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Published: October 23rd 2020
After a desperately needed shower and a good nights sleep in our hotel we met with our safari guide, Ebenzer “Ben”, to start our second part of our trip. Ben had a wide smile and an incredibly enthusiastic attitude which was infectious. We jumped into his tan 4x4 Land Cruiser with a safari pop top and we were excited. Excited to see a ton of animals and excited to just be sitting for several days “relaxing.”
We left Moshi and drove 4 hrs to our first National Park ,Tangire. Along the way Ben taught us some more Swahili to add to our ever expanding short list of vocabulary. Swahili is the national language of Tanzania and a few other African countries, which helps everyone communicate in a country where there is over 120 completely different and distinct languages. Ben continued to give us a lesson in the history and culture of Tanzania. In this area the most well known indigenous tribe you see everywhere outside of the cities is the Maasai, who are just fascinating and their ways completely unchanged. They are a nomadic people that wear colorful robes and ornate jewelry and are seen anywhere outside of
cities in this part of Africa. They can take as many wives as they can afford through trade of their livestock and are strictly only herders and don’t cultivate any other food. They have been known to practice female genital mutilation, which is now forbidden by law (but still done in secret) and circumcise their boys as teenagers without anesthetic as a bravery ritual and rite of passage into manhood. If a boy flinches or tears up during the circumcision he will forever be dishonored and be shamed by his tribe.
The Maasai diet consists solely of milk, meat and blood obtained from their livestock. They drink the blood of their animals by piercing their necks and placing a straw in their vein and then patching up the wound with a leaf. Most of their women have to travel over 10 miles a day to fetch water, so drinking milk and blood is how they survive. We passed hundreds of Maasai along the road, many young boys sprinting to the side of the road just to wave as we passed. A passing Land Cruiser is their only clue into a strange and intriguing world that is as
foreign and incomprehensible as theirs is to ours.
As soon as we entered the gate of Tangiere Park we immediately started seeing animals, the first of which was the warthog, which ended up being one of our favorite animals of the trip. Ben told us how they have shortest memory of any other animal, so bad so that when they get startled they start running and then forget that they are running and why they are running so they stop after a few feet and resume eating. We saw this play out over and over it found it just hilarious. We saw tons of various types of antelope, zebra, giraffe and our other new favorite animals, the banded mongoose and the adorable miniature dik-dik antelope weighing in at a whopping 6 lbs. We were totally overwhelmed by the amount of wildlife we saw on our first day, however Ben promised that this was just the teaser to much more in the coming days. We were struck by just how close we were able to come to all the animals, who were completely unphased by our presence. I became increasingly more disgusted than I already was at the
idea of anyone coming here to hunt these animals. There is literally no sport in shooting any of them and to gaze upon them with murderous intent instead of awe is just unphatomable.
We spent the night at Marera Valley Lodge in Karatu, which was an incredibly luxurious resort that we loved but also one of those places that make us feel like frauds. We definitely feel more at home camping or slumming it in our $10 rooms but enjoy the treat every so often.
The following day we continued driving out to the Serengeti National Park, the name derived from the Maasai word Siringet, which means “the land of endless space.” It is the most well known of all the Africa National Parks for good reason, it is a sea of grass as far as the eye can see filled with an incredible multitude of animals. The first animals were saw within a mile of entering the park were a pride of lions just lazily lounging in the shade under an Acacia tree in the shade. There were at least 10 of them, again totally unphased by our presence. We have seen may
of these animals in zoos before but there is just nothing like seeing them in their natural environment in the wild. To be within 15 feet of such a beautiful and powerful apex predator was exhilarating and humbling. We drove for miles upon miles seeing thousands of animals, most of which were intermingled with one another. At any given time you would gaze out and see numerous different species at once, demonstrating mutualism at it’s finest, every animal coexisting and benefiting from one another.
We finished the day staying at the Heritage Tented Camp in the center of the park passing a pack of hyenas on the road near our tents. Upon checkin we were given a walkie talkie and instructed to not venture outside of our tent alone after sunset for our safety and to radio for an escort if we needed to leave. We were told the water buffalo and lions that frequent the area are the most dangerous. Within minutes of turning out our light we heard the pack of hyenas just steps outside our tent. Thankfully this was glamping and not true camping so we didn’t have to venture out into the wilds
to the bathroom because we had a full bathroom with shower inside our huge tent.
The following day we finished in the Serengeti and traveled back to Ngorongoro Crater, a conservation area adjacent to the National Park. The crater is actually a collapsed caldera, the worlds largest inactive one that is home to most all the species of animal that can be found in the Serengeti, but in a small partially enclosed biosphere that is about 100 square miles. We tried to find the endangered Black Rhinerocerous, the only animal left we didn’t see on our trip, but they stayed hidden. As much as I would’ve loved to have seen one I was happy they remained hidden, as it’s horns are the most valuable and highly sought after by poachers.
We spent the night nearby at the Rhino Lodge high in the jungle atop the volcano. Again we weren’t allowed to venture out at night unescorted due to a multitude of animals in the area, including elephants. In the evening we watched a herd of Waterbuck and Waterbuffalo grazing off of our deck before enjoying a fire in our wood burning stove in
our room, it gets surprisingly chilly in the evenings in Africa!
On the way back we passed Olduvai Gorge, one of the most important paeloanthropological places on earth, earning it’s nickname of the “cradle of mankind.” The Leakey family found fossils from some of our earliest human relatives here in the 1930’s dating back 2 million years, preserved in the volcanic ash.
Over the course of our four day safari we made great friends with Ben and laughing and sang our way across the African landscape. He and Dennis exchanged emails and we promised to show him our country and return the favor to him one day and show him our great National Parks. And with that came the close to our great trip of 2020. Below is the list I made of most of the animals we saw during our time.
Mongoose & striped mongoose
Ground horn bill
Lappet faced Vulture
White bellied bustard
Saddle billed stork
African wild cat
Yellow billed stork
Black capped avocet
Black winged stilt
Bat eared fox
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