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Wednesday 25 Feb 2009
Serengeti, Tanzania

Serengeti ... Day 2

Got up and left camp early before breakfast to continue exploring the Serengeti. The drive lasted for about 3 hours, by the end of which we were pretty hungry! We saw more giraffes, hundreds of wildebeest and zebra (although spread out and not in the massive migratory herds unfortunately), ostrich, and monkeys before returning to camp for brekkie.

So far on this trip I hadn't yet seen one lion. They are exceedingly good at camouflage, yet also limited in numbers and there are only around 400 lions in the Serengeti. I really wanted to see a male lion with it's huge hairy mane, but would settle also for a lioness. And just as we were nearing the end of our Serengeti experience Simon finally spotted a lioness under a tree in the distance to our right. We were the only jeep here and no other safari groups were nearby and so we had the entire experience to ourselves (for the next 30 mins at least, at which point a whole convoy of jeeps descended onto our spot!).

Typical Serengeti scene!
Typical Serengeti scene!

Muscular lioness gets...
Muscular lioness gets...

She was fairly far away (about 200m), resting under an umbrella tree, with some of her young cubs, when suddenly she got a scent in the air of a family of warthog (over to our left) and promptly got up and proceeded to head toward the road - straight in our direction! At this point Simon warned us to get our legs inside the jeep (we normally sat atop the jeep with our legs hanging over the edge) and with good cause since as the lioness passed within 10m of our jeep (heading toward the warthogs) you could see just how muscular these animals really are and she could pounce up at the jeep in a split second if she was hungry enough (not to mention that we were now in-between herself and her cubs after she crossed the road - which is probably the most dangerous position to be in)!

We thought we were about to witness a real hunt taking place (which would have been truly class), and so we waited... and waited. We were there around 1 hour I think! All the while the lioness just stared intently from her camouflaged position in the grass, as the family of warthogs gradually approached (they must have been around 500m away at this point).

The warthogs clearly knew something was up - and I think we (and the crowd of jeeps that had now turned up) were giving the game away - it wouldn't be too hard for one of these animals to learn that where crowds of jeeps lay, a lion or cheetah was most likely in waiting too. The warthogs started back-tracking and it looked as if nothing was going to come of this so we headed too... damn it would have been sweet to see an actual lion hunt and kill! Yell

And so we left the Serengeti. An interesting place, but HUGE and most of our time was spent driving around and about 10% actually spotting game.

Onward to Ngorongoro crater .... a huge caldera formed when a volcano collapsed millions of years ago. The distance from Serengeti to Ngorongoro is quite far, yet the roads are all sealed so it was a comfortable enough journey over the next 4 hours.

All through this trip, I had my arm slung out of the window and, as a result, it was now chronically sunburned and had 4 huge odd-looking blisters swelling up. The rest of my body was pretty much white as I'd not really gotten a tan on Kilimanjaro as a result of wearing all those layers, so I was literally just black on my arm.

In fact I looked kinda like a half-albino. Which brings me to an interesting subject: Tanzania is rife with Albinos!

I started to notice this in particular as we began the safari: every so often, mixed in with the Maasai people walking along the road, you would see what appeared to be white American guys walking alongside chatting away to them (I say American as they usually appeared wearing baseball caps and long-sleeve plaid shirts). "Lucky gits" I would blurt out, if I'd been in that position they'd probably just be trying to sell me bone necklaces all the time. Or you might see some lonely white guy sitting on a bus packed with locals, and you would think it odd that he wasn't taking one of the typical tourist buses.

Then I quickly realised that if you looked closely you would see that despite their pale skin they have African "features". I'm sure we see albinos all the time in Ireland, but even in countries that I've been to where people are coloured (Cambodia, Belize, Morocco, etc), I've never seen such a concentration of them. It must be a genetic thing among certain tribes in Tanzania, as even in Ethiopia (as I would later find), I didn't see any.

Unfortunately, of all the countries to be an albino, Tanzania is probably the worst as Simon explained how witch-doctors prize albino hands and feet for having magical properties. Reports of albinos being held-down and having their hands and feet amputated (without anaesthesia of course) are fairly common!

 

We eventually arrived at Simba camp on the outskirts of Ngorongoro crater. The camp is at a fairly high altitude on the rim of the crater and so it was dramatically cooler here at night. There was something else rather special here as we were soon to find out in the middle of the night: elephants and wildebeest wander freely through the camp and I was rudely awoken by a huge elephant right next to my tent growling (producing that distinctive dinasour-ish sound from its belly) plus a wildebeest eating grass about a metre away!! Chances of waking up having discovered half my body crushed underfoot was thus an underlying fear here!

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I bless the rains down in Africa

Travel blog by peterforan

Day 3  ... Lookin forward to Uhuru peak, Kilimanjaro

Day 3 ... Lookin forward to Uhuru peak, Kilimanjaro


With Toto's defining tune ringing in my head, I don khaki pants and venture full-throttle into Africa! Elephants, lions, huge mountains, men with spears intent on stabbing me (probably) and the "Cradle of Humanity" (tm)... 4 weeks ain't gonna be enough!

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  • Maasai kid

    Serengeti

    Tanzania

    Maasai kid
  • Safari jeep

    Serengeti

    Tanzania

    Safari jeep
  • Giraffe!

    Serengeti

    Tanzania

    Giraffe!
  • Get in ma...

    Serengeti

    Tanzania

    Get in ma belly!