Quote of the Week: Jim and Maxine Kaler

What, we asked, would best celebrate our 50th anniversary? It came down to France or Africa. Africa, thank goodness, won. And won big. Neither of us can imagine a better adventure, a better time, a better guide, a better people than we found in Tanzania. Everything we were promised came true and then some. If we could, we’d do it all over again.

Highlights? How about a guard elephant running off lions to protect the rest of the wandering herd. Or thinking that the Land Cruiser gear box had gone out when the loud noise was made by another elephant chasing US off. Or the Cape Buffalo who kept chasing lions away from his water hole. After 40 lions we gave up counting.

But it was raw nature that most fascinated. Four lions formed a coalition to grab a wildebeest (without question the homeliest mammal alive). Creeping up toward center and both flanks, one then made a mad dash — all four legs off the ground, dust and birds flying — and missed! Slinking away, all was over for a time.

But not for cheetahs. The pictures tell the story. We came upon a nest with four cubs, and went off road to watch them. There is Mom 20 yards away, and we are in the middle! No worry, we move…and watch. There is a herd of gazelles a couple hundred yards off. Mom gathers the brood, and they follow her as she creeps toward the gazelles. It’s a teaching moment. All of a sudden she explodes — they can hit 70 miles an hour — and so do the gazelles. And so does the land cruiser, with ‘ol Jim holding onto the rear rails photographing for dear life as we bounce along following her. Our guide returns us, and there is Mom with a young gazelle in her jaws. Putting it down, she starts chirping, calling her cubs back. One by one they return and go to the nest. Mom must rest before the meal. And at that point we let them be. But what mixed emotions. We cheer for Mom feeding her cubs. But there is the mother gazelle off in the distance looking back in apparent sadness.

More lions. Strolling with the vehicle, mating, sleeping. Oh my the elegance of the giraffes! And more and more and more zebras, a thousand stretching out to the horizon, rolling in dust, walking in the river, mixing with the wildebeests and gazelles. Baboons are coming at us, watch out! Here is a yawning crocodile, there in the pool hippos are fighting. Eagles fly overhead. We see lions eating the remains of an eland, with the hyenas waiting for their share and the vultures waiting way in back to clean it all up. And we can’t leave out the flowers and the grasses of every description.

Accommodations at night were fantastic. Imagine! You open the door of your lodge and there is a tall Maasai with staff waiting to escort you. And there is a crew of five at our luxury tent with kitchen, chef, and bar — in the middle of the vast African hills. We sleep in a quiet tent with shower and bathroom after watching a glorious African sunset.

We conclude with visiting an actual Maasai village replete with dancers and an elder who invites us into a hut to tell us about his culture. We visit the bottom of the Ngorongoro Crater with its flamingos and rhinos. We watch the Maasai herding their cattle. Even here there are elephants. And then we visit the awesome cradle of humankind, the Olduvai Gorge in the Great Rift Valley.

Relaxing? Up at 5:30 to hit the road (“road”?) at 6, we get to watch all the animals and birds at their best. We are in and out of the vehicle for 10-12 hours, and the time goes by like magic. Our wonderfully knowledgeable guide who could not do enough for us, says hey there is a lion — or you name it — half a mile off, and we follow it. Then later there is time to relax over a fine dinner prepared and served by caring people. Thank you, Africa Dream, thank you Africa!

Jim and Maxine Kaler
May 2010

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