Feb. 11, 2018
Although we’ve been on the Serengeti Plain since we arrived in Ndutu, we were officially in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Today we would enter Serengeti National Park. A song has been going through my head since we got to Tanzania, one that I like from several years ago. The “one hit wonder” band, Toto made no. 1 on the charts with their song Africa. It has this line: “I miss the rains down in Africa.” It also says, “Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.” I’m a bit disappointed in the song now because Kilimanjaro DOESN’T rise above the Serengeti. You can’t see the mountain from anywhere in the Serengeti. Have those guys ever even been in Africa?? (On the other hand, maybe if you are on Kilimanjaro, you CAN see the Serengeti, even if the reverse is not the case.)
Today was special, however, for a couple of reasons. First, we had the opportunity to go on a hike with an (armed) guide, just like at Arusha. This walk, however, was shorter and more leisurely. It gave us the opportunity to notice little things, like a giraffe footprint,
flowers close up,
and dung beetles busily carrying out the amazing feat of rolling balls of dung much larger than themselves to holes they have dug, where they lay their eggs in them.
We also got to examine weavers’ nests close up.
We stopped for gas and paperwork shortly after entering the national park. Apparently it’s also a bus stop, because there were a couple of buses there loading and unloading passengers, and there were many local people milling around.
There was also a café and well-kept toilets. I headed for the latter, carrying my camera case, which had become like a purse – I used it every day and keep a lot of things in it. There was a slab of cement to create a bit of a ramp for the step up to the sidewalk that led to the bathroom. I don’t know why – I didn’t trip on anything, even my own feet – but suddenly I lost my equilibrium and fell backward onto the cement of the parking lot – on my tailbone! My camera case also hit the ground, but fortunately due to the padding around the camera and the extra lens, there was no damage.
I was mentally checking myself for injuries when finally two people from our group came over and reached out hands to help me up. I stood, with their help, but with difficulty and tremendous pain in my buttocks. I figured there would be a huge bruise but it didn’t seem as though I had any fractures. They asked me how I was and I lied, saying, “Fine” – I didn’t want anyone else to worry about me. I felt like a klutz and an idiot.
We continued on, along bumpy roads and I was in pain – I’d fallen on my tailbone. I was not about to complain, however, even though I winced at every major jolt and when I stood up or sat down.
However, I wasn’t going to let this spoil the day for me. I nearly forgot my pain when we spotted animals close to our vehicle.
But the most special animal that we saw today was the elusive leopard! Actually, we saw two! The safari drivers communicate with each other in Swahili, but also in code. They call a leopard “spots above” (because it’s usually spotted in trees).
Not much later, we saw Leopard #2.
After the people in our vehicle had spent all the time we needed taking photos and looking through binoculars, Elias started the engine again and we went on searching for other wildlife.
Not long after that, Elias got a message over his radio: “Spots above” (Leopard #2) had come down from the tree! He turned the vehicle around and we went back to the tree where we had first spotted the second leopard. There must have been 10 or more vehicles, including Livingstone’s with the rest of our group, stopped there! Some drivers were rude: One began to honk at another truck and then wormed its way in between two others, obstructing the view of those who’d been there first.
The leopard was sitting at the base of the tree, a little intimidated by so many vehicles around her. We were told that as soon as she came down from the tree, she urinated around it to claim it as her territory. Now she sat looking around and waiting. In spite of so many people watching her, everyone was totally quiet.
Finally she chose her safest path. She got up and started walking toward us, passing within five feet of our vehicle!
It was quiet enough to hear the sound of camera shutters clicking like at a politician’s press conference. It was amazing how close that leopard was to us – not more than a few feet from where we were leaning out of the top of our Land Cruiser!
In addition, we saw lots of impalas as well as vervet monkeys in a tree. Some of them scampered down the tree trunk to have a look at the impalas.
One young impala had a tête-a-tête with a monkey perched on a mound of twigs next to a small tree! When they were practically nose to nose, the monkey jumped up and scampered away, but was soon back again. I think both of them were ready to play together!
In this area of the Serengeti, for the first time since Arusha, there were palm trees scattered here and there. The grass here is tall, good for hiding. We saw herds of elephants (including very small babies),
an African hare (the first one we’d seen),
and a pond with hippos.
One of the hippos seemed to be giving me the evil eye.
He decided to show off his dominance.
We watched the hippos for quite awhile, then headed back to our camp, Ang’ata Safari Camp, where we had already checked in earlier. Ang’ata was our last lodgings on the safari.
On the way back, we saw beautiful sunsets and animals in trees silhouetted against the sky.
Ang’ata was not only our last lodgings, but also the smallest. There was only one other guest there besides us, a Danish man from Copenhagen, and the camp was full!
At dinner, we had a long table (actually, several tables pushed together to make one, including a round table at the end), while at the only other table, set for two, was the Danish man, Lars, and his driver. Our drivers also sat with us at our table. Our group occupied all the tents except two – one for Lars and the other for the drivers, I suppose. We were truly out in the middle of nowhere!
That night, I heard animals passing by our tent. At least one was a hyena – the first sound he made I didn’t recognize and thought was a monkey, but then he made a series of other sounds including the “laughing” sound hyenas make. It creeped me out. I’m not fond of hyenas.