Here are a few notes we took while we were on our vacation. I hope you enjoy reading. Also, just a few of our favorite pictures. Thanks Again for a Wonderful Trip of a Lifetime.
Gardenia and Omar P.
Los Angeles, California
Safari Dates: June 10, 2013 to June 15, 2013
After spending almost a whole day in between flights we finally arrive at Arusha, Tanzania. We were greeted by a woman by the name of Farida who wore a full headdress. We couldn’t believe it, we were stepping on African soil! Just like in any foreign country we’ve visited perhaps it is customary for customs agents to avoid cracking a smile and thus giving us a short sense of nervousness assuming the rest of the people would treat us the same. Farida kindly took care of our visa paperwork and led us to Trevor and Mattias our Arusha companions who drove us to our hotel early in the morning.
Mount Meru hotel was perhaps one of the most impressive resort hotels we’ve stayed in right next to the one in Koh Samui Thailand 5 years ago. The hotel had an impressive lounge with a lit swimming pool that was a little too cold for my liking so I just appreciated it from a distance and took pictures of the beautiful foliage that the hotel provided for a plenty of scenic pictures of mount Maru in the background. We slept most of the day trying to recover from the jet-lag of the previous day and when we went out for dinner to say we where impressed by the beautiful dinner preparations they had for us is not enough.
That night we had a very luxurious 5 course dinner under a candle lit canopy with a “welcome Mr&Mrs Omar” greeting made out of flowers on the floor. We felt as if we were the only couple in the entire resort. We had great steak and grilled fish while in the background played a playlist of the snappiest 80’s and 90’s KOST greatest hits. The people here are so nice and soft spoken, eating all this food was great for my palate but it also provided a strong sensation of guilt knowing that the same people serving me this savory dishes probably did not eat this themselves or could not provide this for their families. Keep in mind that Africa is the same place that is home to many starving people and many who die from simple diseases like the flu but dont have proper ways to care for such .
As dinner came to an end we preceded to a few cocktails at the lounge where rapid serving was not their primary concern but the wait was worth it since they did provide tasty drinks if you had a few minutes to spare. After 2 or 3 rounds we decided to call it a night since the next day we had another plane to catch to the west of the Serengeti.
Today we woke up around 3:45am and could not fall back to sleep, perhaps it was from sleeping all day the day before or maybe from the luxurious stiff mattress that was awesome after a long flight but rather uncomfortable the next day. We watched Tanzanian TV programming which consisted of either religious programing of music videos that seemed to be directed by amateurs, maybe it was a poor budget that made these videos appear to be amateur.
We finally decided to get up around 5:30 to get ready for our busy day and start the day with a good breakfast. I was expecting a continental breakfast but instead I was surprised by a great buffet of grilled vegetables, baked beans, stuffed tomatoes, sausage links, bacon, fruits and these eggs that have much whiter yolk than were used to in the states. Fresh squeezed pineapple juice and watermelon juice were pairing all these good breakfast options.
Soon after we went to a smaller airport where we boarder the smallest plane we’ve ever been on, a two propeller Twinkie that has a cruising speed of 150mph.
Little did I know that when I asked for a wake up call the night before and I saw no phone in our tent that the wake up call would be a young boy maybe about 16 years old knock on our door with a flashlight on one hand and a spear on the other.
Woke up early around 5:20am when we left for our safari and experienced hyenas as soon as we left camp, soon after we saw an incredible sunrise followed by elephants eating and breaking off the limbs of a tree. All this and it was still 6:45 am with our whole day still ahead of us. We soon we to the river where everything happens, we saw a whole colony of baboons groom each other while the babies played on the trees. We did that for about 30mins when we moved upstream and watched the wilder beasts drinking water from the river and attempting to cross it.
Breakfast was an experience matched by no other, eating my hard boiled egg with black coffee in the middle of thousands of wilder beasts keeping a watchful eye over us was a memory all of its own. While watching all these hundreds of beasts crossing the river an elephant crossed behind them as if ignoring them or being quite indifferent of the baby wilder beast that would soon be drowned by a crocodile. The sight of watching this poor calf take his last breaths as the crocodile tried his best to drag him under the river will be etched for ever in my memory bank. I’ve seen thousands of these wilder beats in just 2-3 days and I know they’re the blood and oxygen that keeps the Serengeti alive but it was quite sad to see an animal take his last breaths before he became croc breakfast.
We moved on to find the lions only to drive past an agonizing wilder beast who had been disemboweled perhaps by the sharp claws of a lioness trying to feed her cubs but the poor thing was not dead yet and was hyperventilating, out safari guide Rafael assured us it wouldn’t be in pain for long and it would probably die the same afternoon yet it was only 10 am. We drove for about 3minutes through thousands of wilder beasts and hundreds of zebras and we came across a family of 3cubs and 3 lionesses resting under a shady tree while their kill laid in the sun. Surely the big cats where tired after hunting today’s meal and were catching their breath under the Tanzanian shade of a thorny tree.
We all waited quietly waiting for the momma lioness to cut up lunch and serve her sleepy cubs a nice roast wilderbeast sandwich. Siting ten feet away from these deadly cats in their own shade is got to be one of the most impressive experiences of this vacation and my life. The lions have now retreated to a different bush that provides more privacy than the previous bush, the lions don’t seem to appreciate out proximity so were moving on to not disturb their noon nap.
We’ve now moved to see a group of 12-15 vultures tearing apart a wilderbeast while fighting each other. These birds have about a 7foot wingspan and spread their wings to intimidate each other. In matter of a few minutes they’ve managed to eat most the wilderbeast, one of them made us laugh yet cringe when we saw it stick his head through the carcass’s butt and eating out of it. Although the size of a turkey, these birds seem quite strong, they can tug and pull of the entire carcass and move it with ease, they would’ve managed to devour the entire animal a lot faster if they would stop fighting for a second.
One can’t help to feel bad for some of the injured wilderbeasts, this next one we saw seemed to have gotten a spinal injury perhaps caused by those intense head bunts they give each other when they fight and although healthy looking his hind legs were almost useless. As we got closer to it, it somehow managed to get up and escape the horrifying sound of our quiet Toyota land rover Diesel engine. It was able to regroup with the herd but his legs gave out soon after and fell to their resting stance. There are millions of wilderbeast here but when you isolate your eyes upon one you don’t want to see it die or suffer, I wish that I had a loaded riffle to be able to put out of their misery the couple of agonizing animals I saw today, I know it’s the circle of life and in order for other species to survive some may have to die but it’s just hard to see them die slowly, waiting for their hearts to give out in order to put an end to their pain and suffering.
On a happier note we found 7 giraffes towards the end of our excursion, very quiet and peaceful animals that pass on that peacefulness to those who gaze at them for prolonged periods of time. We must have seen at least 300 baboons with their babies everywhere from the long grasslands to the top of every tree I sight. We ended out night with a very deep shiatsu massage from Stella and Badi a little stiff for my preference but I guess that’s how it’s done in The Serengeti.
We got up late this morning, we decided to opt out of the traditional wake up person today so we woke up when the sun filled our room with light. We had a quick breakfast for we had to leave the West Serengeti to head to Central Serengeti, it was quite a bumpy ride with many warthogs and zebras in sight. About two hours into our trip we stopped behind another land rover to ask what they were looking at and much to our surprise we found our first cheetah laying in the shade. Although cheetahs look small on TV they’re quite long and you can see their muscles through their slender bodies.The cheetah seemed a little shy so we moved on, we found this place called the hippo pool it must have had about 100 hippos in a very tight space
Well we came across an area full of trees and about at least 500 zebras, we saw zebras till we got tired, and low and behold zebras happen to be lion food so a few minutes later after we got tired of looking at zebras we drive away only to see a big male lion feeding on one. The male was clearly visible because of his long and beautiful mange and as we focused on the lion we noticed about 4 lionesses probably the ones that took down the zebra and about 2cubs. The cubs were still full of blood around their snout where they dug deep Into the zebras belly to feed.
We stumbled on 5 elephants at first then 18 elephants where we stood for what seemed 5 minutes but In reality it was about a half hour. This second group had 5 elephants about 2-3 years old and the moms were pretty comfortable with us to the point where they were only about 3 felt away from us. I reached out to let them smell me with their trunk and the mother became protective and stepped away to a safe distance.
We woke up at 5:20 am to be in the road by 6, we were greeted with coffee by Jonas to get our day kick started.
Lionesses took us to lion
2 lionesses and a lion lounging after mating
3 leopards at tree eating Thompson gazelle
One elephant before going back to camp
We left camp again to head to ngororo crater, 15-20minutes we were greeted by a momma elephant and her calf approx 5 years old since the calf was already showing at least 4-5 inches of tusks. We stood there for about 20 minutes perhaps more in order to watch them eat and cross the road in front of us. We wanted to stay there as much as possible for we didn’t know when we may see another elephant group again.
As we carried on with our trip we saw at a far distance a cheetah mom with one or two cubs, they were so far I couldn’t count the cubs under the long Serengeti grasses. Since the cats were not clearly visible we continued with our drive passing the many clusters of volcanic rock formations that are the lounging pads for most predatory cats. The second or third set had two lionesses on top. The view from the 20 or less feet away that we were parked was phenomenal! We stood there for a while, one of then girls kept looking at a distance but I couldn’t see even with my binoculars what she had her eye upon, when we decided to leave I soon discovered that she had her eyes on her two sisters that were lounging by the water.
All of these cats had their snouts red which was a clear sign that they had killed earlier that day. At the rocks I tried to get the lionesses attention by waving my shemaugh in the air in order to get a perfect face picture and may have woken up some predatory instinct because one stood and looked like she may jump into our truck, luckily she must have realized that may not provide enough nutrients for the amount of energy needed to pursue me so she sat back down, my heart was about to jump out of my chest!
We left that scene only to find the sight of the day or perhaps the trip, we found the male lion and with him was two of his mates but we saw one of them carry an infant cub In her snout, the same snout that killed zebras and wilderbeast now has the gentle sensitivity to pick up her baby and not even scratch it.
We kept moving towards the Ngororo crater and it was a long bumpy ride with only a few ostriches on sight and maybe 3-4 hours into our ride we saw a rock formation with 3 male lions probably brothers since its a rare sight to see so many males in one place.