Finishing Our Tanzanian Safari and Trip
15.03.2013 - 17.03.2013 82 °F
"Oh. It's just another elephant." I said disappointedly about the large shape walking directly at us.
"Yes, but have you ever seen one with five legs?" giggled Godfey.
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
Pointing at the elephant's underside, Godfrey explained, "See. He's happy now but wait until he finds out that we are not a female elephant!"
The elephant closed to within 10 yards from our vehicle and stopped. He stood there for a few seconds staring at our vehicle. We could tell from his shrinkage that he was indeed disappointed. The newly-four-legged elephant then veered off passing right in front of our vehicle.
I don't enjoy looking at male genitalia, but it's my job. As a urologist, I'm constantly faced with the issue of men waving their junk at me to look at. You would think that on vacation I would get a reprieve from this issue . Nope. Those darn animals just can't keep their stuff to themselves. If I have to see it, then so will everybody else...
It's all about the length, not the girth.
Male vervet monkeys are always frustrated sexually--they have blue balls.
This lion didn't lack any courage. He had a set of brass balls.
A cheetah could probably be faster if its scrotum was more aerodynamic.
I can see why cape buffaloes always seem angry. Their penis is too small for the rest of its body.
In some Asian countries, the rhinoceros penis is ground up to be used as an aphrodisiac. They have no scrotum as their testicles are internal.
Unlike most skittish elands that ran away when we were still very far away, this male had the balls to stand his ground.
Although we saw several of them around, I failed to get a photograph of a dik-dik's dick. I also didn't get a shot of the zebra who flashed us. But trust me, he was hung like a horse.
After leaving Asilia's Ubuntu Camp, our next destination was the Serengeti Seronera. A straight path would lead us through the Lake Ndutu area , but this would also entail driving off-road through the same muddy grounds that we had avoided the day before. Therefore, Godfrey decided that the best option would be to take the main roads and backtrack all the way to the Ngorongoro Crater before heading back west to the Serengeti. This would mean turning an approximately 40 km journey into a 150 km one.
It took almost four hours of driving before we neared the borders of the Serengeti. We made a brief diversion south around Lake Ndutu in the hopes of spotting some lions or leopards. All that we saw were some smaller antelopes , an occasional lonely elephant, and tons of dust. Judging by the low level of the lake, it was clear that this region had not seen much rainfall in the last few days. Paradoxically, just a few miles further south, the land was swamped and impassable.
Vehicles are not the only things that can get trapped in the mud. This wildebeest became stuck and slowly died.
Unlike many other antelope species, steinbucks are mainly solitary.
The many uprooted trees in the Lake Ndutu area are evidence of the aggressive behavior that male elephants can exhibit.
After a brief boxed lunch, we headed north into the Serengeti National Park. The entrance center is located at a large kopjes which overlooks the surrounding plains.
We hiked to the top and viewed miles of endless small black dots, each of which represented an animal on the Migration.
I had seen pictures of the wildebeest and zebra herds, but nothing compares to experiencing it in person.
The immense density of animals is unbelievable.
Hippos aren't the only animals that enjoy the mud. A pack of six spotted hyenas slept alongside the road while herds animals grazed nearby.
The plains eventually became sparse of animals as the grass grew taller. Godfrey explained that the smaller herbivores avoided these areas as it is easier for predators to hide and ambush them.
Larger animals like elephants did not fear the tall grass. These two demonstrate a show of strength.
We drove around the plains closely scanning the trees. The Serengeti Seronera region has the reputation as the best place to find leopards. And it did not fail. We spotted one slumbering in a tree, allowing us to check off the last of the big five that we had seen. Since vehicles are not allowed to drive off the roads in the Serengeti, we had to watch the leopard from a distance.
The life of a leopard is tough. It can get really boring sitting in a tree all day long.
After patiently waiting for twenty minutes, the big cat suddenly looked up , jumped down the tree, and disappeared into the tall grass.
We continued our safari drive, seeing hundreds of herd animals crowded around the roads. This indeed must have been the center of the Migration.
I tried counting the number of zebras, but the stripes made it confusing to single out each individual animal.
Dik-diks are diminutive antelopes that are monogamous. An individual is rarely encountered alone, spending the majority of their time together with its mate.
(Above and Below) The white-headed buffalo weaver and the leopard tortoise are two members of Africa's "Little Five."
We chanced upon a curious site. Several thirsty elephants walked over to a small watering hole that was already inhabited by a single hippopotamus. Despite it being the most dangerous African animal to humans, the hippo still feared the mighty elephant. It ran off, as fast as a hippo can go--which is actually pretty slow.
The hippo took so long that an impatient elephant gave it chase.
Elephants sometimes hold onto each other's tails to get a sense of security. Maybe, this elephant herd was just as equally scared of the hippopotamus as it was of them.
By late afternoon, we arrived at our final destination, the Lemala Ewanjan Tented Camp. We were discouraged to hear that we would be the only visitors during our two day stay. The lack of guests was most likely due to the timing of the year because the accommodations are very nice.
(Left) The tents at this Lemala camp were as spacious as those at the Ngorongoro facility. (Right) Each room has a fancy desk and sitting area.
(Left) Our bedroom was very hot during the day. (Right) The bathroom was large enough to drag a chair inside and enjoy the breeze through the window.
The camp also employed some Maasai warriors for guest security. They carried more than their spears. They helped around the campsite too.
Several maribou storks called the campsite their home.
These scary-looking storks feed off of trash and carrion.
(Left and Right) These enormous birds enjoy perching on the highest branches of the trees.
(Above and Below) The sunset was peaceful over the Serengeti.
Since there were no other guests, the camp's staff arranged for Godfrey to dine with us during our meals. The camp manager also kept us company. Our waiter turned out to be a Maasai tribesman. Because he worked full time for the Lemala company, he was required to wear their staff clothing. However, he would change back to his traditional shuka (Maasai blankets) when he was on leave.
(Left) Tomato and herb soup. (Right) Grilled beef with fried rice and vegetables.
Pineapple frittata with caramel sauce.
The beef was so overcooked and tough. The Wife wouldn't eat it. Godfrey even admitted that Tanzanian's generally eat meat that has been cooked longer, but not that well-done.
We enjoyed the views of the plains by the campfire before we turned in for the night.
One of these dawn balloon rides will set you back at least $500 per person.
The next morning, we headed out for another safari drive. The Serengeti Seronera region is also known for the numerous kopjes that rise out above the flat plains. These stone islands were formed millions of years ago when volcanic rock such as granite was pushed up through the softer layers of the earth's crust around and above it. These kopjes serve as home to several types of animal.
Although it is only about the size of a football, the hyrax is closely related to the elephant.
We spotted a large male lion resting on top of a high kopje.
A troop of banded mongoose keeps to the safety of their den.
Giraffes have large tongues which allows them to grab leaves from acacia trees without getting stuck by the sharp thorns.
We got word that the leopard we saw the day before was back. It was successful in its hunt and had dragged a small gazelle up into a tree.
The presence of food had drawn out the leopard's two cubs who had come out of hiding.
Unlike most birds of prey, secretary birds do most of their hunting while on foot.
Although it prefers a terrestrial lifestyle, the secretary bird is still a competent flyer.
We searched around for more big predators. I was hoping to see the iconic view of a cheetah sitting on a large boulder scanning the horizon for dinner. Unfortunately, we didn't see any of them. We did see a few pairs of lions trying to mate.
The actual copulation process takes only a few seconds. Upon completion, the male's barbed penis causes pain to the female which in turn induces ovulation.
Godfrey heard from another guide that there was a large pride of lions nearby. We drove around for 30 minutes, searching for those big cats in frustration. Finally, Godfrey spotted a few shapes under a tree. From afar, I thought it was going to be just another pair of mating lions. But as we closed in, I realized how wrong I was. There had to be as many as twenty lions huddled in the shade around that acacia tree. Godfrey noted that many were still juveniles, both male and female. He told us that the young females would remain with the pack while the males would eventually leave.
After our lion encounter, it was time for us to head back to camp.
(Left) We enjoyed a nice, relaxing alfresco lunch. (Right) Although some dishes were misses, these camps do a pretty good job with the food considering they have to cook out of a tent.
(Left) Cornbread. (Right) Vegetable and onion soup.
(Left) Chicken salad with mint and yogurt dressing. (Right) Cantaloupe with roasted coconut shavings.
We regrouped later that afternoon once the midday heat started to subside. Godfrey took us to the hippo pool.
It was an amazing site seeing so many large mammals packed into that pond.
The hippo's yawn is not a sign of sleepiness. It is actually a threatening territorial gesture.
This Nile crocodile kept its distance from the pool full of hippos.
Although it has a similar size and shape as a hartebeest, the topi can be distinguished by their darker tones and less angled horns.
A flock of Fischer's lovebirds take off in flight.
Try as we might, we remained unlucky as we were unable to find any more large predators. We headed back to the camp and cleaned up for dinner.
(Left) Pea soup. (Right) Grilled chicken, potatoes, and steamed vegetables.
Grilled bananas with chocolate sauce.
Finally, one of the Lemala chefs cooked a protein correctly! While we dined, we heard a myriad of noises far away in the distance. Godfrey helped us distinguish which sounds came from which type of animal.
During our conversation over dinner, I was surprised to hear that both Godfrey and the camp's staff all preferred to be paid and tipped in U.S. dollars. The whole time, I had been feeling embarrassed that we had not had a chance to exchange our money into Tanzanian shillings. I felt that we were disrespecting the locals by paying them in a foreign currency, albeit one that is fully accepted. Godfrey explained that American dollars are preferable because their value remains stable long-term. As evinced by Zimbabwe's 6.8 sextillion percent hyperinflation in 2008, African currency has the potential to lose its value much easier. Godfrey explained that keeping American dollars hidden at home is a safer long-term financial solution than depositing it in a bank as Tanzanian shillings.
Channel Serengeti Seronera on bush TV.
Although I had spent the whole day just sitting in a car, I was surprisingly tired after dinner. It must have been all those bumpy roads and hours of sitting in the sun. I fell asleep once my head hit the pillow.
"What was that noise?" The Wife whispered as she punched my shoulder.
A deep humping noise that sounded like the world's worst male porn star could be heard behind our tent.
"Was I snoring again?." I responded half-asleep.
"No! It sounds like a lion!" she exclaimed.
"It's probably really far away. Their roars can be heard for up to five miles." I mumbled.
"No! It sounds like it's right outside!" The Wife refuted.
"zzzzzzzzzzz...." I snored.
The next morning at breakfast, the first thing that Godfrey asked was "Did you hear the lions last night?"
"I knew it!" The Wife answered smugly.
"Yes. There were actually two of them, and they came right through the camp. They were probably thirsty and they know that there is a water reservoir here. Some of the workers were still watching TV, and some even were outside when the lions came only five meters away from their tent. One of the men jumped into a truck and started honking the horns to scare them away. I came out of the tent to see if I could get a picture, but they had run off already. Didn't you hear all the noise?"
"I slept like a baby." I responded.
We had an early departure that morning because we would have an all day drive back to Arusha to catch our flight. We thanked the wonderful and friendly staff at the Lemala Ewanjan Camp, and we were on our way.
We had travelled no further than a mile from the camp when I spotted a cheetah slinking in the grass just a few feet away from the road. Since Godfrey was not in wildlife spotting mode and had not seen it, I screamed for him to stop. The cheetah paid no attention to us. Maybe it thought that it was invisible in the high grass.
We observed the graceful animal as it first rolled around on the ground for awhile.
Afterwards, the cheetah turned its attention to a long column of zebras and wildebeests that stretched along to the horizon.
The feline went into hunting mode and started slinking across the field away from us towards those animals.
As it closed the distance, it must have realized that all of those adult animals were too large for it. It was likely waiting for a calf or some gazelles.
The cheetah looks around for smaller animals to attack.
With our binoculars, we searched the migrating herds for the presence of any of these smaller animals. Unfortunately, there were none to be seen. We stayed as long as we could, but we knew that it would probably be an hour or two before the cheetah would see anything he could attack. Since we didn't have that time to wait, we reluctantly decided to leave. And thus our safari would end on that disappointing note.
It was a long, long journey back to Arusha. The drive on those dusty and bumpy dirt paths took over six hours. Frankly, these roads around the Serengeti are just not serviceable enought to ride comfortably for more than a few hours. The Tanzanian government had planned on building a superhighway through the Serengeti from Arusha to Lake Victoria. However, the project is on hold because of outcries from worldwide wildlife conservationist organizations.
We eventually arrived in Arusha and stopped at the Onsea House to retrieve our luggage that we still had stored there. Their staff were very nice to allow us to take a quick shower and clean up before our flight home. We made it to the airport three hours before our evening flight. You would think that with only one or two flights leaving the Kilimanjaro airport a day, KLM could have more than two people working in the check in counter. The line snaked all around the small lobby and ended at the door into the airport. They were so slow, and the airport was so hot. The few ceiling fans inside merely served as a teaser as to what a comfortable climate should feel like. After four flights, a long delay in Atlanta for hail, and thirty total hours, we finally made it home.
Although we saw only a small segment of the entire country, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Tanzania and the people we met there. Sure, we encountered some disappointments such as my failure to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro and our inability to see a lion or cheetah kill. However, we knew in advance that altitude issues would be a likely problem for me, and that more than five days would be needed to see much on a safari. We still counted ourselves lucky to still be healthy and to have seen all of the wonderful things that we did during our trip.
I certainly have mixed feelings about Tanzania's future. The country is still predominately agrarian and third-world. It needs to modernize in order to improve the lives of its citizens. But any advancements in industry or infrastructure would certainly affect the wild animals adversely. But what about the people. It's easy for us in wealthy western countries to lecture others on being ecologically responsible. However, we have already destroyed and transformed our country's landscape. Bison no longer roam the American plains like wildebeests do in Africa. Suburban families in North America don't fear wolf or cougar attacks like an African villager may with lions. And folks in the U.S. don't have to worry about famine and starvation because we have genetically altered our crops and created gigantic farms that have overrun our heartland.
Certainly, Tanzania's national parks attract tourists and their money. But only a small segment of the population benefits from tourism. The country still remains one of the poorest in the world. Most Tanzanians consume a diet very high in vegetables and grains since meat is too expensive. Basic health care is out of reach for most people because of the exorbitant costs and a lack of doctors. Things are getting better for the country, but it will take time. Can more modernization and infrastructure at the expense of their natural resources speed up this process? Will their close ties with China, not known for being environmentally-friendly, make things better or worse in the long-term? Unfortunately, I am not knowledgeable enough about Tanzania to know what's right or wrong for them. However, I do know that I will go home to my climate-controlled house in a safe neighborhood with a well-stocked refrigerator. But then again, I'll also have to go back to looking at other people's genitalia.