day. Both Rich and I got a bit too much sun the first day so it was long sleeves all day today. With the heat and the dust, showers would be a welcomed thing. Again greeted with a wet cloth as we got out the jeep. Same schedule as last night, showers at 6, dinner at 7.

JJ is quite the entertainer. Has has described each meal for us as though it is being prepared from items in the bush (watch for my video). Wish we could take him to the next camp with us but would not want anyone to miss this experience. Ally again joined us for dinner. Meal was good and the conversation even better. We talked a lot about the culture differences between the western countries and theirs. He asked why so many marriages end in our country. Here in Tanzania, a bride is still picked for a man. He told us how his sister-in-law found his wife for him at a wedding. He said ok, without even seeing her and went to visit her family. She was a bit more hesitant, but went on a date with him and another woman and she then agreed. Now they have been married 3 years and have a 1 year old son. Maybe there is something to be said for “finding love” in your spouse instead of marrying for love that then doesn’t last. That’s my insight – I’m not speaking for Rich on that one. He talked about the “bush TV” which was entertaining. In rural parts of Tanzania, there is still no electricity so no TV. Their TV is sitting around the outside fire at night listening to and telling stories. Love the thought of that as we love to sit around our fire pit. Learned he went to college to be a guide but for three years was unable to get a job in that industry. Much like in the US, no one would hire him without experience. So he took a teaching job at the college and learned he was a pretty good teacher – but his heart was still with the animals. 9 years as a guide and his dream is to one day have his own school to restore values to other Tanzanians. It was refreshing to hear of his passion for his country and his culture.

Off to be zipped in for the night. We were both exhausted so you think we would sleep. 9-3 was the best sleep we have gotten since we left. Heard lions in the distance for what must have been every hour on the hour so dosed off and on until our alarm went off for day 3.

Back to the land of electronics – Day 1 – Safari (Seronera, Makoma Hill & Retina)

It’s been three days with no phones, no TV, no internet/email/facebook…no contact with the outside world. Just Rich, myself, Ally and our dream. I wish I could adequately describe the Serengeti. Best way I know to put is 14,760 square miles of raw beauty. I am in awe!

Day 1 – Safari begins

Our trusty ADS welcoming crew, Marthius and Timan, picked us up at 7:15 for the short ride to the Arusha airport.
The ride through town was an adventure in itself and the airport did not disappoint. Small and a bit strange, but
I was so excited I could have cared less. Our guys got us right through security with NO luggage weight issues…
whew hoo and we were set. We took a small 12-seater plane, along with 6 others to an even smaller airstrip in the
Western part of the Serengeti. The strip was paved, but that’s about it (you’ll just have to look at my photos).
Our guide Ally greeted us at the plane and walked us to our home away from home for the next 10 days…an 8 seater
Land Cruiser with the top panels out. As we climbed in, Ally said “As a welcome to Africa, we give you a free
African massage!” And boy did we ever! The roads through the park are either grated gravel or mud with ruts from
the rain. I couldn’t wait to climb up with my head out the top. Off we go…

Little did we know when we left the hotel earlier that day that our safari would begin immediately from departing the plane. Ally asked what our interests were and we both said lions. The more the merrier, the closer the better. I told him if he could make that happen, he would make all my wishes come true. He said “your wish is my command”.

Within 45 minutes, my first wish was met. We pulled up to a huge male lion, standing over a fresh buffalo kill. In the grass beside the road were two lionesses (one still covered in blood from the kill). The big male walked off as did one of the females. The other lioness walked among the cars looking for a little shade and finally even laid down in the road against the side of one of the jeeps. As cars started to move around, she got up and approached the kill to eat. I so wish this post could really give you an idea of what the smell and the sound was actually like. At one time, she was shoulder deep inside the body cavity of this huge buffalo. You could hear the sound of her crushing the bones effortlessly.

Within the next few minutes we were in front of a leopard in a tree. Breathtaking! She gracefully climbed down the tree and made herself out to the road then gradually disappeared into the tall grasses.

Within the next little bit we were in front of a herd of 20+ elephants (lots of babies). They crossed the road right in front of us.

All in all, we had seen 3 of the top 5 in less than 2 hours of our safari.

Later in the day there were an abundance of Giraffes, Wart Hogs, Thompson Gazelles, Impalas, Buffalo, Topi, Birds, Ostrich, Zebra, Hippos, Hardebeest & Hyena and I’m sure I have left something out. On to Seronera Sametu Camp.

Arrived at 4:45 and we were greeted with a wet rag to wipe our face (heavenly!) a glass of fresh squeezed juice and a warm smile from DC and JJ (stands for something but they knew we couldn’t pronounce it let alone remember it). They showed us around the camp, explained the rules, we got a drink and got the schedule for the rest of the evening. Showers at 6 and dinner at 7. Our tent is amazing (see photos), complete with net drapped canopy beds, full bath and a view that would knock your socks off. Having grown up camping and somewhat familiar with tents – this would be my way to camp!

At 6:00 we heard a voice say “Your shower is ready” – as they hand tote hot water to fill the tank for your showers. Nicked named the talking shower…LOL! No hair dryers allowed here so off to dinner at 7 with a wet head but who cares here!

Did I mention that Rich and I are the ONLY ones at this camp for three days? Well, yeah we are. So talk about being catered to. JJ is our (for better terms) personal waiter. If we need it he’s Johnny on the spot. Dinner table is set and we are joined by Ally. Food was great, conversation was great…couldn’t be better until out comes the 4 other staff members with a birthday cake for me and singing happy birthday! I have NO IDEA WHY they thought it was my birthday other then that I had told the sales person I booked the trip through that this was a trip I promised myself I would take before I turned 50. My cake said Happy 50th! They even gave me a necklace made by one of the local tribes (see pictures). How could this day get any better?

Dinner is over and we are off to the tent where we are zipped in until tomorrow morning. They arm us with a walkie talkie if we need anything AND inform us they are not armed!!!! What??? Are you kidding me??? They claim it is not necessary here, that if wild-life comes around (which it always does) they would not bother us unless they are provoked! Plus they actually said…they know us. Ok then…so feeling all secure now, we are zipped in. To our pleasant surprise, during dinner, they had come to our tent, turned the beds down, dropped the mosquito netting AND put a hot water bottle under the blankets. Never seen that before, but what a fabulous touch. It’s now 8:30, no TV…LOL so we played a quick game of Gin before calling it a night.

Under the covers and lights off and within 2 minutes Rich says “a Hyena just passed in front of our tent” (keep in mind the entire front of the tent is open, just netted and zipped closed). I said no way and we both jumped out of our beds and grabbed the night vision goggles Aaron just swore I needed to buy for the trip and sure enough just outside our tent, about 25 feet, was a hyena chomping on some bones. We could see him clearly with the goggles. OMG!!! Are you kidding?

Back to bed all giddy like little kids. I laid there for what seemed like forever listening to the least little sound. Beside me was my flashlight, phone, walkie talkie and the night vision glasses (just in case). Call it nerves, anxious, excited, whatever I couldn’t sleep. Finally dosed off but woke up to what I thought was a moth or something inside the tent of my bed. Tried to find it with the flashlight without waking Rich up. No luck. Back to bed and figured out it was on the outside of my net between the net and tent. Most of the night it was hitting my net but finally fell back asleep. Around 3 am I woke up to the sound of a struggle just to the right of our tent (well it sounded like it was just outside but was probably 1/4 mile or so away). I could hear the lions and just knew they had taken something down. I jumped up to run look out the window in the bathroom but couldn’t see a thing, even with the goggles. The sound only lasted for about 15 seconds and I thought maybe I imagined it. Rich was still sleeping so I couldn’t ask him. Went back to bed and laid there, listening. About 45 minutes later, happened again. Really loud this time. I woke Rich up to see if he heard it but he didn’t. Checked again and nothing. But just as we were going back to get in our beds, there it was again but this time Rich and I both heard it. Couldn’t wait to check in the morning. By now it’s 4:30 – wake-up call at 5:15 for 6:00am drive so we just stayed up. End of day 1.