tanzanian_tales: (Lion)
Picking up where I left off...

In the last post I mentioned my luck, and where it really kicked in was with our two big carnivore sightings, because not only did we see a lion, we saw four. They were lying in the grass and staring intently into the distance, and it was easy to see why. There was a male impala on the hillside facing them, and they were no doubt thinking about how badly they wanted a late lunch and what the odds were of catching it.

Pictures this way )

Night drives aren't allowed in the park (more on that later), so everyone has to be back in camp or outside the gates by about 6:30. (Since Tanzania is fairly near the equator, sundown is pretty consistent year round.) And that first night is when we discovered the joy of tsetse flies. They. Are. Bastards. They're bigger than I expected, and they bite, though apparently they bite some people (me) more than others. I've since heard that if you take B12 it keeps them away, so next time - if there is a next time - I'm trying that. They only live at certain altitudes, but unfortunately the camps are located at or above that level, because most of the animals avoid it because of the freakin' tsetses. They were worse in Tarangire than anywhere else, though, so at least we got the bulk of them out of the way early.

We arrived at our nyumba and were greeted by the staff with cold wet towels to wipe the dust from our faces and welcome glasses of juice to revive us. Then we were assigned to our tents and given some time to freshen up before dinner. I have to tell you, I loved staying in the tents – although I wish the solar lights had been brighter, because my vision stinks, so even with a headlamp it wasn’t always easy to read before bed. But other than that, they were like little hotel rooms in the woods, with nightstands and shelves and – best of all – showers! I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a shower as much as I did that night. When it was getting on toward dinnertime we wandered up toward the dining tent and joined most of the group around the nightly fire. The smoke helped keep the bugs away, and it was a nice way to unwind with a glass of wine or a beer (or, if you’re me, a Coke) and talk about the day. Then it was time for our welcome dinner, which was also attended by a local bat.

A quick word about food: There was lots of it, and it was good. Chicken and lamb, with some pork and beef, were the main meats, plus there were always lots of vegetables and every night a dessert. My favorite thing about dinner, though, was the fact that every night started with soup, and they were some of the best soups I’ve ever had. I was a particular fan of the several sweet potato and pumpkin soups they served.

Every night over dinner S would give us a rundown of the basic plan for the next day, telling us what time to expect “Jambo, jambo,” or “Greetings, greetings,” the morning wake-up call, and when we needed to be ready for “wheels out.” I’ve never much liked my alarm clock, but I think I’d feel much more affection for it if it called out “Jambo, jambo” instead of buzzing nastily at me.

After that it was off to bed, where I generally typed up some quick notes (I travel with an AlphaSmart Neo for journaling, and I love it), read a little bit on my Kindle and then collapsed in exhaustion. Sometimes P and I would look through our pictures and talk about the day, but we faded out pretty quickly - though I had really bad jet lag for four or five days and would lie in the dark feeling exhausted and trying to sleep and not being able to. It’s not physically strenuous to ride in a Rover all day – and I kind of enjoyed the bumpiness of the roads, because it made it very clear that I was Far From Home – but it is mentally exhausting to have your mind and eyes “on” all day, and since jambo, jambo was usually at 6:00 or 6:30, early to bed made a lot of sense.

Next up: Elephants, elephants and – yes, you guessed it – more elephants.
tanzanian_tales: (Lion)
Let’s just say I’m really glad I’m short and leave it at that, because I can’t imagine being tall and taking such a long flight in such a small seat. But as with all amazing journeys – and trust me, this trip was the very definition of amazing – all the rigors of travel were forgotten when we landed at last at Kilimanjaro International Airport in Arusha, Tanzania. Just the words sound magical, and that’s another very accurate way to describe this trip, as you’ll (eventually) see.

It didn’t take P and me long to make it through Customs and head out to find our bags, where we met the first of our fellow safari-goers, D. She recognized my picture from the blog I'm doing for the African Wildlife Foundation site, wich is a shorter and (very) photo-light version of this one. She introduced herself, and like everyone in the group, she was easy to talk to and a great traveling companion. But then, we were all there for love of Africa and animals, and because we support everything AWF does, which undoubtedly helped.

Baggage collected, we headed for the main hall of the airport (which was much smaller than I ever would have expected), and there were our fearless tour leader and his equally fearless “co-captain,” AWF’s S and A. S was making his 27th (or thereabouts) trip to Africa, while A had been to Africa before but was on her first safari, and they proved to be wonderful company and excellent caretakers. For example, I live on Diet Coke but was perfectly willing to drink the high-octane regular version on safari, but S not only made sure the nyumbas (tent camps) stocked lots (and lots and lots) of Coke, I’m pretty sure that it’s thanks to him that Coke Light started showing up at the bar.

Most of our group had come in on the same flight – one woman, P2, had come in a day early, and a couple, R and D, were delayed by a lost passport – so once everyone was in the bus we were off to Rivertrees, a relaxing lodge set – surprise! – right by a river. We had a quick welcome briefing – and a snack – and then we were guided to our cottages so we could collapse. We only spent two nights total in lodges, but I have to say, they were both wonderful, really spacious and comfortable, and the settings were gorgeous.

I cut because I care - and because there are going to be crazy many photos coming up )

And now I'm going to break this post into two parts, because it's already ridiculously long.

Teaser Post

Mar. 6th, 2013 04:09 pm
tanzanian_tales: (Lion)
I'm slowly, slowly putting together my notes and photos, but I've had to focus first on my blog for the African Wildlife Foundation's site, which will be shorter and very photo-light compared to what I'll be doing here. But I've resized a few photos, so here's a sneak peek. These are nothing compared to some of the photos I'll post later, because except for the cheetahs, they're from our first day in our first park, Tarangire. (OK, the roller is from Day 2, but it's still Tarangire.) So...here you go.

Our first sighting was a pair of mostly nocturnal bat-eared foxes, so seeing them out at midday was pretty cool.


This is a lilac-breasted roller coming in for a landing with lunch (an insect, I think) in his beak. Rollers get their name from the way the males roll in the air to show off for females.


How about a lioness, one of a group of four (one was a young male, iirc) who were gazing intently at an impala on a nearby hillside?


And here's our first leopard. Though lions will also climb trees (photographic proof coming later), only leopards have the jaw strength to drag their prey up with them.


And here's a shot some of you have already seen: a female cheetah with her two semi-adult cubs in the Serengeti.

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