20-23 JANUARY - This morning you will drive to the Serengeti National Park via Olduvai Gorge for a stay of four nights at Dunia Camp.
Jan 20 – began drive to Serengeti and stopped at Masai village. You have to pay $50 per car and are treated to a Masai welcome song, a dance where Masai warriors jump to impress the females, and then taken to a traditional house made of mud dung. They are rounded and about 5 feet high and about 12 feet in diameter. The shell is acacia branches and then other brush is woven between the branches and then the wet mud/dung is applied to the outside. About 120 people lived in this village of 24 huts. The kraal is in the middle of the huts which are in a circle around the kraal. This holds the cattle, sheep, and goats at night. Around the outside of the huts is a thorn fence to keep out lions and other animals. The house Steve and I visited was cooking maize in the middle of the hut. Inside were two beds, if you could call them that, and a few belongings. The smoke was filtering out a window about 8”x4”. The village owned about 1000 cows and 300 sheep and goats. Outside hanging on the kraal were beaded things and lion’s tooth things that one could buy. I was on to that since I had done this before so I didn’t take any money with me, not that I wanted anything anyway. They have lots of eye problems because of the flies and the smoke in the huts. They do not go to doctors; everything is traditional medicine and everyone knows it. When the young boys go out with the cows an older warrior accompanies them and explains which trees and bushes are medicinal so that when they are alone, they will know how to take care of any problems. Circumcision is practiced at 14 and the boys go off into the wilds for 6 months to a year. They come back a warrior. Traditionally they used to have to kill a lion but now that the area is a conservation/national park area, that has stopped. Girls also at 14 have a cliterectomy. That is illegal now, but everyone knows it still happens. Boys can’t be married unless they are circumcised and the same for girls–at least in the past.
Next stop was Olduvai Gorge. I wrote about that last time I was here. Louis and Mary Leaky made many discoveries here. I photographed 2 Agama lizards.
Next stop was the shifting sand dune made of sand and iron so it is very heavy. The winds move it 15-20 meters per year. It is dark charcoal in color.
Just before going into the Serengeti, we drove off road (you are not allowed to in the park) to witness the migration of wildebeest. There were wildebeest running, eating and lying down for 360 degrees as far as the eye could see on the plains. There were thousands.
While out there we also saw two Golden (Common) Jackals, Secretary Bird, Grey Heron, Yellow Billed Stork, Spotted Hyena (4 of them beside a waterhole and a fifth one farther out by a large rut that had water in it), Giraffe (8), Crowned Crane, Elephant, Ostrich, Warthog, and Hartebeest.
There are 4 million animals in the Serengeti–mind you, not 4 million and one but just 4 million. Serengeti means “endless plain” and the park is 14,763 sq. km., or roughly the size of Connecticut.
We arrived at the tent camp about 5:30 p.m. Our tent is one of the largest I have ever stayed in. In addition to the 2 single beds, a chair, headboard with lamps, and a chest, and the bathroom behind the flaps behind the beds, there is an extension in front of about 6 feet which has another chair, small table and a couch. It is quite spacious. The bath has a long table with the sink. Water is in a jug beside the sink and when that runs out, there is a bucket below the table with more which you dip from. That area is about 3 feet by 16 feet. Behind that is a flap with the toilet and the other half is a flap with the shower. You tell the staff when you want a shower and they will bring the 15 liters of heated water and put it in the bag outside and let you know when they have done so. Then you have a shower head in the shower with a chain that you regulate the flow with. There is a wooden floor over a hole where the water drains.
And every night we get treated to a campfire–the African Bush television–with only one channel.
Jan 21 awakened at 6 with coffee and hot chocolate ordered the night before. Breakfast at 6:30 and morning drive 7 am-1:30 p.m.: Cape Buffalo, Impala, Topi, Fischer’s Lovebird, Ruppell’s Longtail Starling, White Headed Buffalo Weaver, Baboon, fever trees, acacia trees, Red necked Spur Fowl, White Headed Shrike, White Backed Vulture, Grant’s Gazelle, Lioness, Tawny Eagle, LBR, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red Winged Bush Lark, Lesser Kestrel tree (about 23 in a very small tree), Black Coucal, Ostrich, Grey backed Fiscal, LBR, Superb Starling, Tawny Eagle, Fischer’s Lovebird, Giraffe, and finally a Leopard in a tree. We waited for about a half hour watching and she came down and disappeared into the grasslands. That completes our BIG FIVE: Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino, and Cape Buffalo. The Big NINE will be complete when we see a Cheetah. Those are: Cheetah, Hippo, Giraffe, and Zebra. And I have to admit to Lens Envy: One 4×4 had two guys each with an 800 mm lens shooting the leopard. Continuing on with the drive we saw a Magpie Shrike, Hippos, Grey Heron, Rock Hyrax, Grey HB, Dark Chanting Goshawk, a huge herd of Elephant (close to 100) spread out on the plains, a Nile Crocodile, a herd of 40+ female Impala with their one male. The males typically only last for 2-3 months before being removed by another male fighting to have his genes carried fwd by the herd.
Afternoon drive: 90-100 female Impala with their one male (he will last only 2-3 months because he is constantly fighting other males who want his harem and he is constantly looking for danger for the herd. Baboon, Topi, Reed Buck, Hartebeest, Two banded Courser, Gray HB, Cape Buffalo, Egyptian Goose, 2 male impala in the batchelor herd practicing their fighting skills, Black Chested Snake Eagle. We were looking for Black Rhino which were introduced a few years back and there are now about 17 of them. They have guards 24 hrs per day and the rangers must account for all of them each day. We didn’t find any but the scenery was beautiful as it had many kopje, which are rocky outcrops.
Jan. 22nd – I was picked up at 5:10 a.m. to go on my hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti. My partner in my section of the carriage was Mark from Canada. He asked if I had ever been in bed with a stranger and I replied ‘No.” He replied that I had now. It was awfully tight quarters. We saw 4 lioness on the ground, 2 Golden Jackals, Topi, Giraffe, Hippo, Baboons and monkeys in acacia trees and the landscape and sunrise were beautiful. Afterwards had champagne to celebrate, and were taken to a place in the bush where they had tables set up for breakfast of fruits, bacon, sausage, eggs, beans, bread, and tea or coffee. And we got our certificate.
Then was taken to one of the Gates of the Serengeti where I met our guide and Caroline, Steve and Ellen. We continued on our drive: Lioness and 3 cubs close to the road and who moved back to a tree where the cubs were practicing climbing the small tree*, Tawny Eagle with a kill and we watched as he picked the feathers from his kill (couldn’t tell what type of bird he had), walking Leopard on a kopje about 15-20 feet from us, herd of elephant close to road, Blacksmith Plover, Crowned Crane, Ostrich, juvenile Dark Chanting Goshawk. Began to rain big fat drops but lasted only 5 minutes. 4 lioness with older cubs, 2 lion cubs in tree, Secretary Bird, Baboon, Black Backed Jackal, Buffalo, warthogs, Fever Trees and other Acacias.
This is the beginning of their rainy season and apparently the week before we arrived, at least one camp was washed away. There are dirt roads and tracks and when it rains many are full of ruts and deep water holes. The Acacias and Fever trees are turning green, and the Baobab trees were fully leafed out. They are usually called ‘upside down trees’ because when they lose their leaves in the dry season, their limbs look like roots. This is the first time I have seen Baobabs with leaves.
Afternoon game drive: Caroline, Steve and Ellen decided they wanted to stay at camp and play bridge so it was just me. Red billed HB, Impala with babies, Wildebeest, Cape Buffalo, Red necked Spur Fowl, Black Rhino and I now have the Big 5 in one day in the Serengeti. Jackson told me that was not often accomplished. 4 Black backed Jackals (a mom and 3 juveniles playing very near a Crowned Crane who ignored them at a waterhole) and they made me miss Sasha. Also saw Warthog, Elephant, Tawny Eagle, and Secretary Bird. In addition I failed to mention that the camp is set in Tsetse Fly territory. And we have all been bitten so if I exhibit symptoms of African Sleeping Sickness, take me to a doctor; don’t assume I am just tired because you know I’m not usually tired. The kopje had Euporbia bussei also on the hills. LBR, Agama lizard, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Baboon, Coqui Francolin, same jackals as above (mom and 3 juvs.), White Backed Vulture and Ruppell’s Vulture waiting for the leopard to move off from his Impala kill. We didn’t see the leopard but knew he was still around because the vultures were in 2 trees just waiting. Giraffe, Redbilled HB, Dwarf Mongoose.
Jan. 23rd. - All day game drive: Cape Buffalo, Warthogs, Impala plus 1 juvenile Wildebeest, juv. Bateleur Eagle, Spotted Hyena at Impala kill from last night, Topi, Grant’s Gazelle, Blacksmith Plover, Hyena on road, Black backed Jackal, Cory Bustard, Giraffe, Zebra, Ostrich, Thompson’s Gazelle, Eland, Nubian Vulture (also called Lappet Faced Vulture), Agama lizard, Lapwing Plover, Secretary Bird, 4 Bat eared Fox, CHEETAH so I now have the Big 9 as well. Hyena by waterhole, Cheetah – same one – Black Chested Snake Eagle, Golden Backed Jackal, Topi, Grant’s and Thompson’s Gazelles, Male Lion and 2 females (and I spotted them!!!! I don’t think Jackson could believe that he had missed them). It began to rain from 1:12 to 1:18 and then stopped completely. We are on the Southern section of the Serengeti which is really the shortgrass ‘endless plain’–the Swahili meaning of Serengeti. Continuing on we saw Ostrich, Elephant, Cape Rook, Hartebeest, Lions in trees!!!! (7 in one tree and 1 female in another–Lake Manyara is famous for their lions which climb trees but we didn’t seen any there. This sighting was of the same lions where the cubs were practicing climbing the small tree yesterday. Hippos, Egyptian Goose, Crowned Crane, Topi, Cory Bustard, Warthog, and Giraffe.
Jackson can’t get over having essentially no rain for our entire safari trip. I explained that he was with me and about my luck with rain.
‘What if” gene: When a question begins with “what if” we …? as in What if we get charged by an elephant. What if we run out of gas? What if we get lost? Caroline seems to have that gene in spades. It was rather endearing.
Meals at this camp were rather spectacular considering we are in the middle of nowhere at a bush camp.
First night: Broccoli and cheese soup (they made me just broccoli soup). Carrots and green beans wrapped in bacon, roasted chicken, potatoes au gratin (they made me a small bowl without the cheese), snowpeas, homemade rolls, and Chocolate Samosas for dessert. I have had veg. samosas and meat and veg. samosas, but never a dessert samosa. Was great.
Lunch next day was cucumber salad, beet and apple and cashew salad, veg. lasagna, and meat lasagna (they made me a bowl of meat, tomato, and onion), a green salad and dessert was and Chocolate profiterole
2nd night: Mashed potato puffs, beef stroganoff,herbed rice, chickpeas and zucchini, grilled red and green peppers, and Apple Charlotte
lunch Tandori chicken, rice, Tadka Dhal, mixed green salad, chutney, poppadums, and dessert was pineapple rum.
3rd . night: Using a grill: BBQ beef or chicken kebabs, pork ribs, boerowoeres (sausage), coleslaw, green salad, roast pumpkin, roast potatoes, BBQ and satay sauces, and lemon meringue pie.
4th night: Roasted bell peppers with bacon wrapped ground beef inside, potato cakes, roasted zucchini, and I don’t remember rest.
Ok, James J., are you satisfied with all the descriptions of the meals since you requested them???