The reason for coming to Africa was pretty simple: we were going to do a safari. We had hoped to see the annual wildebeest migration of over one million animals, but we were treated with many great shows.
We made our way from the east coast of Tanzania to the midwest to start our safari in the town of Arusha. There, our driver, James, and our cook, Michael, picked us up at the hotel and we went on our way. We were so excited to start our safari experience. It would be great to be the polar opposite of the zoo life that we had seen at the National Zoo (or any zoo for that matter). We would be the ones in the animals’ territory, boxed into our Land Cruiser, and the animals probably staring at us.
On the way to Lake Manyara, James stops for our first sighting of a giraffe and zebra on the side of the public highway. James must be good. He has seen thousands of giraffes and zebras during his 15 year career, but he still understands the magnitude of our first sighting. James continues to show us the animals throughout our six day journey; we never tired of seeing lions, leopards, eagles, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, buffalo, or jackals. I became somewhat of a bird-watcher, something that I could never understand to be interesting. However, in Lake Manyara, Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro Crater, the birds were the easiest for me to spot (and then have James identify for us)–you can’t miss something far above the landscape.
How do you pick out the highlights of a six day once-in-a-lifetime journey?
- Was it the two female lions with 4 cubs following in between?
- Watching the cubs fight over nursing turns?
- The elusive leopard lying next to its dead prey in the top of a tree?
- The 22-member elephant family that walked next to our car?
- Checking off sightings of the “big-five” (leopards, black rhinos, elephant, buffalo, lion)?
- Discovering a pride of four lions starting to devour a warthog from 10 yards away?
- Cheetahs eyeing their potential dinner?
- A herd of hundreds of wildebeest?
- Seeing a savannah: thousands of acres of just grass and an occasional tree?
- Being in the collapsed volcanic crater of Ngorongoro and seeing the 20,000 big animals that make their home there?
- Or was it this? (Note: If lion pornography offends you, please do not view)
On the last hour of the last day, we had pulled up to the male and female lion lying next to each other. James comments that this showmanship exists during mating season. The lions mate about every 15-30 minutes for one week; if we are patient, we will witness it. And as you can see, James knew his field and his expertise paid off.
The six days of 10 hour animal watching went by extremely fast. While the lions provided us with a very vivid and intimate experience, the countless other animal visuals were equally as rewarding.
(We wish we could put other pictures of our journey, but I think we just crippled the Ethiopian internet by uploading this one video.)