4 Days in a Safari Jeep
We left at 8 am on Friday for our safari. Earlier in the week we learned all the Swahili words for the animals, so I was pretty excited to test them out. I piled into a jeep with 6 other Mizzou girls. Our driver was named Abdul, and he was just simply the best. He answered every question we asked. I of course asked about 1,000 during the course of our drive to the Serengeti. We left Arusha and started our five hour drive to our first hotel (http://www.serenahotels.com/serenaserengeti/default-en.html.). Shortly outside of Arusha, I was the first to spot an animal. It was a few camels, Abdul laughed at me because I was very excited and they weren’t even native to Tanzania. While driving we passed several Maasai villages. The Maasai are a tribe in Tanzania. They dress in bright blue, purple, and red and spend their time tending to goats and cows. In the Maasai culture cows are sacred. We enjoyed waving from our windows and continued driving towards the Serengeti.
After about an hour passing the prettiest scenery I have ever seen, I spotted a twiga (giraffe)! It was so cool and surreal to see these animals up close. We then passed through Mosquito Village, I can’t remember the village’s actual name, but Abdul said many people call it this. It was filled with street vendors and small shops. It is the only place in Tanzania where all 120 tribes are represented. We then continued on to Karatu. This town was featured on a recent episode of the Amazing Race. During the show, contestants had to find a clue at Hillary Clington. They didn’t know, but it happened to be a shopping cart. As we passed through Karatu a man pointed to the cart and I was able to take a picture. Apparently, after the episode aired he realized it should be Hillary Clinton and not Clington because the g had been painted over. Along the way, we saw some baboons and zebras!
After Karatu, we came to the Ngorongoro Crater gate. We stopped to use the bathrooms and check out the gift shop. I found a children’s book for my classroom! We then drove around the top of the Crater towards the Serengeti. It is pretty cloudy near the top of the Crater so it was hard to see much other than the large water sources. We stopped for lunch just passed the Crater. Some people were cutting the grass using a machete-like tool. Our guides asked if we wanted to try, while I was cutting I got asked if I was working or playing. I guess my technique wasn’t the best. While others practiced cutting the lawn, I passed out some food to two Maasai children that were near the lunch area. Our drivers told us to bargain our food for a picture. Generally, the Maasai tribe does not like getting its picture taken. We traded chicken, sandwiches, and some other items for a picture. The children seemed very grateful for the food.
After lunch, it was onwards to the Serengeti. Once inside the gates, we spotted tons of wildebeests, zebras, gazelles, and impalas. Then, we finally spotted a simba (lion)! My pictures from the start of the safari definitely showed my excitement of seeing the animals. I took about 50 pictures of the lion from far away; you can barely make out its shape. As the safari went on my pictures got better and better. The first day, we also saw hyenas, vultures, and jackals. Then we pulled up to a large pride of lions! Some of the younger ones were playing with an old tire. They were so close to the road. Since the Serengeti is protected from hunting the animals didn’t seem too concerned with having humans close to them. It was getting dark, so we headed for our lodge. Along the way, we passed a hippo pool and three tembos (elephants) ran in front of our car! The lodge required you to have a guard walk you from your hut to the restaurant because wildlife often enter the hotel’s grounds. After dinner, we watched traditional Tanzanian singers and dancers. They ended with Jambo Bwana, the greeting song we learned before coming to Tanzania. The hotel had the most comfortable pillows in the world. I slept like a rock, until the alarm went off for our 8 am drive.
We saw a ton of animals today. As our time on safari went on we had cooler and cooler experiences with animals. Today, we saw a dead hippo. My guide Joseph said it was most likely bitten by a snake. We also saw two leopards in trees. They are apparently pretty hard to spot, so we were lucky to see them. We were out all day and saw tons of animals. Safaris are a hard workout. It is definitely hard to keep yourself standing during the drive. I had to rotate which side of the car I sat on each day because my body was so sore from banging into the car. That night at the hotel an acrobatic show was put on. The men did terrifying stunts over stone floors.
The next day was a 6 am drive to see the sun rise over the Serengeti. It was beautiful, but the coolest part was seeing three lions. It seemed like they may have been hunting some impalas. Then we returned to the lodge for a quick breakfast and packed up to head to the Crater. On our way to the Crater, we stopped at the hippo pool. We saw a ton of hippos and even saw two mating. Then, we stopped at a rest area to eat lunch and for the drivers to fill out some paperwork so we could leave the Serengeti. While we were eating, Colleen and Courtney ran down from the viewing area we had been at two days previously. They said there were elephants at the top. A bunch of us ran to the top to see the elephants. A lot of people were too scared to get pictures. I got super close and got some pictures. I would say I was no more than twenty feet from them. There were about 7 large elephants and two babies. For some reason, I wasn’t nervous. It was probably because I was too winded from running up the path. After viewing the elephants we continued on to the Crater.
Along the way we passed out more food to the Maasai children. It was so sad to see the starving kids along the side of the road. One girl even began crying when we ran out of food. Our car turned very somber as we continued to pass the children. I remember a man at the Columbia Food Bank saying, “When I saw that girl refuse to get on the bus to go home without food for days, I saw hunger.” Today was the first time I saw hunger. Of course, I’ve seen hungry people, but it was nothing like what I saw today. I have a vivid image of two boys, around 9, reaching into my window to grab my chicken. As they reached in I could see every rib. They grabbed the chicken so quickly. It wasn’t because they were greedy, it seemed almost like they were scared I was going to take it back. Our driver said we must only give the food to the children because the men of the tribe will take it and eat it for themselves. It was extremely hard when we ran out of food and passed several more children. We finally arrived around 4 and had dinner and a few drinks at the hotel.
The next morning we descended into the Crater. It is very expensive to enter it, 50 dollars per person plus 200 dollars for each car. It was totally worth it. At first the clouds were so thick we could not see anything. As we got lower and lower we got under the clouds and were able to see tons of animals. I drove with Abdul again. I told him I really wanted to see cheetahs, rhinos, and flamingos. Since, he is the man he made it happen except for the cheetahs. Other than missing those, I saw every animal I wanted to. We saw three black rhinos! They are endangered and there are only about 25 in the area, so we were very lucky to see them. I also saw two elephants cross the street right in front of our car. Then, Abdul spotted a male lion with the binoculars. We drove up and watched a male lion that looked just like Scar walk to join his pride. It was a great way to end our safari. In the afternoon we started the about 4 hour drive back to Arusha. Everyone was exhausted. We ate dinner, briefly met for class, and then passed out. The safari was probably the most incredible experience of my life. I definitely will not forget the landscapes, animals, villages, and children I saw along the way.