BootsnAll Travel Network

Lions, Elephants, and Cheetahs…Oh My!

Most people come to Africa, go on a week safari and then head out. We had been in Africa for six weeks and had yet to see a large game animal. This was all about to change though as we left Lake Ayasi where the Hadzabe tribe lived. Seeing your first large game animal is a weird experience. We have all seen them in pictures and at the zoo, but to see one just cruising around in the wild is a strange and surreal experience. Our first was a Giraffe, we weren’t even in the national park yet and we saw one off the side of the road. After a four hour drive on a dirt road we arrived in Lake Natron which is home to millions of pink flamingos and live volcanoes. It felt like we were back in prehistoric times with a volcano going off in the distance, nobody around for as far as the eye can see and large game animals like the wildabeast all around you.

The following day we spent watching the baboons in the trees and doing a hike to a beautiful waterfall that we could swim in and cool off. While watching the baboons we were approached by three Swahili kids who are always interested in “the white man”. The main reason that they are interested is because they think all white people are made of money and they love to come asking for some. One of the boys who was 16 was very curious about us and what we were doing there. When we told him we came from America to look at the baboons and all the other animals he had a very confused look on his face.

“don’t you have baboons in America”, he asked.

“no we don’t.”

“What about elephants?

“No elephants.”

“and giraffes and hippos” he asked

“no we don’t have any of these animals in America.” I said

He was very confused. Someone who has always lived with all these animals around you ,just figured that they were everywhere in the world. He then proceeded to throw rocks at the baboons because for them they are a nuisence where for us they are a source of great amusement.

The following day we drove four more hours on an even rougher road and finally ended up at the entrance to the Serengheti park. It was a thrill to finally be at the park after 3 days of driving on dirt roads. We entered via the north entrance which is seldom visited so we had it all to ourselves. It was AWESOME, driving on a dirt road with beautiful scenery all around you and then boom, you see a huge herd of wildabeast, hundreds of them. Then you look to your right and you see water buffalo and a couple of zebra. What I didn’t expect was how beautiful the Serengheti is even without the animals, just wide open grassland and trees. My brother, always wondered why we wanted to go to Africa, “just go to the zoo its the same thing and a hell of a lot cheaper” Well, after being to both, its not the same. The Serengeti is amazing in its own right just for the shear vastness of the place. I could go on for hours about all the different encounters we had but there is one that really stands out. We left our campsite for a late afternoon drive to find some animals. Things didn’t start out to well as we got a flat in the first hour and had to have it repaired.” Then, after that we really didn’t see much at all. On our way back the sun was starting to set and the colors were amazing and our guide tells us to look out in the distance, a huge herd of elephants were coming our way. We hadn’t seen an elephant the whole time and now there were about 75 coming right towards us. We turned the car off and with nobody else around we sat and watched the herd slowly make there way past us. Some even came right up to the truck so close we could have touched them. It was one of those experiences that you will never forget. The sun setting on the Serengheti, nobody for as far as the eye can see and you’ve got elephants all around, not a bad deal.

Since doing a safari in Africa is very very expensive, we had to go the cheap route and thats camping instead of staying in the awesome lodges. The campsites are set out in the middle of the Serengheti with nothing between you and the animals. Our guide reminded us about 5 times to NOT take any type of food into the tent as the hyenas will rip the tent apart and us with it. Christy was like the food Nazi, she made sure I didn’t even have any bread crumbs on my shirt when we went to bed at night.

On the first night, I was awoken not by animals but by my wife whispering in a freaked out whisper “the animals are all around us, what do we do? my shoes are out there, will they try and eat my shoes? will they try and come in? Since I’m not a Hyena expert by any means, I decided the best thing for us to do was put in earplugs so we couldn’t hear them and go back to bed. Christy was finally able to get used to the sound of the Hyenas howling and walking around the campsite and she went back to sleep. The next morning our tent neighbor found huge water buffalo prints right by all the tents. Oh, the adventures of camping.

On our final night, we went to the Norongoro Crater and would be treating ourselves to staying in an actual hotel. After camping for nearly 2 weeks straight we were so excited. We didnt realize the place would be so nice and when we showed up all dirty and tired we definitely got some looks from the guests. One of the great things about camping is the feeling you get when you take your first shower and lay down in a nice clean bed. Who cares about the animals, we were in heaven with a shower and a bed.

The next day we did a drive in the crater and got to witness some monkeys attacking a couple of tourists who had stopped to eat lunch. The monkeys jumped on one of the people and took there food. When the guy in the group went after the monkey, the monkey turned around and started chasing him. He freaked out and ran like hell. Christy and I were in the truck laughing so hard we couldn’t talk. It was a great way to finish our Safari.

In all, our safari was definitely a highlight of our travels and something we will always remember. Our next adventure would be taking the public bus across the border to Mombasa, Kenya to stay with our friends for the holidays. And let me tell you, taking public transportation in Africa is much scarier than any animal in the Serengheti.


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