Fracas with Massai Boys and Big Cats on the Endless Plain

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September 14th 2018
Published: September 16th 2018
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We got up at 6.20am to see the sunrise not worth mentioning, except I just have. At breakfast we were joined by two more guests from Hungary, Uri and Mark. They have just spent 5 days climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and were very happy to be eating food that is not frozen. They seem a good laugh and with the Polish couple, we have a nice group.

Molisi, our chef told us off for not eating his papaya and said we probably would like his omelette. I did like it. We were meant to be leaving at 9am for the Serengeti, but it was closer to 9.30 by the time everything was packed up by Bori and Molisi. Glyn and I were getting angsty as its a couple of hours drive and we hate to miss a minute of animal spotting.

On the way, we were stopped by some very jovial policemen doing random checks on road safety and ID. They shook hands with Bori and all were having a belly laugh at something!l

At the base of the Ngorongoro crater, we had to stop whilst Bori got a permit and it was just enough time to use the free wifi to upload yesterday's blog. The bumpy dirt road took us upwards into cloud, to the rim of the crater. Here we stopped to gasp in awe at the crater sweeping below us. It's so big that a wide angle lens is not enough, so I'll be stitching a few photos together when I get home! I did get to use the pano feature on my phone and that was ok, better than videoing as that captures the babble of surrounding tourists.

The road was so jolting that it convinced my Apple Watch I was taking exercise, pity I'm not really burning the calories it thinks I have. I saw an elephant on the journey around the rim; tusks, trunk, big ears and all that. No one else did and tried to convince me I was hallucinating. The crater is a conservation area which means people can live here too, so I saw Massai herding their cows near some zebras. The Massai also get a share in the profits of tourism as this has been their land for around 200 years.

We passed a Massai village surrounded by a fence of sharp looking sticks with people and
Agam lizardAgam lizardAgam lizard

cattle lounging around outside. We stopped to photograph some giraffe when a gang of adolescent Massai boys came up to us, so we photographed them. I got a photo of one wagging his finger at me. Then things got a bit irate, Molisi and Bori were shouting at them and they were shouting back. So our guides had to get out of the truck and chase them, but as soon as they got back in some of the lads picked up large rocks, threatening to throw them at our jeep. Bori and Molisi REALLY started shouting at them, so I managed to get a couple of action shots, as I wasn't going to miss a potential Massai attack and we were making a get away anyway. We were told that this happened because they want cash for photos and we should stick to giraffes as they are free.

As a result, we were careful not to photograph the Massai - until lunchtime. Pulling up in the middle of nowhere, we had our picnic lunch. Nearby Massai women were collecting firewood and the men relaxed under a tree. As always there was too much food, so we gave the Massai our biscuits, buns and bananas and they let us photograph them. I tried to give a young boy my biscuits, but an old guy was quicker than a vervet monkey and snatched them away. I think he shared them.

Serengeti means 'endless plain' and it is just that. For miles upon miles it was brown, dead grass stretching out to meet the sky at the horizon. The entire land was enclosed by the perfect blue dome and fluffy clouds, often there were not even mountains in the distance to break up the dead straight horizon. No trees or bushes to punctuate the land, just a few gazelle.

We arrived at the Serengeti entrance which is an arch over the road and further down a place to pay park fees. Nearby was a small hill that we could climb up to see the vista, plus I found a bright pink and blue lizard.

Once paid up, we continued and I was concerned that it being 2.30pm, we wouldn't see many animals, oh me of little faith. Bori has 17 years experience as a ranger and knows this place like his backyard. If you were to parachute him randomly into the Serengeti, he would recognise where he was and find his way home, I know because I posed this question. There's a list of all animals we saw at the bottom of this blog as it would take forever fitting each into sentences.

We did see two male lions napping in the middle of the grass, a long distance away so that we only just could see them. Further along was a huge boulder that would look good with a lion on it, but typical cat, the lioness was totally zonked out underneath in a bush making it hard to see her.

In the distance I saw a twister but our guides showed no concern. Further along the land was burnt black and we saw flames with thick smoke in the distance. This is controlled fires to burn away the dead plants to encourage new shoots to grow to feed the animals. Sometime afterwards, we came across land with short green shoots and a bunch of self-satisfied gazelle chowing down on them.

Soon we came across a lone cheetah, not too far from the roadside, relaxing. Twice it rolled and changed position, a busy cat indeed.

After some giraffe and hippo, we found another cheetah under a tree, but very far away. I say "we" found, but I mean Bori did, through experience and communication with other guides, including his brother, who we met driving another jeep. He joked that we shouldn't trust Bori because at home he isn't good to his mother.

We passed submerged hippo in one waterhole to see Maribou Storks in the next, the latter being unconcerned by the nearby crocodile and having spats with the baboons. There were a few jeeps about, but sometimes we couldn't see any, however at one point we saw a few pulled up. Stopping by them, Bori told us there was a leopard in a tree. It took some looking as there were a lot of trees in the area and many were far away, but I found it. I had zoomed in with my 500mm lens and still the tree in question fitted into the frame because it was so far away. Looking at the photo in the back of my camera I could see a dark shape in the branches. I zoomed in on the photo and could clearly see a leopard. Wow! Leopards are notoriously illusive, so we were blessed to see this one, but wait, there was another! It took a lot of discussion and pointing until I found the right tree, but yes, another leopard. Bori said it was a mother and cub, I'll know for sure when I can open the photo on my laptop.

We were out until after 5.30pm when we turned left after some zebra and buffalo to pull into the campsite. How awesome to be camping in the actual Serengeti! No igloos this time, it was proper camping in dome tents. There was a small building that served as a kitchen, another a distance away for a dining room and both with bars to protect the humans. Further away was the shower / toilet block and our tents pitched in the middle. There's no electricity, so everyone's wearing head torches like they were in fashion. Showering in the dark under a pathetic dribble of cold water was interesting, fortunately there was a tap at thigh height which was easier to wash my hair under.

We had supper by reading light (the same one I used to get us off Mount Snowden one winter a few years ago). It's hard to have a conversation with head torches on, as we keep blinding each other; some tried using the red light option and joked that it was like Amsterdam. Molisi cooked too much food then told us off for not eating it all.

When we were done, we cleared the table and carried everything across to Molisi in the kitchen. We asked about tomorrow's schedule and he said Bori would be back in 10 minutes to tell us. Now Glyn pointed out to me what I had been thinking: we are on a campsite in the middle of the Serengeti, so where on earth has Bori found to go to that is only 10 minutes away? Apart from wild animals, there's nothing here!

Molisi decided to tell us breakfast is at 7.30am and then gave us the safety talk. It was highlighted that buffalo were so close you could view them with your head torch, the park is full of wild animals and we have no fences, guards or electricity. We will hear hyena (he then did an impression) and when we go to the loo, we must go in pairs. Two reasons for this: 1. If one of you falls, the other can pick you up. 2. If one of you are hunted, the other can go and get help. I'm a little concerned about 2. I asked Molisi what would be hunting us and this made him laugh a lot. I think it's a fair question, I reckon I could fight off a hyena or a jackal but I do not fancy my chances with a lion or leopard. As I type this, I can hear hyena not very far away and it definitely is not Molisi!

That was meant to be the end of the blog, but I had to go to the loo. So Glyn had to come with me and I've never been so close to buffalo and there were a lot. Their eyes were reflecting our head torches and I could hear them rustling in the grass. On the way back, one crossed our path in front of us. Obviously they don't hunt us but they are huge.

Animals seen in the Serengeti, in order of appearance:

• Ostrich
• AgamLizard (pink and blue)
• Secretary bird
• Lions
• Warthogs
• Jackal
• Hartebeest
• Mongoose
• Cheetah
• Giraffe
• Hippo
• Maribou Stork
• Crocodile
• Baboons
• Leopard
• Buffalo
• Zebra


18th September 2018

Timeless in the Serengeti
You've seen a lot of animals. Great.

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