Watching for Wildebeests—Further Adventures of a Texan in Tanzania - 9

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Africa » Tanzania » North » Serengeti National Park
August 5th 2009
Published: August 25th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

Saturday, April 4, 2009 -

When it was light outside I dressed and went to the front desk, asking how contact the physician. Dr. Edmund Nzella was there in a flash. After hearing my symptoms, he determined it was bacterial. He said to do go to the dining area, where I had been heading. He would find me and bring what I needed.

I saw my colleagues and told them my predicament. They were very concerned. Although we were to meet with people from SANAPA (Serengeti National Parks) and had a full day planned, including an opportunity to see the animals, they advised me to stay behind.

Dr. Nzella, whom I called “My Hero,” brought an antibiotic and other medications. He was concerned that I might be dehydrated, so also brought something to replace my electrolytes. I liked his manner; he seemed genuinely interested in my welfare and checked on me throughout my stay.

While the others left for their scheduled activities, I decided to wander around the area with my camera. The day was perfect—sunny, with just the right temperature. As I neared the swimming pool, I saw something dark and furry bending down to get a drink. Could it be? Yes indeed—a parched baboon was quenching his thirst. Then I saw another and another and still more. And there was a mother with her youngster.

I moved cautiously because I didn't want to startle them. One of the younger baboons climbed a tree and snacked on leaves. The pool was between us, so I wasn't too worried until the leader started coming my way. I slowly backed up and avoided making eye contact. I read that I shouldn't smile or show my teeth, because it may be perceived as a challenge.

The group and I respected each others boundaries while I continued to snap pictures. I would have preferred getting closer for sharper photos, but discretion is the better part of valor.

Suddenly, another guest spotted the baboons. He had an expensive camera with a long lens but fearlessly surged ahead, getting quite close to them. I was concerned for his safety, but nothing happened.

Later I talked to his companions who were at the end of a long tour of Africa and enjoyed their stay immensely. Most were from Massachusetts, Idaho and the West Coast. I also spoke to others, including a family named Patel from Kenya and an Israeli family who came with their grandson.

Many of the lodge guests were out on the plains already, including a group that went on a balloon ride very early in the morning, then had a champagne breakfast in the wild. It seemed people came from all around the world to experience what Tanzania had to offer.

I went back to my room and napped. The medicine seemed to be working. I continued to drink as much water as possible and mixed some of it with the powder for replacing electrolytes. Believe me, Gatorade or even Pedialyte would have tasted better.

Our team was back in time for dinner. They told me about meeting Gerald Bigurube, the Director General of TANAPA; James Wakibari the park's principal ecologist; and Martin Loibooki, Chief Park Warden, along with their colleagues. Each time our group talked to experts, the plans became further defined.

They also visited with Dr. Marcus Borner of the Frankfurt Zoological Society who explained the complexity of the Serengeti’s ecosystem. He clarified the crucial role of the wildebeest and how the entire system is dependent on the migration.

Bill had flown in a small plane to get overhead footage of the wildebeests. There were tens of thousands, maybe even more. In the meantime, the others had an opportunity to see animals, too, including about 150 hippos in a pool had wonderful stories, and I was sorry I missed the excitement.

We talked for a while, then each of us went back to our bungalows.

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