Where the Wild Things Are II: The Call of the Wild

Trip Start Jun 16, 2007
Trip End Aug 11, 2007

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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Thursday, August 2, 2007

After missing the bus to Moshi I finally did make it back in time for my 5-day safari.  Our first stop was at Lake Manyara and then onward to Serengeti National Park.  I met up with four other safarians at around 9 in the morning.  There was a couple from Spain, Ziggy and Ricardo, both expats from Germany and France respectively.  Ricardo had just lost his job as a chef for a high end restaurant but didn't really seem to dazed by it.  A jokester of sorts with a voice that carries, Ricardo would provide much comic relief as well as break the ice in our group.  Ziggy, his companion, towered over six feet tall.  A P.E. Teacher by trade, she was well fit.  Janus, from Portland, Oregon, was the baby in our group.  She had just finished summiting up Mt. Kilimanjaro and was ready for some R & R.  Then there was a Suzy, a middle-aged women from Brooklyn, New York, another teacher who enjoyed roaming around Tanzania aimlessly. 
Lake Manyara was a good starting point for us to get accustomed to the wildlife as we took many-a-photos.  However, it was the Serengeti that I very much desired to see. 
The next day we made our way to the Serengeti.  It didn't take us long before we caught glimpse of our first lioness on our way to the park.  We easily spotted many Thompson gazelles, elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos, warthogs, wildebeest, and buffalo.  I took out my camera putting it around my neck in typical tourist fashion snapping away photo after photo.  But according to the law of scarcity, it was the carnivores: lions, leopards, and cheetahs, that most safarians prized the most.  However, sighting lions was not hard to do in the Serengeti.  With its abundant supply of safari tour groups, all we had to do was sight a congregation of Toyota Landcruisers and we were sure to find a lion or two.  Despite the ease, seeing a lion never seems to get old.  However, our luck with the leopards and cheetahs were much more daunting. 
The next day we spotted a leopard up on a tree eyeing a herd of impalas from afar.  We played the waiting game for quite some time hoping to catch glimpse of the feline in action.  It didn't move an inch.  So we continued our journey snapping away but now eagerly looking for the last carnivore that alluded us, the cheetah.  We scoured all over the Serengeti with out making any ground.  Thus we retired at our campsite for the night. 
Camping inside the Serengeti is an experience of its own.  At night, I played my guitar to the group as we cozied next to a campfire.  We doused ourselves with rum and Coke sharing laughs in between swigs.  The night grew even more interesting when we heard the call of a 'laughing' hyena about a house length away from us.  We had been warned not to venture away from the campsite due to the high concentration of animals around us.  There were no gates, guns, or guides to protect us, we were living the wildlife. 
After a long night singing songs and trading jokes, I retired to my tent.  Nothing but the clarity of the stars lay above me.  However it was what lay next to me I was worried about.  To hear the call of the wild was an interesting experience to say the least.  From bird calls to unidentifiable growls, I made note of each sound and its direct proximity to my tent.  My echolocating bat ears worked the night like a radar alerting me of any immediate danger.  Despite all the sounds, it was the high pitched laugh of the hyena that worried me the most as I heard them sniffing and pawing around my tent.  But with no beef jerky in my bag or iPod steal, I shouldn't have anything to worry about, right?  Either way, I dared not to get out of my tent that night. 
The next morning we woke up trying to identify what animal calls we heard.  Ricardo, Ziggy, and I were positive we heard hyenas sniffing our tent and to validate our claim we asked our guide to identify the fresh paw prints that were pressed into the wet soil around our tents.  We had been correct, not that it made us feel any safer.   
The next day we made our way to Ngorongoro Crater.  Ngorongoro is anamoly of sorts.  Once an active volcano it is now home to a variety of wildlife including the elusive black rhino.  We camped on the rim of the crater overlooking the basin and again, we had visitors that night.   While setting up our tents, two big black buffaloes were grazing about thirty feet away from us.  They looked peaceful so I didn't worry too much.  As well, this time the campgrounds came equipped with an armed guard.  The next morning we toured the crater.
Ngorongoro Crater is like a bowl of Animal Crackers.  With its large rim surrounding the basin it acts as a barrier that keeps all the colorful pink and white crackers (with sprinkles) inside.  Very few animals, if any, ever leave the crater because there is no need.  The crater is a very efficient ecosystem in itself.  More pictures would be taken that day but without the images of any cheetahs or rhinos, two animals that have eluded us. 
Regardless, I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to see such amazing wildlife in its natural habitat.  We made our way back to Moshi that same day.  On a side note, unfortunately, I never got to see Mount Kilimanjaro because every day I was in Moshi it was too cloudy to view. 
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