Seeing Simba

Tanzania Pt. 2
Arusha is only a couple of hours from Moshi and the people from the safari company met me at the bus station, which made the whole thing go smoothly. They even put me up in a nice hotel for the evening, complete with electricity and food! When I met the owner of the safari company he told me that the other people who had signed up for the same day as me had cancelled because of heavy rains in the area. The rain did not disturb me so I got to have a personal safari. The next morning started with introductions to the guide and cook and packing the truck with our equipment. I could hardly believe I was about to drive off to the Serengetti and other parks for a four day tour!
The safari did not start with the Serengetti, but Lake Manyara instead. The lake is huge and supposed to be home to thousands of birds species, along with a large collection of hippos. We dropped off the cook at our campsite to start preparing our meals and the guide and I went to the park. The day basically consisted of driving as near as possible to the lake given the rain had caused some mild flooding. The zebras, water buffaloes, baboons, and birds did not seem to mind, thankfully. All the animals were out grazing and enjoying the cloud-cover much later into the day than usual, according to the guide. The guide was really great about letting me know about all the different animals and taking his time going from spot to spot so I could take photos and enjoy the moment. He even managed to drive through a flooded part of the trail to get to the Hippo Pond. The lake also had eagles, flamingos, a monitor lizard, so many other birds I cannot remember, and blue monkeys. After only a short day of driving around one park I would have been satisfied. Dinner was great and we slept in tents at a campground outside the park. Having a personal cook is something I could get used to after years of cooking for myself.
The next morning we made the long drive over to the Serengetti National Park. We had to drive the whole morning to get there and then wait a little while to enter because the passes are for 24 hours only, so entering too early would have shortened the next day’s morning safari. After we finally entered the park and dropped off the cook, the guide and I drove around the park for the rest of the afternoon. We saw more zebras, baboons, and water buffalo, then on top of that we got lucky enough to see an elephant walking close to the road and waited for it to get close. So close, in fact, that I was able to see all of the elephant, including him taking a piss. Nature can be wonderful. The guide was trying his darndest to find leopards, cheetahs, or lions hunting, but we never got that lucky. More hippoes, hyenas, and jackals were everywhere we went, though. I cannot complain. Later on when we headed back to our campsite it was just turning to dusk. The cook had some great food for us again, but we were not the only ones hungry. In the rocks behind our campsite we could hear lions going out to hunt for the night. Fortunately, they never came into our camp as far as we know. We took the precaution of staying in a locked area to be safe. Even the cook and guide seemed to be a little on edge, which made me feel better. I did manage to relax long enough to appreciate the sky filled with an endless amount of stars since civilization was far, far away.
After a night of sleeping intermitten with waking from the cold and sounds of the wild, we had a quick snack and then headed to the spots where the guide thought we might catch some hunting animals. Right out on the road from our camp there was a giraffe hanging out on the roadside. Again we waited for it to get a little closer and walk across the road. I almost could have pet it. Soon we got the call from another guide that some lions had caught something. When we arrived, the poor wildebeest was being shared by a lion and two lionesses and almost completely gone. Some clearly rattled wildebeest could be seen cowering in the distance.
Afterwards the call came across the radio that some cheetahs were nearby. By the time we found the spot, there was a good line of people waiting around. The four cheetahs seemed to be waiting also, then finally they set off to chase their prey, hidden by the bushes. Never figured out if they caught something or not. Last but not least in our scavenger hunt for the Big Five, we had to find a leopard and a rhino. Both are hard to find because leopards tend to be in trees and rhinos look like giant rocks once they lay down. The weather was also not right to see a rhino according to the guide. We did finally saw a leopard in a tree! The leopard was just relaxing and we sat at a distance looking through binoculars to admire it. Then, before I knew it, the morning session was done. We went back to get the cook and the rest of our gear, then raced to leave the park before our pass expired. I was completely content with what we had seen and experienced over the three days so far. It was hard for me to imagine there was still another day at a new place, this time Ngorongoro Crater.
The crater called Ngorongoro looms in the distance over the Serengetti. The height of the crate causes it to have a different climate than the surrounding area. Inside is always cooler and greener than outside. The view from the top, where we had to camp for the night, was absolutely amazing. I could see the whole crater with a lake and fields full of life from flamingoes to zebras to elephants. The Masaii even bring cattle into the crate for grazing. Another good meal and early to bed for me before our last day.
The morning session was everything I could hope for because we finally saw a rhino, two in fact! The distance was a bit much to really see much of them but that was not the only thing we got to see. We came across prides of lions and elephant herds, tons of flowers and flocks of birds. I saw crocodiles in the distance and impalas up close. All before we had even eaten lunch! The whole view of the crater from inside was like something out of ‘Land Before Time.’ The animals were all just relaxing without a care in the world. The entire area was just serene. I had got my fill of safari, though, and was ready to call it a day when nature finally called and we had to head out of the park.
At the end of the day we were back in Arusha, I had my ticket for Dar Es Salaam, and I was back in a room at the hotel from the night before the safari started. Exhaustion set in and I passed out. Really could not ask for a better trip. I mean I got to go to the Serengetti!!! I still can’t get the stupid grin off my face.

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