Safari to Tanzania – November 2009
I’ve just returned from another research safari to Tanzania! The purpose of my trip was two-fold. First of all, I was in Tanzania with one of my co-workers for obvious business reasons… to visit our office in Arusha, meet with lodge managers, scout out new properties, inspect old properties, and take photos and notes to document any changes or renovations. But I think it is equally important to mention that we were also in Tanzania to actually be “on safari”, as each experience “in the bush” strengthens our ability and resolve to help our clients experience this place firsthand. For those of you that might be interested, I have attached a few favorite photos from this trip and included a brief account below! A safari to this place, no matter how many times I visit, is nothing short of a magical experience. I find that immersing oneself into the rhythms of nature in a place like the Serengeti has a purifying effect on the soul, and worries or problems that may have burdened the mind at home seem to dissolve effortlessly into the seemingly endless supply of space and time here. Once again, I am humbled by the very greatness of this wilderness. It’s a feeling that transcends description, and once again I find myself tapping my fingers on my desk looking in vain for the right words to try. In addition to finding peace of spirit here, there’s also the excitement of true adventure and the heart pounding anticipation of unknown events about to unfold! What’s around the next corner? A herd of charging elephants? A family of tiny cheetah cubs? A pride of hunting lions? No need to tune in to the TV for the next National Geographic show, because a new wildlife documentary is unfolding right before your very eyes, and ANYTHING can happen! The 2009 dry season had been a harsh one with very little rainfall, and prior to my arrival I had heard reports about how the landscape had become so very dry and tawny. But as our plane skidded to a stop on the dirt runway of the Northern SerengetiI found a different scenario altogether. Yes! The rains had come! Instead of the dusty lunar-like landscape I was expecting, I found the Serengeti washed in various shades of the color green and bursting with new life! The air was brimming with the clean smell of damp earth. The sun was shining but low tones of thunder still rumbled softly in distant thunderheads, heralding the official end of the dry season and the beginning of a time of plenty for the wildlife. We found our Tanzanian driver-guide waiting for us as we exited the plane sporting a huge smile and open arms, brimming with the very graciousness that is seemingly inherent to all Tanzanian people. His vehicle was parked just a few meters away from the airstrip; suitcases in, top down, hop in! We set off with the sun on our faces and smiles beaming, looking for our first adventure! It didn’t take long! Within 10 minutes of landing at the airstrip we found a pride of thirteen lions resting together in the cool morning air. Welcome to the Serengeti! We were the only vehicle around. The lions paused for a few moments as if posing for a family portrait, and no one in the vehicle spoke for fear of disturbing the pristine stillness of the moment; the only sound to be heard was the soft clicking of our cameras. This particular grouping was a motley crew of idle youngsters, most of them adolescents, with a few young males sporting the beginning scruffs of a mane. We watched them gather together, rubbing shoulders in kinship, and amble off together in a loose grouping, undoubtedly looking for some form of cat-like mischief. And the safari continued with a menagerie of highlights throughout the next several days, all special but far too numerous to mention them all here! We had several leopard, lion and cheetah sightings on various occasions, along with countless encounters with the multitude of other wildlife that resides in countless numbers here including elephant, giraffe, zebra, hippos, gazelle, monkeys, hyena, Cape buffalo, and hundreds of birds. We saw the Great Migration on their southward journey, thousands of look-a-like wildebeest lined up in single file, marching from the woodlands to the plains in a series of long columns that stretched for miles. Some of the migration stagnated in the greenest valleys, pooling into dense grazing herds that blackened the plains. There are a few specific animal sightings that stand out in my mind, including a mother and father ostrich escorting their teeming family of tiny chicks along the road, a cape buffalo flushing out a leopard from his hiding place in the grass and running him up a tree, and a waterbuck chasing a cheetah (yes, in an ironic turn of events the waterbuck was indeed the one doing the chasing!) One special evening in the Serengeti we found, not one, but TWO leopards in a tree; the setting was gorgeous as the sky was all purple twilight and a huge herd of migration were milling right below the tree where the leopards were perched. Another special moment was during our last day in the Serengeti, when we drove out to Sametu Kopjes and found a pride of 20 lions, including the “Greek gods,” a famous coalition of 4 huge beautiful male lions in their prime, all golden and magnificent and just exuding royalty. But my favorite moment of the safari was the evening we found a mother cheetah and her family of 4 tiny cubs; the mother had just killed a Thompson gazelle and was just starting to eat her dinner but the cubs were still too young to participate in the meal. I felt privileged as the cheetah mother allowed us to share these intimate moments with her family, the tiny cubs crouching and pouncing in play among the frayed Serengeti grasses until their fringes gleamed gold in the dying light of sunset, and we were eventually forced to depart the scene to ensure we would make it to the lodge before dark. Magical. So now I’ve returned to the United States and I’m back to my beautiful job where I am privileged to help other people have this type of experience on their own safari – the only thing better than experiencing it for myself. One thing is for sure, and it is the common denominator among all our staff and all our returning clients: once you’ve gone to a place like Tanzania you will never be the same. I truly feel a safari to this place is nothing short of a magical journey, and something that simply has to be experienced to be understood. You’ll see!