Jared Ning


africa week 6, part 2: safari


14 july

met our driver/guide and our cook. Hans looked like a skinny wycleff jean with a stylish hat. we met Tatiana, a 27-year-old brazilian girl who is volunteering here for about a month. our other 2 safari mates were an older polish man and woman.

out first stop was tarangire.

we were going to drop off our stuff at the campsite and then go on a game drive. on the way to the campsite, which is located deep in the park, we saw some giraffes, wildebeests, a cheetah, and some other stuff.

unfortunately, there was some confusion about which campsite we were supposed to go to. we ended up at a very impressive looking campsite for luxury campers. I didn’t even know there was camping this posh. it looked like a small mansion without walls. we weren’t supposed to stay there, but they let us use their toilet. toilets on a safari are already a bonus. this particular toilet was one of the nicest toilets I had ever seen anywhere in the world.

Hans informed us of the situation and apologized several times that we had to drive another hour to the campsite we were supposed to go to. by this time it was already starting to get dark. one and a half hours later, it was well into the night when we arrived at our not so posh campsite. I will not describe the toilets.

we sat in the dark as our tents were pitched, admiring the sounds of the good times had by the other campers who were many steps ahead of us in terms of the evening’s accommodations. eventually our cook managed to make our dinner, which was delicious: cream of carrot soup and spaghetti with meat sauce. given the cold weather, the soup hit the spot.

15 July

we had to wake up early the next morning. when departure time came around, hans was just waking up. so we had to wait for our tents to be struck, and for everything to be packed. there were tents, sleeping bags, mattresses, dining table, chairs, and luggage, among other things. all was not lost though. while eating breakfast, a herd of elephants walked past our campsite.

we started making our way to the Serengeti. it was just like I remembered from last year, except there were far fewer wildebeests, which also meant far fewer flies. the best part was seeing a lion sleeping under a tree not 8 feet away. we also saw a bunch of giraffes, elephants, a couple of cheetahs, and a bunch of zebras. when we got to our campsite, there was a lone water buffalo lying just outside.

the soup du jour was cream of cucumber and fried fish. again, de-lish.

good food goes well with good company. we got to know our safari mates better around the meal table. the polish man and woman had known each other since kindergarten. each of them had some good life stories. Eliana was a polish Jew and a descendant of survivors of the war. she told us an absolutely amazing story about her family. she randomly picked up a book and noticed that it described her grandmother. after getting in touch with the author, she discovered part of her family she didn’t even know because of the war.

voy was also a very interesting person. he was a professor of anthropology. every year he spends 6 months teaching in Poland and the other 6 months teaching in Australia. he’s married to an author who has published many Australian best-sellers including one that described her life with her late husband, their children, an how voy came into their life. it’s a much better story when he tells it.

16 July

the next morning, we woke up very early again to go into the Serengeti. Hans took us to a hippo pond where about 30 hippos lived with more than 5 crocodiles. the hippos took up a significant percentage of the pond. when it comes to hippos, their hygiene is the same as their house-cleaning, or lack thereof. so this was not the most pleasantly smelling stop.

between this park and the next, there was a very interesting site that I didn’t know existed. it’s called uldupai gorge. it is beleived that all homo sapiens (or hominids or some other ancient human ancestor, I’m not the expert) originated in Africa. you may have heard of the fossil named Lucy. he was found at our next stop, not too far away. but this gorge is one of the most important places in the world when it comes to he study of this sort of thing. the gorge was formed hundreds of thousands of years ago from water erosion. it revealed many geological layers of rock that basically served as a timeline. you can see the layers of time like the rings of a tree or a package of mixed jello pudding. you can also find fossils, and they have been for about 50 years. we were going to down and see it upclose, but Hans told us we didn’t have time, for which he apologized again.

17 July

our next trip was to ngorongoro crater. first we got to the campsite which was my favorite from last year. it was the best shower in all of africa from last year. very hot water and lots of it. having not showered yet on this safari, I was anxious. and wouldn’t you know it, no hot water.

we also saw more lions. very relaxed lions. and lion cubs. one male lion was lying right on the edge of the road. we arrived to thus party late, and there were about 25 other cars there. by the time the queue of cars weaved in and out past each other through the narrow road, the lion got annoyed and upped and moved to a less congested area a little further away. still cool to see it though.

there were TONS more people this time. one thing is for sure, high season sucks for safari. I went at the best time last year. just after rain season, right when the migration was going on. less people to fight over good tent spots, shower, bathroom, and electrical plugs. I was actually amazed I had the chance to charge my camera battery.

it was also colder than last year. ngorongoro is at a high altitude, so it gets very cold, especially at night. I wore basketball shorts, jeans, a layer of pajama pants over that, a t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, hoodie, and a jacket. still cold. hot chocolate and Milo (a chocolatey energy drink) helped.

soup du jour: cream of cucumber. main course: pasta with sauce. very good, but i had to scarf because it got cold really fast.

next morning, woke up early again. we drove down through the thick mist into the crater. we saw a pack of hyenas eating something. one of them managed to drag a chunk of flesh away from the group so we got a better look at what it was: a wildebeest head. just up ahead, Hans saw a group of zebras running away from a couple of lions. the one thing I didn’t get to see last time was something kill something else. i was excited, but we missed it. so did the lions. no kill for me.

this time was definitely not as cool as last time. we can pretty much blame our guide. he made us miss virtually the entire first park. he made us late a few times. and worst of all, he did little more than follow the crowd where we basically feasted on the scraps of the others. but it was still safari, and thats always awesome.