I decided that I would not bore you all with the day to day of 5 days of Safari. Rather, I will summarise the last five days in point form.
Accommodations – We were four nights out in the parks. The first night was in Tarangire in an executive tent. There were no fences around any of our accommodations so animals would be allowed to walk up to your front door – or tent flap – as it were. Richard swears that he heard a lion snuffling around our tent on the first night. So, when we arrived at our camp in the middle of the Serengeti on Night number two and saw that it looked like the compound from M*A*S*H* and was even more in the bush than the previous night, we were a little nervous. We often heard and saw hyenas around the camp and lions in the distance. We stayed at this camp in the Serengeti for two nights. The camp was run by a few men and I have to say that both the food and the service were amazing. We had a bonfire each night before supper and our beds were turned down every evening after supper. Our last night was spent in Ngorongoro Park and we stayed in a five star hotel. This place was absolutely beautiful but lacked the warmth of our tent camps. Though we felt very safe here, we missed the wide open spaces of the Serengeti.
Our guide and transport – As Richard and I were lucky enough to have a private safari, we were the only ones in our Land Cruiser. The roof raised up so that we could stand and look out around us without feeling threatened by any of the animals. Our guide, Ephata, was excellent. Always with commentary (some quite humorous) and information on various animals, he patiently drove to and fro until he found something for us to see. Because of this, we saw more animals than we ever imagined. Many of the roads in and between the parks were unbelievably rough. However, Ephata got us through it all without so much as a bump on our heads.
Animals that we saw – Wow!! Where to start? I have heard of people on safari that are quite disappointed that they saw very few animals. We were not disappointed whatsoever. Here goes:
Deer Family – we saw everything from the large Elands down to the small little dikdiks that are about a foot high. There were gazelles and antelope in the thousands, Hartbeests, Top Deer, and many others that I cannot even begin to name. These were scattered across all three parks.
Baboons – These guys and gals are everywhere – in the parks, in town and even in the cities. They are a bit of nuisance and there are signs everywhere to beware and do not feed. Other than from a distance, we had no contact with them. As mentioned previously, they are pretty cute from a distance.
Crocodiles – We saw a couple of small ones in the Serengeti. They didn’t look particularly dangerous but I also did not get out of the truck to take a closer look.
Jackals – we saw a pair of these little fox like creatures on our last day in the Ngorongoro Crater. They look like small dogs and looked like they were up to no good.
Warthogs – they are known as pumbas in Swahili (anyone familiar with the Lion King knows who Pumba is). As I commented the first day, these are really homely creatures. We did see a family with some small ones and they must have started growing on me because they actually looked kinda cute. These were also in all three parks.
Zebras and Wildebeests – I put these together because for the most part they travel together in a herd. They migrate together and complement each other as the zebra is smart and remembers the migration route while the wildebeest has a good sense of smell. We were also told that the zebras let the wildebeest cross the river first so that the crocodiles will be full by the time the zebras are crossing. Yep, pretty smart!! We saw thousands of these in all three parks but I was thrilled every time I saw them.
Giraffes – Though we had seen some from a distance, I was disappointed the first day that we did not get very close to any. However, that changed on the way to the Serengeti as they were actually grazing along the roadway. Not only did we see them up close, I actually got a couple of decent pictures as well. Beautiful, elegant animals and we continued to see them throughout the Serengeti.
Hyenas – we saw these scavengers throughout all three parks. On our first day in the Serengeti as it was getting close to dusk, we came across a family lying across the road. The mother quickly shooed the babies into their burrow on the side of the road. Being kids though, they kept popping their heads out to see what was happening. They were awfully cute!!
Ostriches – Males are black and the females are brown and mate for life. On the morning that we left Tarangire, we saw a family with 10 fuzzy babies. They were walking in single file – mom in the front and dad following up the rear. A few times, a couple of little ones would lag behind and dad patiently waited for them to catch up. What a sight to see!!
Hippos – These massive creatures look like big rocks in the water. If you are lucky, they may lift their heads a bit so that you can catch a glimpse of their eyes and ears. Though we saw them in all the parks, there is a hippo pond in the Ngorongoro Crater that had at least 40 of them. We were able to see them moving about, sometimes rising out of the water for a few seconds. At another pond on the same day, we saw one alone that was almost out of the water. She was huge!! I managed to catch a picture of her before she slipped back under the water.
Birds – There were birds of all types within the parks. We saw vultures, storks, little song birds, water birds, colorful birds, walking birds and flying birds. Though Ephata patiently told me the names over and over, I have forgotten most of them. What I do remember is that they were all fabulous!
Every safari goal is to see The Big Five – Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Water Buffalo and Rhino. I am pleased to say that we saw them all except for the elusive rhino. Unfortunately, these have been poached over the years for their horns and are now endangered. They are only in the Ngorongoro Crater and though we spent a few hours looking, we were unable to see any. However, that did not dampen our spirits as we were able to see all the rest.
Elephants – The day was never complete without seeing at least a few families of elephants. These massive, leather looking animals are absolutely breathtaking. They don’t seem to have a care in the world and were either standing together in the shade of the trees or just moving along at a leisurely pace stopping here and there for a little snack. We were lucky enough on a couple of occasions to have them pass right by our vehicle. I think we could have reached out to touch them if we were brave enough.
Water Buffalo – We saw a few in Tarangire Park but hit the mother lode on our first day in the Serengeti. We came across a herd of 200 plus standing around a watering hole. They look more like a cow than a bison and they moo like a cow as well. We watched them as they watched us, their large horns curled around their heads. It seemed hard to believe that these docile looking creatures are one of the most dangerous on earth. We also saw some herds in the Ngorongoro Crater but none as massive as this one.
Leopard – We managed to see three of these on our second day in the Serengeti. These are hard to spot (no pun intended) but once you do, you can’t look away. We saw two together early in the morning. Later in the afternoon, we saw one high up a tree having a sleep. Unfortunately, we were unable to get any pictures of these as we were not able to get close enough. A camera with a telephoto lens would have been a great thing but as we are travelling light on this adventure, the camera stayed at home.
And of course, the LION!! We saw these in all three parks but finally got a really good look in the Serengeti. We came across 11 lions that had just had lunch and were all snoozing or rolling around in the grass. We were able to get quite close to this group and it was a thrill of a lifetime. That was until we came across Pride Rock and a large Simba (Swahili word for lion) overlooking his territory. He was absolutely breathtaking!! Though we took a few pictures, they could never do him justice. We moved along and away from the crowd (there are many jeeps in the parks all trying to get a glimpse of everything) and came across another two lions – one male and one female who looked like they had not eaten in a while. Ephata explained that they had been busy mating and would not eat for days as a result. The female looked a little grouchy and growled at us on our way by the truck. The male just followed passively behind her. We thought that this was the highlight of our safari. Over the five days, we saw many more lions but these three events were especially memorable for us.
Even though the Cheetah is not considered one of the Big Five, we did come across two of these on separate occasions. I thought that they were beautiful and I was thrilled to see them. One was having a nap under a tree and the other was out hunting in a field. I think if we had been able to watch this one for a while we may have been able to see her get her lunch. Unfortunately, by this time we were on our way out of the park and had a bit of a schedule to keep. I am sure that she did not go hungry that day!!
I must close this post before it really becomes excruciating for you, our readers. If you ever get the chance to come on a safari, I don’t think that you would be disappointed. Enjoy the photos!!
There is a Leopard in that tree:
The Cheetah: The cheetah does not show up very well, but Col fell in love with the cheetah when she saw it so we thought we would throw it in anyway.
Our three hour ride to the Serengeti.
Our guide Ephata…..