Saturday, April 22nd:
I woke up this morning in the pitch black darkness and I had no clue where I was or what was going on. I eventually figured it out and found Sher beside me which let me know that I was right in my hazy guess of being in a tent in Africa. The sky quickly got light and we started to get ready. A Masai guide working here came to our tent at 7am to walk us to the main tent. Then we had another delicious breakfast- fresh juice, fresh fruit, pancakes, eggs, homemade hash browns (the best I’ve ever had, no ketchup needed!), etc. And Omari met us and asked if we had heard the lion breathing last night….. whaaaaat?!? I’m kind of sad that I didn’t hear it and recognize what the sound was.
Today was a lot of fun because the safari started as soon as we left the lodge. We saw hartebeests right away, named for the heart shape that their antlers (almost) make. Then little dik-diks. Sher teased Omari a bit about how they taste- he confessed to us last night that he used to be a poacher. Not in the sense that we normally think of poachers, he would hunt the tiny dik-diks with his friends and a pack of street dogs that he rounded up. He didn’t have a gun so he would kill them by startling them with a bright flashlight and then honking a hand held horn loudly to startle them, then he would whack them with a stick while the dogs kept them from running away. They would usually get 10 in a night which fed his family for about two weeks. He said now that he has confessed to god what he did, he has changed his ways and become a friend and protector of the wildlife. The story was just so unbelievable though… how he hunted using just a stick, flashlight, and a horn! Wow.
We also saw some baboons which were more scared of us today since they rarely see humans out here in the Serengeti, unlike the other parks we’ve been to. He told us how baboons are a problem for campers because they know how to unzip the tent and look for food. If they don’t find food, they leave you a present of some feces as a “screw you”. Crazy baboons!
Later we found more lions on a cliff, looking very “Lion King”-like. The other two SUVs that were stopped were full of people using very expensive lenses for their professional cameras. Put us to shame with my phone, Sher’s GoPro, and his lens for the phone camera. I made my own method, though. With a lot of balancing and patience, I took some pretty impressive pictures through the binoculars. But I do recommend that anyone coming to a safari should avoid the mistake we made and bring a good camera!
Soon after seeing the lions, we got stuck in a mud puddle. So many people came to pull us out within minutes of Omari letting other guides know on his radio. We were out right away with no issues… it’s nice to know there’s help close by if you need it! Plus I think we were lucky since a lot of vehicles were already in the area due to the lions. Most of the day you’re driving alone on the road but when you find something exciting, other SUVs find their way over quickly.
Next exciting animal spotting was two cheetahs on a small rock. When the other vehicles left, Omari surprised us by pulling right up beside them, less than 2 meters away. I could high-five them through my window! He reassured us that cheetahs don’t really do anything… they mainly avoid conflict. They hunt their prey using their speed skills which they like to chase for a while to warm up the prey’s blood so that they can drink it when they make the kill. Like vampires! Hmmmm. And if another animal (like vultures, which we found eating a carcass later) comes to ambush the cheetah, the cheetah will just take off and leave the prey since it’s easy for them to make a kill. The scary moment when we were beside the cheetahs was as we were driving away, I tried to roll up my window and it made a loud squeak. The mama cheetah looked me right in the eye and I just froze. It didn’t do anything luckily but it gave me a scare! So I didn’t really cheat death at all but if you would have told me before this trip that I’d come that close to a cheetah with nothing between us, I never would’ve agreed to it!
Some things we saw during the day- gazelles running with the cutest little hop and skip, fig trees that “poison” the rock surface to get to water and grow out of the volcanic rock, many more lions (I have a lion count going now- got to 10 by the end of the day), and finally… the last of the big 5! Omari spotted a mama and young leopard pair in a tree and we watched them for a while. I even got a video of the mom cleaning her child’s fur.
Then we watched some funny migrations of confused wildebeests and the smarter zebras that hang out with them. A lot of confusion at a river separated the group of zebras while the dumb wildebeests all went across, not thinking of crocodiles. The left behind zebras then joined a family of impalas. Another impala family of one male with approx 100 female mates had the male going nuts because a group of strong bachelors was hanging out across the road and eyeing him, soon to fight and take his place. The lone male in the family was sharpening his horns, marking his territory, and pushing the females around a lot.
Before the end of the day we saw a crocodile that was just lounging in the water. Apparently, they can digest large meals for one month so he wasn’t in any rush to go anywhere.
At the end of the day, we sped back to camp past giraffes, warthogs, baboons… but no stopping this time. We were tired and it was almost dinner time. On the way, Omari told us that a lot of the public campsites here are really basic with just an outside toilet and shower room plus a space for you to set up your tent. A lot like what we are used to in Canada. We feel very spoiled and protected here. I’d hate to wake up to a lion in my face right outside a thin tent.
Speaking of lions, Sher and I heard the lion breathing at dinner! Omari was sitting with us and heard it first then had us listen for it. That’s something you don’t get while you’re camping in Canada!
Animal sightings of the day- squirrels, hartebeests (named because their antlers somewhat shape a heart), dik-diks, Cape buffalo, savannah baboons, plains zebra, wildebeests, ostriches, warthogs, topi, leopard tortoise, secretary bird, lion and lioness on rocks, mama and young cheetah, Egyptian goose, lion in water, mama and young cheetah, both types of gazelles (Thompson’s and Grant’s), two separate groups of vultures feeding on carcasses), two sleeping lionesses, two male lions in a tree (#9 and 10 of the overall lion count), hippos, mama and young leopard (to complete Big 5), giraffes, elephants, impala family (approx 100 females with one male), bachelor groups of impalas, crocodile, grey heron.