Safari to Tanzania – April 2009
I have just returned from my most recent safari in Tanzania! Re-energized and re-inspired by the abundant life and vibrant energy of the Serengeti, my head is still spinning with the vivid sights and sounds that rendered me breathless while I was there. The purpose of my trip was two-fold. First of all, I was in Tanzania for several business reasons. But I think it is equally important to mention that I was also in Tanzania to actually be “on safari” and reconnect with my passion, the same passion that initially inspired me to embrace my current vocation with Africa Dream Safaris. Each experience “in the bush” strengthens my ability and resolve to help my clients experience firsthand the magic that resides in this place. After having been on safari several times now, the Serengeti has now become familiar to me. Not in a boring or predictable way – quite the opposite, really. The air is always loaded with excitement and anticipation of unknown events about to unfold! But when I arrive to see the open Serengeti grasslands glittering in the sunlit breeze and feel the brilliance of the African sun against my face, there is a comfort that envelopes me, and it truly feels like coming home. My morning arrival into the Serengeti airstrip was a smooth one. As the small plane skidded to a stop on the dirt runway I could see a large herd of startled impala leaping gracefully in the opposite direction. It was immediately obvious the rains had finally arrived in Seronera as indicated by the brilliant green carpet laid out before me. Thank goodness the drought that had plagued the area for several weeks had finally come to an end, and the entire eco system seemed to be breathing a sigh of relief. A kaleidoscope of different birdsongs sparkled in the air, as if to celebrate the new abundance of color and life. The green plains were peppered with trillions of white flowers and glinted with pools of rainwater that had collected from a shower the night before. Everything was washed clean and seemed to be glistening with dew and sun. Although it had obviously rained the night before, at that point there wasn’t a cloud left in that cornflower-blue sky. My driver guide was there to meet me, and after exchanging warm greetings, we were off into the wilderness for our first game drive! Less than ten minutes after leaving the airstrip, we found a female leopard in the grass. The first glance of her spotted coat moving towards us through the grass could have easily been shadows and sunbeams playing tricks on our eyes. But there was no denying this leopard’s presence as she leapt into plain sight in the middle of the road in front of us! In one graceful bound she was off again, definitely moving with purpose. We watched her trot silently into the distance, speechless at the sudden presence of such a graceful and powerful animal that had just been a few feet away. The spell of the moment was broken when my guide suddenly exclaimed “Oh Dawn! There’s another one!” It couldn’t be. Really? My heart was pounding as I turned to see a massive male leopard striding confidently through the grass towards our vehicle, seeming to follow the tracks of the first. This leopard seemed much larger than the first – he had a husky, muscular build and his neck seemed twice as thick and burly. Instead of passing in front of our vehicle, this one passed just behind us. It was mating season, and he was obviously in hot pursuit of the female we had just seen. We took off to intersect the path of the two leopards where they were headed to cross a bend in the road. We watched the female jump into a tree less than 15 feet from the road, and the male followed her, trapping her in the high branches of the tree with no escape route. Teeth flashed and claws were unsheathed as the fur began to fly! The female vocalized her disapproval with snarls and growls that would have intimidated the mightiest of beasts, and she held the male at bay. After the drama played out for a while, the male finally seemed to give up and simply sprawled out on a high branch for a nap. The female slunk down to a branch below the male. She had escaped his trap and was finally free to go! I expected her to immediately bound away and disappear. But interestingly enough she didn’t take the opportunity. Instead she settled onto a branch below the male and gazed up at him as if to say “aren’t you going to chase me now?” It turns out she was just playing hard to get all along! It was a comedic moment in the bush I will never forget.What a grand welcome to the Serengeti! The rest of my safari was no less awesome or dramatic! I witnessed thick herds of wildebeest and their tiny calves stampeding over the plains, noses pointed towards the billowing thunderheads that brewed a promise of more rain in the distance. I saw two lionesses hunting, stalking low in the grass against a stream of approaching wildebeest, and then bringing down an individual animal with a sudden and effortless display of proficiency and grace. I watched herds of zebra frolic in joyful abandon underneath piles of purple storm clouds, galloping away in mock fright at the low rumbles of thunder and flashes of light. I held my breath as a “gang” of lions, over 16 individuals strong, padded confidently towards us in the middle of road, passing so closely that the tips of a few tails touched the side of our vehicle. I felt my pulse quicken as an extremely defensive Cape buffalo bull mock-charged our vehicle from the distance, tossing his horns and snorting at us in defiance. And there were the quiet moments too, equally as stunning. Tiny lion cubs playing in the ethereal glow of morning sunlight. Cheetahs gracefully stretching and grooming in the cool green grass. Hundreds of zebra mares quietly tending to their young foals in the silence early morning. An elephant family softly munching on acacia trees in the hushed twilight of evening. A mother lion gently lifting her small cub by the nape of the neck to carry it safely through the rain. Since I was camping, each night I was also able to listen to the sounds of the African night unfolding in the blackness outside my tent. On my first night in the Serengeti, as well as several subsequent nights, I was privileged to hear the deep and throaty sonata of lions roaring in the distance (sometimes not all that distant!) Other nights I listened breathless to the unsettling cackles and screams of hyenas milling in the darkness, right outside my tent! And on one special night in particular, my tent was surrounded by the Great Migration, and I laid awake all night listening to the grunts and brays from a million individual wildebeest and zebra. In spite of my certain lack of sleep from all the racket that particular night, I never once felt tired the next day! The energy of the Serengeti kept me on a constant high and seemed to compensate any such fatigue. On my way home from Tanzania I also got to stop by DeWildt, a cheetah rehabilitation, breeding and outreach/ public education facility. Since cheetahs are my FAVORITE animal, this was quite a treat! I also stopped by an elephant sanctuary and then also a breeding facility for white lions. Being up close and personal with such beautiful animals was truly an amazing experience. Now I’m back home, and anxious to get back into my work, which I also love. I have decided that the only thing better than going on safari myself is the satisfaction I receive from helping other people have the experience. To hear my clients’ stories and see their pictures when they return from a safari inTanzaniais a joy I don’t quite know how to describe. With that being said, I look forward to hearing YOUR safari story – coming soon!