Thu 12/8 ("Day 2", arrival)
We flew in, walked from the tarmac (it's a one-gate airport), and through customs. Met our gide, car to Mama Wilson's. Ate a late dinner (after the one on the plane) of spaghetti. To bed around 11pm. The beds were made of tempurpedic stuff, with mosquito nets.
Fri 12/9 ("Day 3", Arusha), Independence Day
Began with breakfast at 7:30am: cereal, fruit, scrambled eggs, bacon. General orientation. Then headed to Arusha National Park for a drive safari. Saw giraffe, some cape buffalo, warthogs. Drove to a different area for a picnic lunch of curry chicken.
Went for a walking safari. Saw a bushbuck, duiker, walked to a waterfall. Encountered old bachelor male cape buffalo on the way back, and had to detour around them. This is the only park where you can go around on foot. Saw greater and lesser flamingos, blue monkey, yellow bark acacia. Saw giraffes up close on the drive back. The sisal plant (like aloe) used for rope, etc. Passed a family of gibbons. Got a glimpse of Kilimanjaro and a good view of Mt. Meru.
Took a nap before dinner, browsed the gift shop. It was Tanzanian Independence Day today.
Sat 12/10 ("Day 4", Arusha to Tarangire)
Woken up by a rooster again at 5am. Breakfast at 7:30. We left Mama Wilson's, drove through "downtown" Arusha. Saw the halfway marker between Cairo and Cape Town, and the site of the UN Rwanda Tribunal. Stopped at Fotini for shopping.
Continued our drive to Tarangire Park. Saw a mongoose (Timon in The Lion King), lots of dust twisters. Drove to the "river camp", although the river is only seasonal and the river bed was completely dry. It's *really* hot and sunny. Siesta until 3:30.
Went for a safari drive in Tarangire (pronounced ta-ran-GEE-ree). Saw giraffe, eagle, lots of dik-dik, impala, helmeted guinea fowl, dik-dik with young, warthogs with four young. Saw elephants in a dry river bed; they stick their trunk in to search for water. Lots of baobab
and umbrella acacia trees, and sausage trees (with big sausage-looking fruits). Encountered a bunch of male elephants, got within thirty yards. One was tyring to climb a cliff face.
Sun 12/11 ("Day 5", Tarangire)
Woken up at 5:15, before dawn, for a morning safari in Tarangire. Saw elephants, giraffe, warthogs with piglets, waterbuck, impala, lots of zebra and wildebeest crossings (they graze together because they eat different parts of the grass), blue monkeys and baboons. Missed a cheetah. Had a breakfast picnic in the park, where a vervet monkey (with blue balls) game up close.
The classic "Big 5" game animals are elephant, rhino, leopard, buffalo, and lion. The "Big 10" also include cheetah, giraffe, eland, hippo and one other that I missed.
Back to the lodge for lunch. We went out to see a Masai watering hole, but they had left, sensing an upcoming sandstorm and rain. The watering hole was two deep ditches, with a trough that they fill for animals. Saw baboons and a hollowed-out (by elephants) baobab tree on the way back. A big sandstorm hit -- lots of sand was picked up by the wind and blown everywhere. The guides and staff said they had never seen anything like this. Followed by rain. Afterwards, we went to the Masai market, where we were flooded by touts selling to tourists.
Mon 12/12 ("Day 6", Masai village)
Left the river camp and drove to a Masai village. We saw drinking of cow's blood, roof thatching, house wall repairing, corn churning, warrior dance. Stopped at a T-shirt place.
Drove to the Ngorongoro Farmhouse. It was very nice, verdant, with lots of green trees and flowers. We had some down time; I walked around the grounds, swap and read, watched a nice sunset over my west-facing porch. After dinner, we sat around the campfire and listened to zeze (two-stringed guitar with a bow) songs (including one in Swahili with "hakuna matata" as its chorus).
Tue 12/13 ("Day 7", Ngorongoro)
Game drive in Ngorongoro Crater. We saw a couple of elephants, lots of zebra and wildebeest and buffalo, and grazing Masai herds. Saw waterbuck, Thomson's and Grant's gazelle, warthogs. Saw two female lions sleeping. Saw four rhinos, including a mother and baby (under a year old) that later crossed the road thirty feet from our truck. Drove through a swampy area with lots of birds and a few dozen hippos. Saw some hyenas and coyotes, hartebeest, ostriches. Ate a picnic lunch at a pretty lake. More driving, eventually back to the farmhouse, where I swam and read.
Wed 12/14 ("Day 8", Olduvai Gorge), Election Day
Left the farm house and drove to a local school. Saw a couple of teachers (monthly salary $100), school rooms, new long drop toilets donated by a previous OAT client (cost ~$5K).
Today is Election Day -- people there were voting. There were long lines: people just come early in the morning and wait until it's their turn to vote. Also saw trucks gathering up loads of Masai to take them to vote.
We had lunch at Olduvai ("Oldupai" in the Masai language) Gorge. Nothing much to see there, but they had a museum describing the fossil finds (2.5 million lears old; Lucy, in Ethiopia, was 3 million) and footprints found at Laetoli (but reburied for preservation).
Left Olduva, driving through Ngorongoro Preservation Area to Serengeti National Park. Stopped at the gate, where they had some information about kopjes (pronunced "kopi"), rock outcroppings. Drove to the camp; saw lots and lots of gazelles (hundreds if not thousands), mostly Grant's but also Thomson's, zebra, wildebeest, etc.
The camp is a collection of tents; showers are fed by a 20-gallon bucket, and there is a flush toilet and a basin outside for washing.
Thu 12/15 ("Day 9", Serengeti)
Up at dawn for a morning game drive. Saw spotted hyenas, zebra, wildebeest, bat-eared fox, hartebeest, gazelles, dwarf mongoose, helmeted guinea fowl, waterbuck, cape buffalo, great hornbill ("hondohondo" in Swahili - this was the name of my room at the Ngorongoro farm house), topi, silver-backed jackals, warthog, ostrich, reedbuck. Took a break at a rhino-tracking center (there are 14 in the Serengeti, 17 in Ngorongoro Crater). Saw elephants, baboons, hippos, eland (the large antelope).
Back to the camp for brunch and a siesta.
Afternoon game drive: zebras, wildebeest, gazelle, giraffe, female lion, black-bellied bustard (bird), crocodile, hippos, waterbuck, hartebeest, reedbuck, ostrich, serval (in the cat family), warthog, topi (antelope family), grey heron, about two dozen elephants, male lion, pride of 15-18 female lions and cubs, buffalo, hyenas.
A female lion resting in the sun by a tree.
Zebras drinking from a watering hole; when a crocodile came near, they all rushed out.
We are called by another car and drive up, and there is a
male lion standing in the shade of the other car, about five feet away. We all circled around, looking at it. Eventually the other car drove off, and the lion walked over to stand in our shadow!
Saw a big herd of elephants up close.
A large pride of lions resting in the shade.
Fri 12/16 ("Day 10", Serengeti)
Up before down for a 6am game drive. Saw zebra, wildebeest, jackal, topi, gazelle, spotted hyena chewing up something -- we could hear cracking bones (the hyena has the strongest jaw of any animal). Guinea fowl, male lion (heard it roaring), two female lions with cubs, large herd of buffalo (same one we saw yesterday), a couple dozen elephants including babies (possibly nursing) and a male with half a
trunk. Male elephants have a rounded forehead; females have a sharp angle. Saw cheetah, black-backed jackal (mother with three young adults), reedbuck, hippos, warthogs, eland, ostrich. Saw baboons near camp. Also saw a balloon safari going on (but our guides told us they weren't running).
Cheetahs are not a true cat: they don't have retractable claws. They have long legs, small head, black spots, and have black tear marks on their face that are very short hair and serve as a cooling system (for tears evaporating in the wind).
Back to the camp for brunch and a siesta.
The first cheetah we saw, we later saw kill a Thomson's gazelle. I saw them running around each other in circles a couple of times, kicking up dust, then the gazelle fell. Apparently (according to our guide Pascal) the cheetah swiped the gazelle with his paw. We drove up to see the cheetah dragging the kill a little and resting. Buzzards started circling overhead. The cheetah started gnawing at the gazelle, pulling off its hind leg and some entrails. We drove by the gazelle as we were leaving, and could see its insides.
Saw a female cheetah with three young. The young are smaller, more grey than brown, and their spots are not yet clear. One baby was nudging the mother, and eventually the mother got up and made a half-hearted attempt to catch a gazelle, but they ran away. Then the family crossed in front of the trucks.
Afternoon game drive: We drove to the Serengeti Visitors Center, where they had a good display about wildebeest migration and other animals. Saw lots of rock hyrax there. On the game drive, we saw zebras, wildebeest, guinea fowl, giraffe, gazelle, ostrich, buffalo, hippos, reedbuck, baboon, waterbuck, dwarf mongoos, maribou stork, vulture, elephant, leopard.
The staff sang happy birthday to Mom at dessert.
We stood in line where people were looking for a leopard and eventually gave up. Driving back, we got close to an elephant while others (including a baby) were drinking from a watering hole. Then were called by others and went to look for the leopard again. We waited over an hour. Eventually we saw it -- I saw it sit up, lay down, stick its head up out of the grass, and saw it yawn: a red/pink
mouth and teeth. Then drove by it for a 5-foot close-up, and raced back to camp (it was getting late).
Sat 12/17 ("Day 11", Serengeti)
Woken up by lions in the camp at around 5am. I heard rustling, but didn't see anything. Morning game drive: saw a leopard by the water (I was the one who spotted it), hyena go right by the (hiding) leopard, eight lions crossed the road in front of us, cheetah with two cubs, lions (two female, one male), hippo grazing out of water, 9-10 lions with cubs playing on a tree, vervet monkeys (babies playing around), impala, zebras drinking water, then spooked and ran behind the truck, several warthog familes with three babies, topi. All this by 8:30am.
We drove to the woodlands. Saw impala here too because they're browsers (not grazers). Saw baboons, lots of hippos watering themselves, 11 crocodiles, baboons playing around grooming each other. Stopped at an air field. Saw ten lines, then two lions, one injured on its right rear flank above the tail, vultures eating from a zebra kill.
Back to the camp for lunch and a siesta. Got a tour of the kitchen.
Afternoon game drive: about ten lions including two young males and the father. Secretary bird, red lizard (at ngong rock), baboons, hyena den with three young. Drove to (N)gong rock, which you hit to make a "gong" sound, and Masai paintings (~150 years old).
Had an African dinner (all African dishes).
Sun 12/18 ("Day 12", return to Ngorongoro)
There was lots of noise during the night: zebras, wildebeest, hyenas. Saw a gazelle on my verandah, and my soap was missing in the morning. Drove back to the Ngorongoro Farmhouse. Took a siesta, swam, and read. In the evening we had an African dance and acrobatic demonstration.
Mon 12/19 ("Day 13", departure)
Drove back to Mama Wilson's. Saw a giraffe crossing the road, baboons stealing a banana, camels.