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Destination: Tanzania (part 3)

February 17, 2010

A Cheetah (duma) perches on a tree downed by elephants

Today we travel deep into the Serengeti to stay two nights at a lodge just outside the northwest Ikoma Gate. That lodge will sport local guards with bows and arrows to ward of the hyenas at night, delicious food and gorgeous views, but at the beginning of the day we only know that we have to drive past Ngorongoro Crater (we’ll circle back around to it in a few days) and that we have high hopes for seeing many, many animals. The landscape changes dramatically from the relatively urbanized towns close to Lake Manyara NP to scrubby, acacia filled vistas dotted with giraffe and Maasai homes. It changes still again as we sink past Ngorongoro’s lush highlands and enter Serengeti’s vast grassy flatness and rock outcroppings. Serengeti’s early offerings include beautiful “classic African” scenery, gazelle and antelope. And then we see Simba. Yes, that’s right, like The Lion King. It turns out the movie is pretty spot on. Our guide Philipo constantly and naturally says “Hakuna matata” (no worries) without any trace of irony. Simba means lion and we all yell “simba!” when we see our first one (and second and…eighth). Perhaps most surprising is the lions really do live on rock islands that dot the plain. See a rock island, see a simba. Then the warthogs appeared and eventually the hyenas. Hakuna matata.

Ngorongoro from the southern rim



Maasai settlements at the foot of hills populated by giraffe






The famous migration herds of buffalo and zebra would figure more prominently in days to come, but we got our first taste of herd life today. The species tend to mingle on the plain to take advantage of one another’s strengths. Zebras are great look outs; buffalos know where to find water. Elephants seem to go where they want, but fresh water is usually close by.

We lunched at Olduvai (Oldupai) Gorge where fossilized footprints of some of our earliest ancestors were found and preserved. Maasai men often work the gift shops at such important stops on the safari circuit. They usually wear shoes made from tire treads – reportedly great for protecting feet from the thorny native plants.


Our “room” at Ikoma Lodge was practically plunked down in the middle of the Serengeti. We had an afternoon to enjoy the views and a few Safari Lagers before setting off the next day  for an early morning hot air balloon ride. We left camp in the dark and rode past hippos moving from pool to pool on our way to the take off spot where our group would ride in one of two balloons set to skim the Serengeti.

My sister-in-law takes in the view


An aftrenoon game drive rounded out the animal sightings for the day, including rock hyrax (pimbi), more giraffe (twiga) and a monkey (tumbili) or 10.


Next time: Hyenas, hyenas everywhere.



One Comment leave one →
  1. Cathy Hall permalink
    February 17, 2010 2:55 pm

    I love seeing these photos and the stories that go along with them. I think you have a gift for story telling!

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