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Published: December 22nd 2018
“When you go away... you don't always go on safari, do you? Just want to be away.” Meryl Streep asked Robert Redford in the movie Out of Africa. That’s exactly what I felt when I returned to Africa only after a few months I came back from Kenya. Now I traveled to Africa once again, because I fell in love with the continent. I just wanted to soak into its careless, rugged beauty. Safari? Well, yes…but for me safari is an opportunity to blend into the unforgiving wilderness of the continent. I take deep breath in the boonies, and I feel at ease. When we returned from the Tarangire last evening to the picture perfect African Safari Glamping lodge in Manyara, it was the right fit for my state of mind after driving around all day in the African bushland. Nestled close to the rolling hills of Manyara, the sprawling compound was tastefully designed with the tented lodges amid the huge trees. Loveness, the cheerful manager helped us to settle in our respective lodges and when we were ready for a drink or two, darkness has fallen all over Manyara and we used our powerful headlamps to find our way to
the pub. Night starts early in this part of the world and we went to bed with the sounds of night creatures all around the lodges…sometimes sound of baboons and the hyenas coming from far away land…some nocturnal animals made cautious footsteps around the lodge, the chirping of night birds occasionally woke me up in the middle of the night. It was fantastic! We got up early, took shower, packed our stuff and headed for the breakfast. I don’t know how many people were staying in the lodge, but not many have woken up that early. We needed to get ready as Edie would be here sharp at 8 am for our day safari to Lake Manyara.
As we were entering through the gate of Lake Manyara, Edie told us that the landscape here is quite different than Tarangire….there is water here and that changes the habitat. I looked around through the open hood, sun could hardly penetrate through the leaves of the deep forest.
“I wonder what kind of animals would live there.” I was thinking aloud.
“That depends on your luck,” Edie said in a matter of fact voice.
Soon the cruiser left the
deep woods and came to the open land…it was green, green everywhere…so different than Tarangire. That’s what I love of Africa…the landscape can change so quickly. “Because of the lake close by, we have plenty of wetland here,” Edie was focusing on the road as the swamps on both sides of the dirt road is very deceiving…they look like green pasture to me. I was glad it was Edie who was driving and not me.
“There are hippos here,” Edie said and pointed far away to a black hip of an animal that was surfacing from the swamp. “Do you know what is the reason for the most human fatality in African wilderness?” Edie asked while driving the cruiser. “Hippos,” I said… I knew that from Kenya. No, we didn’t have luck to view the hippos from a close distance. A flock of birds suddenly flew out from the swamp at a distance and flew over us. I could see a bunch of water buffalos at a distance. Edie parked the cruiser to a sign saying the “hippo’s pool”. There was a bridge on top of the sign, we climbed up the bridge and could view the large grassland
in the swamp. I knew, it would be impossible to track down a hippo in the grassland. Edie drove the cruiser around a bend and a bunch of water buffalos were right in front of us. We stopped the cruiser and they all stood up. Obviously, they didn’t like a sudden intrusion by us. They gave us a dirty look and they all pissed standing there in front of us…. of course it was a clear message to us “piss off you lousy safari junkies!” To be honest, I never underestimate these buffalos…even the lions also respect the huge momentum of their bodies. Next hop…Edie announced as we drove towards the lake. Yes, the lake has algae as we could see some flamingos. They feed in algae and I have seen the same in Kenya that’s where they hang around. Some pelicans also were searching for the food in the lake. “Not much of luck for us today,” Mic said from the front seat of the cruiser. “I told you before, it’s all about luck” Edie smiled. We turned the cruiser around and we started driving away from the wet land to the denser part of the game reserve. We
drove for fifteen minutes or so when another cruiser came from the other direction and Edie talked to the driver in Swahili. “Lion” Edie said. “Where, where?” we all got tensed. “Big Simbas on the other side,” Edie murmured while turning the cruiser in the same direction we came from. He made a mad dash with the cruiser and soon turned to a side dirt road. We drove for 6-7 minutes and Edie drove around the corner of the thorny bush-land to a relatively plain surface close to the lake. There they were; two full size lions relaxing near the thorny bush. Already there were other cruisers parked in front of the lion. Eddie positioned our cruiser to get a better view. My 30x zoom popped up and “oh, so cute….,”I whispered to Edie,
“I feel like jumping out to get a close up.” I muttered!
“There are better ways to commit suicide Tab and I don’t carry body bags,” Eddie said in a flat voice. Then the beast turned its face towards me and looked straight into my eyes…I could see him clean through the cross-hair of my zoom. And that look froze me to death! All
the cuteness I was admiring a moment ago, just vaporized in a second…a pair of cold, steely, killer eyes from a dangerous predator…it was measuring my every move and I could see it through my lens. Did I want to jump out of the cruiser a moment ago for a close up? Am I nuts! I was now feeling so lucky within the protected wall of my cruiser. Yes, my upper body was above the hood, but I know I am safe that way…Hardev told me long time ago in Kenya…that is the way the predators are used to see the human profile through the hood…try to get out of the vehicle, the profile changes and they would outrun you in a second. “I don’t carry the body bags,” I thought about what Edie said a moment ago and I laughed quietly.
We drove out of the area leaving the lions alone and headed for our lunch break. Edie parked the cruiser under a shade of an acacia tree and we got off the vehicle. This was a designated place to get off the vehicle. There are a few benches spread across the edge of a valley overlooking the
Lake Manyara at a distance…what a beautiful sight! Some beautiful birds were dancing around the tables searching for food. Other than the Superb Sterling, unfortunately I didn’t know the names of the others. I found out later. After the lunch Edie drove us around the other side of Lake Manyara where we spotted the zebras, giraffes and elephants. I was content as I was absorbing the gift of the Nature all around me. It’s the perfect place for the wild lives to blend in the wilderness of the vast plains of Africa…untamed and pristine. Let it be and hope it stays that way. Sun was leaning to the west and it has been a long day…it’s time to return and relax in the evening. We went out of the gate and stopped the car on the road side for a quick photo-op with some Masai boys, nicely face painted. Yes, they make it for living, but it is hard to ignore such innocent faces.
I was looking at the arid landscape while Edie was driving. The last rays of the setting sun wrapped the whole world…the distant acacia and baobab trees, the rolling hills in the horizon,
and the jacaranda flowers blazing in the setting sun. “I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills,” I was muttering from the movie Out of Africa. A Superb Sterling flew from the jacaranda tree. The African canvass in the setting sun slowly dissolved inside me which will stay there forever. It’s for me to treasure only – my African dreamland!. And right then, I envied Denys in Out of Africa …”I don’t want to live someone else’s idea of how to live.” So true, Denys!
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