Kenya & Tanzania in January 2011
I have wanted to go on an African Safari my whole life. I grew up watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and reading books like Born Free. So I decided I'd better go while I was still young enough to survive the trip. I've had an envelope in my office marked "Africa" where I've been tucking away extra money for 3 years. Gregg absolutely did not want to go, so as usual I had to talk my Swedish friend Camilla into joining me. As usual, it was pretty easy to talk her into it; but harder to get her there.
My flight out was pretty uneventful except for being desperate for something to drink in Amsterdam and having to change $50 (minimum) into Euros to buy one $2 coke. I flew into Nairobi and was met at the airport by George, who works for Sandavy Guest house. Poor guy had to deliver me to Sandavy at midnight and meet Camilla's flight at 7 the next morning.
|Sandavy is a house converted to
a bed & breakfast. It is very peaceful and pretty. Camilla
met me there Friday morning while I was eating breakfast - quite a
switch for us. (Usually I am anxiously waiting and she is calmly
eating.) She did get me anxious in reverse though as she explained
that she actually arrived at Copenhagen airport AT the time her flight
was supposed to depart. But being Camilla she sweet talked her way
into them holding the flight for her.
It must be nice to be that charming.
So we wandered around Nairobi, Kenya for a day and enjoyed the sunshine and lack of snow. Food is extremely cheap in Nairobi and the fabulous weather is free. Chicken seems to be very popular meal although the cuts are different than in America is not typically de-boned. It was a clean and lovely city although I would hate to try to drive there. There are no traffic signals and no rules, just lots of cars. So whoever drives has to sort of shove their way through. Most cars were Toyotas. They must have some awesome mechanics because the cars were older and in great shape in spite of going out daily for what looked liked a demolition derby with the collisions just narrowly missed.
Saturday, Camilla and I took the bus from Nairobi, Kenya to Arusha, Tanzania. On MapQuest it looked like about 150 miles so I was surprised it was going to take 6 hours to get there. But we packed ourselves in the bus with a whole lot of other people. And I must mention here that Kenyans are very clean people and no one smelled bad. Really. I was pretty pleasantly surprised about that as if you ride the bus in America or Europe, people most definitely do stink. Anyway the bus drove us straight there. But in spite of this being a really major road, it is still in the process of being built and we kept having to drive off on rutted dirt tracks - seat griping sloshing back and forth kind of dirt tracks.
After a night in a rather expensive motel (with a bathroom that flooded) and another night of lying awake for me. Apparently one of the side effects of the anti-malarial drug is insomnia. By morning I was ready to take my chances with malaria - especially since I had not seen a single mosquito. Fortunately Camilla is pretty placid as long as she is fed regularly. So while I vibrated with nervousness in case the safari company never came, Camilla ate breakfast. (This was not her first interaction with a hyperactive Midgarden.)
But, of course, the safari company was right on time. JMT African Heart Expeditions seems like a well run safari company. We had our driver/guide Dickson, cook Farrar, Camilla and me in a Toyota jeep type thing.
We headed west, away from Kilimanjaro and the safari had begun. The first sighting was vast quantities of Masai people. Masai count their wealth in cows and goats (and children apparently).
And then there were the elephant and giraffe.
We dropped off Farrar and our stuff at the campground and went into Lake Manyara National Park.
The wildlife was so used to tourist trucks that they just went about their business. I just kept grabbing my camera and saying "I've got to get a picture of that!" It was like a whole day hunting when anything at all could suddenly be right in front of you.
elephant cow & calf
This red headed lizard got so worked up about defending his territory from us that he chased after the truck.
Ostrich hen & chicks
Owl annoyed about being awake
baboons were everywhere
All too soon it was getting dusk, so we went back to the campground. Dinner was great, the tent was fine, the neighbors were quiet, but the bathrooms were wet - really wet. I do realize that Americans have unusually high standards in indoor plumbing, but everywhere we went on this trip the bathrooms had no drainage. The high class hotel, the lovely bed & breakfast all three campground bathrooms were literally designed to flood every time you turned on the water. I would really like to know if there is an explanation for this.
It rained for a few hours that night, but quite miraculously I slept though it. And after Camilla hummed her way through breakfast we were on our way to Serengeti.
We stopped at Oldepai gorge where the oldest human ancestors have been found. And I chased some more red headed lizards (these were not as intrepid as the red head in Manyara was).
This is my best photograph from the whole trip. Camilla kept telling me to quit wasting film on those dinky birds, but these are seriously pretty little birds
Then we were out on the Serengeti itself. Serengeti means endless plain. It may not be truly endless but the zebra, gazelle and wildebeest who make up the 'great migration' seemed to stretch on as far as the eye can see.
wildebeest & zebra
male & female ostrich
This cheetah was walking toward us across the Serengeti. She had a small cub with her, but the tall grass covered him as I took this photo.
The campsite at Serengeti had more wildlife visitors. Mongoose, elephant, giraffe and lots of colorful little birds wandered through camp
Camilla's photo of me
That night it rained. Again. I thought this was supposed to be the dry season? After it finally quit I just had to creep out and pee. I made it about 8 feet from the tent when I heard a loud noise QUITE close to me. I RAN back to the tent and when I grabbed the tent flap Camilla (who had just been woken from a sound sleep by the noise) hit my hand thinking it was some strange creature invading the tent. I had so much momentum that I was inside anyway quick enough for Camilla to recognize me before she could take aim again. "Did you hear that lion" she said. "Hell yes" I said. "But I don't think it was a lion."
When it was light outside I went out to find my flip-flops and look for tracks nearby. About 8 yards away from my shoes were tracks of a cape buffalo. Ok so it wasn't a lion or hippo, but they do occasionally kill people. It certainly scared me.
flip-flop left behind hoof print in fresh mud my night visitor
The third day we spent in search of hippopotamus. I am not sure why hippos - as I really have no great attraction for them, and if Camilla expressed an interest I didn't catch it. She asked to see elephants - which were the first things we saw- I asked to see everything and a cheetah if possible. So I guess hippos were part of 'everything'.
Hippopotamus kill an average of 10 people a day. Really. So after telling us this, our guide only let us out of the truck when were near known hippo pools. All of the public restrooms in Serengeti and Ngorongoro were right next to the hippos. I wonder how many of those 10 a day are Americans who give their guides too much trouble!
Anyway at first we only saw hippo tracks:
the tops of hippo heads:
Then we saw hippo parties:
Then we saw a hippo out for a stroll:
Then we chased a hippo and really pissed him off :
look at that mouth!
In between hippo sightings we saw lots of really cool things.
|This leopard strutted like a runway model|
We saw a bull elephant showing off for one of the elephant females. He reached way up in a tree and pulled down a branch, but instead of eating it he just kept looking over at her like "am I cool or what". She pretended to ignore him.
She had her eye on him all the same.
After Serengeti National Park we headed out to Ngorongoro Crater. We went lion hunting on the way, and we found several.
Ngorongoro crater is a volcanic crater. It used to be a volcano the size of Kilimanjaro and then collapsed. So it has a very flat shallow floor and steep walls. It is very, very beautiful.
|Warthogs live in family groups and sleep in caves at the side
of the crater at night.
Apparently we woke them up early.
Once again I got to see my hearts desire - a cheetah. We also completed the "Big Five" that is a traditional goal of a safari by spotting a rhino (although she wasn't very close). The other four we had already seen and are lion, leopard, cape buffalo and elephant.
At this point I got to wondering why with all these big carnivores around we didn't see more evidence of kills - skeletons and blood and things. Our guide just kept saying that lions don't need to eat every day. But there are also some 200 lions in Ngorogoro as well as cheetahs and hyena so that is still a lot of hunting spoils.
Then we found where some lionesses had made a kill that morning. The lion pride was out laying in the grass.
|The jackal was trying to get the lion to leave so he
could clean up the crumbs, but all the lion did was roar at
Lionesses do all the work and lions just eat the kills, so this lioness was panting and hot. She decided to go lay in the nearest shady spot - which was us!
Then we found the place where the wildebeest had been killed just a few hours before. The insects were already at work cleaning the blood off the grass. A hyena ran over and grabbed the last piece. This was the spine and pelvis - all bone with almost no meat left- and he ate it down like he was crunching pretzels. I now understand why there is nothing left to see.
I never knew there were hare in Africa. Tally ho!
Sweden & Norway in 2012!