serengeti. the word itself defines africa, does it not? and i’m living right here in the country of the serengeti. words to describe my 2nd safari experience (i hope it’s not my last! ready to go again!) include bliss. awe. spiritual. mother earth. gratefulness. joy. beauty. grandeur. more than once during the game drives, i was overcome with emotion from the beauty of the land, the animals and how awesome this planet earth is. and more than once i was struck by the thoughts of how back home ‘someone’ would be trying to develop this land, building structures, etc. and i was screaming inside NO! i guess that’s why i’m not in that business anymore. oh. well. it’s not a judgement of that as it’s necessary and important. however, i am thankful that there are places in this world that there is still raw wild land left as it should be.
o.mg. there were definitely highlights of the trip – but it was all wonderful . bliss to me is riding for hours with my head out of the top of the land cruiser, visually capturing the beauty of the landscape, and the thrill of the ‘hunt’ to see the animals. we saw all of the top five! lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard. we witnessed the wildebeest migration, millions (along with nearly that amount of zebra) move between the ngorongoro conservation area and the serengeti. this safari included one night in a lodge and the rest in a public camping area, so it was a mix of experience. while the lodge was beautiful and more comfortable, certainly ‘living’ in the park brings you closer to nature. one does tire of carrying around tp and squatting in the bush hoping no creature is around; i don’t miss standing in line for an ice cold shower (that may even run out) in the dark, with no place to put your items. i don’t miss the hard ground to sleep on. but i would be back in a heart beat if given the opportunity.
i kept a bit of a safari journal, so here are a few notes of the adventure…..
jumatano / wednesday
we pull away from moshi about 10:40 am – 24 norwegians, 1 american, 4 african safari guides/landcruisers on this clear beautiful but HOT morning. my driver is omega; each vehicle has 6-7 people, plus the driver. before we make it to arusha (our first stop for supplies) our vehicle has a flat tire. we arrive at kudu lodge about 5:30 pm, which is where we will stay this first night, enjoying the pool, bar, a lovely dinner and cool relaxing evening before the adventure of game drives continue in the morning.
alhamisi / thursday
up at 5:30 am, breakfast at 6 and on the road by 7:15 am on a cool morning. we will spend part of the day in ngorongoro crater and conservation area. by 8:15 we are descending into the crater. highlights of this park include the black rhino up close. included with the elephant, buffalo, and a few lion, we catch 4 of the big 5 on the first day. the elusive leopard remains unseen. also, part of the adventure is that we experience our 2nd flat tire before we depart ngoro and enter serengeti later in the morning.
serengeti, named by the massai, means endless plains; nearly 15,000 sq km (or 9,300 sq miles) in this park. we will spend 3-4 days here but we are told you could spend weeks and not see all of the park. we arrive at the campsite 6 pm, tents are ready for us, and dinner a bit later.
ijumaa / friday
the night was colder than i anticipated, the ground was hard, reminding me of things i’d rather not be reminded of – shoulders, back and hips that aren’t so forgiving any longer. the hyenas laugh in the night, reminding us that we are in the middle of nature. a midnight need for toilet resulted in a stumble through the dark but the moon helped to light the way. toilets here are porcelain holes in the ground, showers are tanked cold water; if you don’t get a shower in on time, water may run out (and yes that is the voice of experience, as i had to resort to a splashing from the sink on occasion and learned to time my line up at the shower a bit better after that).
up at 6 am again, we depart after breakfast. after a few clicks of the camera, i discover that my battery is low so i must prioritize my photo shots. on safari you may drive for a long time before seeing anything, but the land is beautiful. and it’s worth it when you do come upon the herd, pack, tree, or lone animal. as i have said, for me, safari was a meditative spiritual experience. i found myself continually in thanks to God, honoring each animal or plant species, and blessing mother nature and earth along the way. each park in tanzania has it’s unique beauty but serengeti is incredible with the plains, broken up by the rock faces of kopje – it’s SO lion king. you immediately see the impact of the volcanic land rifts that occurred in this area millions/billions of years ago.
today’s highlight was the leopard! wrapping up the top 5! the not so fun part was blazing through areas with the tse tse flies – roof comes down, windows up (and it is hot and becomes a bit uncomfortable) but you could see the flies racing along side of us. they BITE and they carry the sleeping sickness. i did get a number of tse tse bites so hopefully i don’t get the sickness. but if i do, well, i am going out a happy safari mama lol.
jumamosi / saturday
the ground didn’t get any softer ha, and it was still cool at night (now that i’m back in the heat of moshi, it would be nice to have the cool). i heard in my sleep a lion roaring in the distance. honestly, does it get any better than this? welp. staying in a lodge on safari would be more comfortable indeed but to be in the midst of nature like this – it’s where it’s at. sometimes, i don’t even recognize who this woman is – if you have known me for years, you KNOW that camping is not my gig. it is if layers of my former self are shedding so that i can evolve into this new creature. i have been seeing butterflies everywhere – in nature, on facebook. so maybe that is symbolic. just maybe i’m growing some new wings. i can live with that.
a very early start (up at 5 am, depart at 5:45, no breakfast until we stop later in the park) and we didn’t return from today’s game drive until 5 pm. at breakfast, the group was given massai blankets, a bit of a lesson on the tribe and group photos taken. today’s highlight, if you don’t count being stuck in the mud for a while in the middle of the serengeti, was lions in the trees and being right underneath them. actually we saw lots of female lions and cubs, and it was all fabulous!
jumapili / sunday
today we head back to nyumbani – home. approximately 11 hours of driving and a few stops. we are out of the gate by 7 but we have a several hours of crossing the serengeti on the way out – last game drive of the trip. a cheetah siting and a few giraffes plus the most fabulous parts of the wildebeest migration top it off magnificently.
we make a stop at a massai village, enjoying their crafts, information about their lifestyle and chatting. i’m not sure but i think one of them maybe made a marriage offer to me, lol. no worries, i have no aspirations to be a white massai (believe it or not there is a movie by that name!) however he was quite handsome. well, okay so i noticed.
by 1:15 we are leaving ngorongoro conservation area, and heading back into civilization. after stopping for lunch, we are on the highway heading to arusha, and 3 giraffe were on our left, one of them coming into the highway in front of our vehicle. damn . my camera was stowed away by then and i couldn’t react quickly enough but good evasive driving by omega meant neither giraffe nor vehicle had incident. but omega and i looked at each other with amazement – you just don’t expect the wildlife to be in this area, but there are no boundaries and they are free to roam, it’s just incredible to have the experience!
we pull back into moshi by 6:30 pm, ready for a proper shower, proper toilets but we are reluctant to return to normalcy after the high of safari life. i long for the moment i can return. i am so very thankful for everything that has brought me to this land of beauty and generous hearted people.
cheers to our safari operator, bamba tours. to our incredible safari guides – they have amazing minds, knowledge and experience, they have to be adventurous, clever and strong, eyes like an eagle, instincts to go along with it. they made the experience even more amazing. to our safari chefs – the food is delish and i know how hard they work, sort of. i spent one evening in the kitchen, eating with them, and then helping with the clean up. they are up late cooking for the next day, and up early preparing for us. all of these people – they are part of my africa family and are so very dear to me.
if you ever dreamed or now are thinking of a visit to tanzania, a safari (or kili climb) i would encourage you to seriously put this on your list. and i would be happy to help you on this end with questions, information, recommendations. i am not a tour operator but i definitely know the best.
it will be no surprise to you that africa, she is in my blood now. no matter whether i stay another 9 months or longer, she will always be a part of my heart, as will the people. for those of you that have been with me from the beginning of this journey – do you remember when i said – i came to africa because god called me, but i was not one of those that ‘dreamed’ of africa during my youth. however, now, i do dream of africa and it feels like home to me. i have absolutely fallen in love with the land and the people. come. visit africa if you can. safari, climb, volunteer, open your heart.
i hope you enjoyed my safari journal. i loved sharing with you. if you haven’t already browsed through my photos on face book, i hope you will enjoy them here. i think i captured some decent shots.
how is your new year going? i wish all of you love, laughter and a life of purpose in 2012. oh, as much as i love my life here, of course, i miss you and love you! nothing changes that! and whatever life brings to me, and to all of us in the coming year – it is all as it should be.
love you. be love. you are loved.