Africa Stories and Tips

Safari Day 19: A jaunt around the Serengeti

Kopje Photo,

I have become jaded to much of what I see; the animals, the landscape, the people. And yet this new place has rekindled my spirit of travel and adventure. Less than a hundred miles from Maasai mara it could just as well be in another continent. Most of this land is flat with a soft waving sea of golden grasses. Umbrella acacia dot the land as if painted there by an impressionist artist. And then there are the islands of gray Kopjes spaced just right looking like islands in a perfect Zen garden. Seemingly no place for animals to hide. There are tiny, delicate Thomson gazelle darting in front of me as we drive the dusty tracks toward an endless horizon. The strange half barking, half braying sound from a distant herd of zebra. Colorful birds of green and blue and orange following us by darting from branch to branch. Dust devils dance across the arid plains. The cool of the morning gives way to relentless heat during the afternoon magnified by the lack of shade and the heat reflecting from the light colored surface of this parched land. Beautiful yellow acacia forests fringe the plains hiding biting Tse tse flies. Much more persistent than mosquitoes, they bite through clothing. An African sunset is like none other and here it is better yet. An orange ball shrouded in a lacework of clouds. As it sinks it grows in size then falls from the bottom of the cloud veil to glow one last time before falling below the East African hills. The night sky is a starry spectacle. So many bright stars that the constellations are hard to discern especially since I am now below the equator. Then the low, deep thunderous moan echoing up to me reminds that I am in a wild place far from civilization. I am escorted by an armed guard back to my cottage sanctuary to await another day.

Our room was hot all night despite using a fan. I stepped outside before sunrise and was surprised to find it was actually very cool and pleasant so I stayed on the patio to write this journal. We have a view onto the plains below although it is partially obstructed by acacias. No visible animals but lots of beautiful birds especially several variations of the curious looking Hornbill. We had breakfast and were at the vehicle by about 8AM. It was already hot and dry. As we left the lodge Richard pointed out an old buffalo staring angrily toward us. He said this buffalo was "retired" and had been alone in this spot for as long as he had been a guide. We drove a very long distance toward the west end of the park. As we drove along the edge of the acacia forest we saw a herd of elephants digging for water. We were also attacked by more Tse tse flies. We saw herd after herd of darting, tiny, delicate Thomson gazelle as they raced and crossed in front of us. We pulled into a wooded area to watch a female Lion stalking two grazing impala. She moved slowly, stealthy and crouched down for several minutes as she stalked her prey. The impalas knew something was up because they would stand still and look around. This went on for about 30 minutes. Then I felt an almost imperceptible breeze on my back. It blew from where the lion crouched to where the impala were grazing. It took a split second for the impala to sniff the danger and they took off like lightening. The lion stood up and then walked away slowly. We continued our drive out to the plains. We saw two male lions with full manes crossing the road, casually walked into the distance ignoring the zebra only meters away.

We passed a pond with a crocodile and a couple of sleeping Hippos. In the distance, was a line of Elephants marching single file through the grasslands dwarfed by the vast plains and the escarpment beyond. There were giraffe quietly eating tops and sides of Acacia. Richard told us that hunters once camped under yellow acacia not knowing that mosquitoes and Tse tse flies live on the bottom of the leaves. The trees became known as Fever trees because they thought the tree was the cause of their disease. Driving on we saw zebra and wildebeest walking in long lines toward a watering hole. We saw plenty of waterbuck, buffalo a few small jackals, herds of tope and a family of warthogs. We drove out to a small soda lake in the grassy plains and saw large birds and a crocodile. A little further, under a shade tree, seven females lions sleeping.

We drove out to a kopje and hiked up to an area where ancient Maasai camped out while trekking these plains. They used it as a kind of fortress and viewing platform scanning the horizon for enemies. There were several large boulders with indentations that when tapped with a rock made a loud hollow sound. Richard said they were used as musical instruments by Maasai. We drove further down to another kopje. We climbed up to a rock cave and saw some ancient Maasai paintings depicting war shields, elephants and buffalo. Richard said the Maasai brought goat and cattle meat here and ate for a month as part of their rituals. The day had turned very hot. We drove back to the lodge. As we approached the acacia forest leading to our lodge Tse tse flies invaded our space so we spent the rest of the drive swatted flies.

We had lunch then went to the room and rested. At about 4pm, we went on an afternoon game drive. This time we headed to a Hippo pond. There must have been over 50 hippos crowded into this tiny place. The pond was completely filled with the Hippos waste! Occasionally one would start billowing, followed immediately by others joining in. Periodically one would raise its bulk above the water and expel feces with the force of a fire hose while its short tail acted as a quick windshield wiper spraying the feces in 180 degrees. The stench of the pond was something to behold! We headed back to the lodge. I went to the surprisingly cold pool for a swim. Swimming to the edge of the pool I marveled at the beautiful African sunset into the distant savannah. After dinner I went to the bar to watch TV but it was not working and neither was the internet so I went back to the room and caught up on my journal.

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