Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sweet Sixteen Plus Thirteen- My 29th Birthday

Serengeti National Park
May 7&8th, 2009

After the previous days excitement of Ngorongoro Crater and rekindling our love of the bush we were extremely excited to go to the Serengeti. The beauty of the park is incredible and we had a fantastic two days. Serengeti translates as ‘the plains’ in Swahili and proved to be so. The plains are mainly made up of short pale yellow and green grass with the occasional shrub, but change to more heavily bushed areas with thorn and acacia trees where elephant and giraffe frequent. The landscape is extremely conducive to game spotting and we were once again lucky in our sightings. Our timing was near as perfect as one can get as the wildebeest were making their way from the central Serengeti where we were towards the west.

I don’t know how many wildebeest we saw but it was surely in the hundreds of thousands. At the heaviest of our sightings we spent ten kms in the thick of them, seeing them as far as the eye can see. It was incredible. The fresh smell mixed between fresh air and manure and the sound mixed between a donkey and a sheep. Along with the wildebeest we also saw hundreds of zebra tagging along for the ride. It was impossible to capture on film what we witnessed, but we sure tried (translation- hundreds of photos).

Along with all the prey come the predators. And boy did we see plenty. We saw several groups of lioness lounging about in the sun, cubs hidden from predators on the top of rocks, lions lying in the shade, lions lying in the grass and our favourite- lions lying in a tree. We also got to see a group of five cheetah sunning themselves on a group of rocks.

Besides the wonderful wildlife we enjoyed the comforts of a lodge celebrating my birthday in style. Thanks to my parents. It was full board so we ate brilliantly, sipped G&Ts, and again enjoyed the comforts of hot water. Africa is heaven.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight*

Ngorongoro Crater
May 5th, 2009

The world famous Ngorongoro Crater was our next destination. Hearing so much about it we were curious what we would see. We arrived at the park around ten and paid our hefty park and vehicle fees and crossed our fingers that it would be worthwhile. It didn’t disappoint. Driving through the park towards the crater we admired the stunning views and beautiful thick green vegetation. It was also striking seeing so many people walking about either with cattle or goats or just walking. We almost wanted to stop and say “you know there’s lion out there right?” but we didn’t.

We went to the park office and picked up our mandatory guide, Daniel who turned out to be a delight. His English was fantastic as was his knowledge surrounding the park. Driving down the steep descent into the crater we were glad the brakes were working well.

The crater itself was stunning. Absolutely stunning. Views of grayish and red soil with faded green grass and pale green bushes were beautiful. The wildlife sightings were equally impressive. We saw a male lion drinking at a water hole, loads of elephant in the distance, a black rhino, tons of zebra, impala, gazelle, hippo and a huge amount of birds- including a kite who wanted to share my lunch and several hundred pink flamingos. All in all we spent about seven hours in the crater.

That night we camped at the only public campsite in the conservation area- called Simba (which is Swahili for lion). We set up our camp, did our laundry, enjoyed a cuppa and went to bed. In the middle of the night I woke up after hearing a roar. I knew it was a lion. I woke up Karel. There’s a lion I said. Karel thought it was just baboons. We heard it again and got the torch. Opening the tent window we shone the light. Five metres away from our tent was a lion. Amazing. I love the bush.

*actually we slept, he roared