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Published: June 17th 2008
Let me just start out by saying what an AMAZING experience safari was!
I arrived off the bus in Arusha and I was immediately swarmed by about 18-20 men trying to direct me to a hotel/give me a free taxi ride/ protect me from the others, who knows...they were all talking at once so it is difficult to say, but ultimately they want to get you alone for a few minutes so that they can sell you a safari at a ridiculous amount. I attached myself to the only other foreigners on the bus- a couple from Holland. We were then lead around town, or rather followed by the parade of men who were still all talking at once and getting in my face- not a pleasant welcoming committee although this was their guise. We finally arrived at a place that had a one room-- a double, which the immediately took (Arusha was having a summit of some kind so the place was full). The parade was waiting outside, and it was obvious that I was not looking forward to going out into the street and enduring them alone. Instead of being kind and joining me until I found a
Lion chilling at sunset....I was so close, it was amazing. Such a magnificent creature
hotel- the woman (who had obviously never traveled alone, or had a sympathetic bone in her body!) said to me: "Well you better get out there, you've got to face them sooner or later", so I left them, cursing them under my breath, and vowing to always help if I find a solo traveler in need.
A land cruiser pulled up and said that they would drive me for free to the Arusha Backpackers, and the one guy who was less sketchy had organized it, so I said: "If you think Im getting into any vehicle with 5 men, you are insane!" and started walking, and the vehicle immediately cleared out and I was on my way-- only to find that Arusha Backpackers was full. The nice guy helped me get another room down the street at a sketchy place, (but what can you do?- I guess it wasn't too bad). Then we discussed safaris and I learned that there was a group going out the next day and bargained with the guy until I got a bargain price, and was ready to set out the next morning.
I got up early and got organized for the safari
The zebra and wildebeast are good friends. The zebra has good eyesight and the wildebeast has good hearing so they combine forces for the sake of survival.
which left at 9am African-time (actually around 10am--HEY HAKUNA MATATA! (for those of you who don't know--this means "no worries" or "no problem" and is a catch phrase commonly used here along with "poli poli" which means "slowly, slowly"--I mean would you do things any other way?! Like perhaps on time?! nah... and after being in the Middle East I'm used to this)). It took about 8 hours to get to the Serengeti camp where we spent the night. An hour was added to this because our Land Cruiser (the one in which I got the ride the night before) stopped mid way up a hill about 4 hours into the trip. Bernard, our driver, had no idea what was wrong, and in his panic, began sucking diesel from the hose into his mouth and spitting it on the ground. At first we all sat in the cab and let Bernard and our cook Peter look into what the problem could be.
Finally, we were getting worried and Nick, an Aussie pilot (20) who has a Land Cruiser at home decided to go and see if he could help. He thought that it might be flooded but it was hard
to tell because the whole engine stunk of fuel as Bernard had just spend the last 20 minutes sucking and spitting the diesel because he thought that the fuel was bad, or that there was air in the line or something...I really didn't want to get involved. Nick tried to get the message across that we should just leave it for a few minutes in case it is flooded. They gave us our fast food packed lunches, which we ate at the side of the road with an audience of Masii people watching. I now have an idea how the safari animals feel with all the people watching them eat! Then mysteriously, after a phone call, the vehicle started up and we were on our way again. Bernard didn't seem to be too affected by the diesel consumption and all was well again.
Driving through the Serengeti was an experience I will never forget! There were animals everywhere. Before reaching camp, we had seen zebras, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, monkeys, hippos, etc., and we hadn't even begun the real game watching yet.
Oh, I should mention my safari mates: There was Nick, the Aussie pilot who had overlanded in
a VW Golf with his friend and had already contracted malaria, and cut his foot on a bent over street sign pole which promptly became seriously infected. The poor guy needed to get out of Africa asap, but he was still in good spirits for the safari. Cliff was a fellow Canadian from Edmonton, we had many great chats over cheap box wine. It was really nice to have some company from the motherland--it is funny how comforting it can be. Lastly, there was a sweet Japanese couple, Masa, and Mari (27). Our group had great dynamics and we had a blast together.
When we finally arrived to camp, we realized how disorganized our tour was...we already had the suspicions because Nick had booked for a 3 day safari while the rest of us had booked a four day tour, so we realized something didn't match. How was he going to get back if we were in the middle of a park on day 3? Well the tent/sleeping bag situation was also lacking some organization, and Nick, Cliff and I ended up squished in a 2 man tent...atleast the close proximity made up for the missing sleeping bag...geez. Anyway,
Visitor to camp
Yes I was this close! He just came to camp to steal some water...really amazing!
Peter did quite well mixing up some delicious dinners, and after we all had a few glasses of the boxed wine, we had little to complain about.
The next morning we got up before dawn and were on our way to see some animals. While stopped to check out some hippos, I (yup!) spotted some lions mating! It was the most amazing thing to see. Bernard said that if we waited another 15-20 minutes, we would see them do it again, and just like clockwork, they did! Apparently they do it every 15 minutes for six days straight without eating. They will just have water and sex. It was really fabulous, nothing will wake you up like that. We were excited and ready and we definately weren't disappointed. The Serengeti certainly lived up to its name, and we saw every animal you could imagine.
Next, we were off to camp at the Simba site which is at the edge of the Ngorongoro crater. The Simba camp was great, it even had hot showers which is something rare in Africa, but it was cold at night. I drank a ton of tea and went to bed early because it
Don't mind us...
just help yourself to that water..
was so cold, even for a Canadian (remember, I'm acclimatized to Middle Eastern weather now). The next morning we were eating breakfast when a massive head appeared on the other side of our caged in eating area. An elephant had come to steal some water from the camp's container. We all rushed out to get pictures and we were only a car length away when we realized that all the locals (safari guides/cooks) were hiding in the caged in area and maybe we should be more afraid of this massive animal. Anyway, we weren't charged and it was absolutely amazing to see a wild elephant so close.
The Ngorongoro crater is the remains of an old volcano which is why the area is so fertile. It is also the reason the Serengeti is so fertile, as wind from the Indian Ocean blew the nutrient-rich soil into the area of the Serengeti. As a result of the fact that the Ngorongoro is a crator, there are tons of animals with no easy way out, so they are everywhere!
The highlight of the crator was when we saw 2 cheetahs hunt down a gazelle. It was amazing to see how
Rhino off in the distance
he didn't want to come too close
quickly the can run and with such ease. One trailed behind in case the other one tired, but the first one took it down. It was stunning, and impossible to describe. I will never forget it.
Lastly, we went to a lodge on the edge of Lake Manyara which had a fabulous view of park and chairs on the edge of the cliff which were perfect for enjoying an afternoon beer. It was so quiet and peaceful here, as we were the only ones there, and the sound of the waterfall was a perfect end to all the animal watching.
My safari experience was worth every penny, and I will never forget it.
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