Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Trip Start Jun 05, 2012
Trip End Jul 10, 2012

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Got started on our game drive around 6:30.  Within a couple of minutes we had seen some giraffes.  Then we came upon at least 24 elephants that I could count.  There were 2 bulls, lots of babies of all ages and mothers.  One baby was suckeling.  There was a jeep very close to a bull and it did a mock charge.  The gestation period is 22 months they communicate through stomps of their feet.  The noises they make come all the way from their stomachs.  Ear flapping can be a sign that you are getting too close.  While we watched a bull took down an entire tree.  Then a bull made a loud noise and everyone followed.  After that we saw two hot air balloons taking off.  It looked neat, but for $500 per person and being further above the animals, thus further away from them it would not be worth it.  We saw buffalo, then more elephants, a group of impala, 8 more elephants, some huge bird nests, then a jackel, then even more elephants.  Then we saw another herd of impala.  They can jump three meters high.  Their backsides have what look like a black M.  So some people joke that it is African fast food.  The males fight for dominance  and they wipe tears onto things to mark their territory.  They have a "bush toilet" where they usually go to the bathroom.  This particular herd was a breeding herd, but their are bachelor herds too.  One male might be father to 50-100 young during a breeding season.  There were lots of baboons in the trees and egyptian geese.  Then we was four hippos.  According to their legends, the hippos told God that they wanted to live in the rivers.  God said that they would eat all of the fish.  The agreement that was made is that if the hippo was allowed to live it the river they would not eat fish, but only grass.  The mothers milk is thick like yogurt so that the babies can still feed under the water.  The mothers give birth in shallow water.  Then Miles spotted our first Nile crocodile.  They live in harmony with the hippos.  Crocodiles know better than to pick on baby hippos.  Then we saw more than 30 hippos in two groups.  Then we saw the beautiful lilac-breasted roller, then green pigeons, some vultures, and the franklin bird. Then we saw the first of the small 5, the buffalo weaver.  The others are the ant lion, rhino beetle, elephant shrew, and leopard tortoise. Next we saw the magpie and the coucal which is an ugly black and brown bird with a long tail, then guinea fowl, then wildebeests close to a source of water, then a marabou stork.  Next we saw one female (6-7 year old) lion.  She stalked up on some wildebeests in the water and started chasing after them.  The wildebeests got away but wow,how cool to watch.  Then we watched some wildebeests along the western corridor heading north.  The migration is a cycle and the animals are always on the move.  Birthing is in February and usually on the small plains.  A few resident herds don't migrate but no one knows why. Six minutes after birth the young can walk and run.  They can smell their mothers.  The migration line goes on as far as the eye can see.  Some birds including helmeted guinea fowl and franklins have very low calls to warn of predators.  Then we saw the female lion climb up a tree.  I took my best photo of the whole trip thus far.  It was a silhouette of the lion in the tree.  I showed the others and will get copies of the picture for them.  There really isn't a way to describe the number of wildebeests unless someone sees them for themselves.  Each animal is making a cow like noise so it is like a constant chorus when you have the vehicle off.  Some of the guys are head butting and there are lots of babies.  Mostly the animals just walk around but at times they bounce around.  We sat for quite some time just watching them.  You hear about the migration but you don't know if you will actually see it during your lifetime. Then, there it is, right in front of your eyes.  Then we saw a flock of sand grouses and a couple crowned plover.  They actually bury their eggs by the river so they can get water on their abdomen to keep the eggs from baking. 
     It is 8:50 in the morning and Miles is applying sunscreen for the second time of the day.  The sun is starting to get a little warmer but the air is still cool.  When we left this morning it was very cold and I wrapped up in my towel.  Next we got to see the wildebeest crossing a river and it was awesome.  The swahili for awesome is "Poa kichizi kama ndizi kwenye friji"! Which basically means "As cool as a banana from the fridge".  That translation was from Victor.  Then we saw a couple small hippos out of the water.  They were younger and basically playing out of the water with each other.  Next we saw lappet faced vultures and more grazing elephants.  Then we saw more wildebeests and there were lots of babies, probably a three adult to one baby ratio.  Then we came across a group of vultures eating a carcass.  We finally figured out that it was a baby wildebeest that they were eating.  We saw another tree that the locals refer to as the sausage tree.  Next we saw another female lion trying to hunt a wildebeest out of the water.  She stalked after them but we weren't able to see the results because of the water line and the vegetation.  The wildebeests seemed determined to get a drink or get across the river but that might prove costly. Then we saw a jeep get stuck and the guy actually got out of the vehicle and it was very close to where the lion was.  The jeep was not allowed to be off the path, and not only was he off the path, but he tried to cross the river.  VIctor says that no two zebras have the same stripes but if you count from nose to tail it is 72 stripes everytime. 
    Next, we headed to a kopje and saw a juvenile lion on the very top and three others too.  It belongs to the same pride as the hunter down by the water.  We saw a secritary bird too.  We headed to the Visitor Center and he gave us 40 minutes to look around, go on a trail, and go to the gift shop.  There were lots of rock hyrax which looked like marmots.  Then we headed back to camp and lunch/brunch was ready.  There were pancakes, sausage, pasta with cheese, cole slaw type salad and fruit salad.  We sat and talked for awhile but then there were dishes to be done.  We showered then washed up our clothes and still had abour 2 hours to just be lazy.  Apparently animals are probably lazy during this time too.  
     This break gives me time to write while everyone has free time, so I can mention the things Victor told us about the Maasai.  As the legend goes, they built a bridge and in the night a heavy rain fell which washed out the bridge and split the group into two.  The central highlands of Kenya are very fertile, but Maasai tend livestock not agricultural.  The British negotiated with the leader who was thought to have supernatural powers.  He was put in jail but each morning he was out of his cell stuffing tobacco.  Finally, they came to an agreement.  The Maasai agreed to leave the land for 99 years so the British could do floriculture.  There was a conflict in the south where British people were killed. For both groups the language is the same but there are different dialects.  The Maasai in the north tended to be more decorated with their clothes.  There are three types of Maasai: the hunters, the blacksmiths, and the ones that tend livestock.  Wild animals graze freely with their cattle because if they hunt they don't have livestock, and vice versa.There are some ceremonies including birth, naming, circumcision, and weddings.  Ancestors actually name the babies and it is usually the great grandfather or great grandmothers name.   Circumcision usually happens at age 12-14, early in the morning, down by the river, and smeared with red clay.  The father negotiates a sword and a spear from a blacksmith  and the blacksmith performs the procedure. The boy is not supposed to cry as the procedure is done and if they do it is very shameful to the father and the father has to pay a fine.  As you get older the elders speak to you about how to do things in life.  The first wife is chosen for you with no choice, then if you are good for that wife people might request that you take another one.  Then the 3rd and 4th could be your choice.  The man protects and provides but it is the woman that builds the house.  Many of them are made of mud and cow dung.  Inside there is a kitchen and bedrooms.  There are also death ceremonies in which they used to smear the body with animal fat, usually sheep, and the animals would it the body.  This is now discouraged for sanitary reasons and burial is similar to ours.  The Maasai do not eat fish because they think they come from snakes and snakes are like satan.  Young kids do go to school but are allowed to be pulled our if there is a drought and the livestock have to be moved.  The large holes in the ears or cutting of the lobes was a fashion thing but is frowned one now as people move towards a more western lifestyle.  There used to be female circumcision but that is strongly recommended against.  After circumcision males used to have to go out and spear a lion and make a hat from the mane of the male lion. Now there are programs in place to make sure that they don't do that anymore.   Usually school graduation is 15 years, and many do not have multiple wives because it is difficult to provide.  They are very good traders. The land system is communial most of it being left for pastures.  Usually no lions attack.  Cattle have a good sense of smell which make them aware if predators are near. 
    Then Victor gave us some information on Tanzania.  It is about four times the size of England, 1.5 times larger than Texas.  Crops are sisal, cloves, cotton, gold, diamonds, and Tanzanite.  Tanzania used to be called Tanganika but then it joined with Zanzibar and became Tanzania.  All recent political transition have been peaceful.  The next election is 2015.  In 1978 there was a crisis. Uganda had a dictator who bombed two towns.  In 1979, the war made them poor and they broke with Britain.  In the 1980's, it was the 5th poorest country in the world.  
     We headed for our afternoon game drive.  There was a giraffe, then Miles got bit by a tsetse fly. Then we saw a Grant's gazelle then a group of Fischers love birds which were just like the ones we saw at the Fort Wayne zoo.  Then we saw a sounder (family) of warthogs.  Then we saw a new type of deer, a very dark brown color called a topi.  Then we saw an African hoopoe bird.  Then we saw two more topi and a coke hartebeest or the kongoni.  Then we saw the Eastern yellow bill hornbill.  There was a dwarf mongoose that ran up on a log while we were looking at a lion on a kopje.  We drove for a little while without seeing anything but then we saw two lions on top of the kopje, one of which was a large male.  We saw a gaushawk on top of the rocks too.  Next we saw a couple of reed bucks blending in the tall grass near the kopje.  Then all of a sudden there were literally zebra everywhere.  Then we saw two more lions very close to the zebra, and then 12 elephants.  Then we drove like absolute maniacs.  We were starting to wonder why but then we realized we were coming upon a mother and three baby cheetahs.  We watched them for quite some time.  Victor estimated that the cubs were about 2 weeks old.  It was fun to watch the babies nurse, and then run around and play.  There was a group of Asians as part of the Simba Safari who had been looking for cheetahs for five days to make a book.  I bet they will be sitting there for awhile!  Then we saw the African fishing eagle resting on a branch.  Then there were three male lions each having their own part of the kopje.  One had his head up and was looking forward, then then next was yawning and licking his self, the last one was laying on his side looking right towards the camera.  We finally made it back to camp and I sprinted to the bathroom!  Dinner was at 7:00 and we started with pumpkin soup which was amazing.  The main course was chicken with rice, vegetables, and fruit salad.  We helped with dishes, then sat around chatting for awhile.  We went to bed shortly after 9:00.  A white grasshopper was on our tent and there were beetles, moths, different grasshoppers, cockroaches, and praying mantis.  We can hear wildebeests, frogs, and lots of insects. There are so many different species of everything here in the Serengeti.

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Mom on

Oh, my goodness! Words can NOT describe this part of your journey! I am SO HAPPY for you guys that you are getting to see all of these wonderful things. I bet you are like a kid in a candy store....only better! :) I love, love, love the photos and hearing about the things you have seen. Can't wait to hear everything in great detail when you get home and see the hundreds, if not thousands more photos! :) What an incredible adventure! You will have stories and memories to last a lifetime! Yay!

Love you so very much! Keep the pics and stories coming!

Julie Stucky on

This is absolutely amazing, and I am totally impressed with your knowledge of wildlife. I've never heard of some of the creatures you named. Do you feel safe in the wild with these animals?

Sally Hardesty on

Loving every minute of your posts. Just about as close to being on a Safari as I could get. So glad you are sharing. Keep it up. Be safe.

sciencefun on

Yes, Julie, we felt safe, but the animals were very close and we were in an open topped jeep. Sometimes elephants were within 10 feet.

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