Endless plains and endless wildebeests

Endless plains is translation of the Maasi word for Serengeti and they are not wrong – although only 35% of the park is actually grassland and the rest is woodland area. It took about 7 hours to get here driving from Arusha as have to go through the Ngorogoro park on the way. On the way we passed a herd of 30 giraffes walking together down a hill. A pretty impressive sight. And also saw a new species of antelope called Topi – they are bigger than most types I have seen and have really long faces – kept making me think of the really bad joke about the horse in the bar with the long face!

On the game drive to the camp we didn’t really see much at all. Two weeks ago there were loads but now the rains have come they seem to have vanished to another area of the park – bugger! The way to the camp was fairly hairy aswell. Ordinarily it would have been fine but the rain started on the drive there and it became very slippy slidy – the driver had to engage the 4×4 and he wasn’t happy at all! He also had never been to this camp before so we got a bit lost and had to drive out of our way to find someone to ask directions from! He is trying to suggest we move somewhere else for the last night so I don’t miss my flight – I shall see what the way out in the morning is like as the camp itself is lovely.

It’s a new camp called Asanja Africa (which apparently means lovers in Maasi – oops I must be in the wrong place!) and they only have 5 tents – each one is themed like a Maasi ceremony. Mine is the Marriage ceremony so it has lots of red the colour for celebration. The room is fantastic – it’s not like any camping I have ever done before – this is camping in style! On arrival I get met by all the staff – including the Chef and my own personal Maasi butler called Lobbo. When it’s not raining they have big bonfires outside the mess tent. In my room I have a huge bed, electricity, shower (which they fill up with hot water on request) and flushing toilet! It’s amazing – and the food is fantastic – the pumpkin soup was to die for! At night when they come to turn the beds down they leave a nice hot water bottle in the bed with a muffin by the side of the bed in case they haven’t fed you enough and you get hungry in the middle of the night!

First days game drive started slowly until we came across a herd of 30 elephants with small babies crossing the track in front of us. We sat and watched them for a bit before coming across two lions the other side of the stream – a mother and daughter. There are lots of lions in the Serengeti (and I heard 3 of them roaring in the middle of the night!) but it’s hard to see them in the long grass. We drove on and saw a family of giraffes, lots of impalas and topis then didn’t see anything for ages. That was until we came round the corner and saw it, one of the 10 wonders of the world, the great wildebeest migration.

Wow is all I can say. Wildebeest as far as you can see – there are over 2.5million of them that migrate each year – the herd stretches over 40km! About 15% of the herd are actually zebras so you see one or two dotted about but what a sight. And how noisy too – they seem to honk at each other all the time! We sat there in the middle of it all for over an hour and then also had our lunch. We continued on and found a wildebeest carcass and two very full hyenas rolling in the mud having eaten as much as they could. I felt sorry for the wildebeest but it’s the law of nature I suppose – just wish hyenas would kill their prey before they start eating it!

Eventually we had to leave the wildebeests and pushed on. We saw a family of baboons where one of the males seemed to be playing with himself in front of his tiny baby! And some more giraffes, impalas and elephants. We then came across a small pride of lions. Two big males who looked so soft and cuddly and 5 females just lying in the grass. We watched them for a while before making our way back to camp. The journey was a bit easier today – partly because we knew where we were going and what was coming and partly due to the fact it wasn’t pelting with rain! Thomas now seems happy for us to stay here tomorrow night as long as we leave by 7am so there is time before my flight to dig ourselves out if we get stuck! Turns out he knows the camp manager from old so he is happy – plus he gets the same food as us and he likes it too!!!! He now says that it is the best camp he has stayed in!

Just as we crossed the river on the way to the camp we saw an old bull elephant pushing at an acacia tree. He managed to push it over (nearly blocking the river crossing in the process!) – he will only eat about 5-10% of the leaves before moving on to push down another tree. Apparently after a while the leaves change taste and he doesn’t like it! Fussy eater! Didn’t his mother ever tell him there were starving children in Ethiopia who would be glad of that food?

In the summer hyenas dig holes so they have somewhere to sleep in during the day. On leaving for our drive on Sunday morning we hit one of these old holes that was covered with grass and got stuck – we must have only just have made it over it the night before. With various bits of wood and the use of the high rise jack we managed to get out but it took over 45mins. Just as we had got out another truck arrived – typical!

During the day we came across a total of 15 lions in four separate prides – one of which was a mother with 2 cubs and another was a solitary tree climbing lion (only the females climb trees!). And we also came across my first leopard – which means that I have now seen all of the big five game animals! I was happy. She was sitting up in the branches of a tree. We heard that she wasn’t there for long though as some baboons came along getting revenge and chased her off. Leopards kill baboons during the night when they can’t see but during the day baboons are too strong for leopards.

We had lunch by the hippo pool – a convergence of three rivers which seems to make perfect conditions for hippos – I counted over 70 that were above water but many more were present – they keep surfacing and then disappearing which makes them very difficult to count! What I hadn’t realised was that hippos kill more humans than any other animal – they certainly are big creatures!

The drive back to the camp was much better as it hadn’t rained all day and the ground had dried up quite a lot in the sun which bodes well for tomorrow and getting to the airport. I was the only person that night in camp. Wasn’t a problem as the staff are so friendly – it just meant they didn’t apologise all the time for the other guests! It had surprised me how bad a reputation Indians have got in Tanzania – especially as I have some good friends who are Indian and are lovely and the couple I met in Tanga were nice. However this week I have found out why! They all seem to travel with hordes of children – not necessarily a problem unless (as they do) they don’t tell the camp the ages of the children (most camps have a minimum age limit!) and they let them run riot destroying the place. Also they come across as very arrogant and rude ordering the staff around like their personal slaves. And if they are not traveling with children, all they seem to do is smoke heavily and get drunk – again with no consideration for anybody else and treating the staff like slaves. I now understand why the drivers and hotels don’t like having Indian customers – it’s a real shame as they are giving their nation a bad name – nearly as bad as Brits in Spain – but not quite!

Leaving the camp was sad – they all came out to wave goodbye – it’s the first time I have left a tip for a hotel but they deserved it! On the way to the airport the drive to the main road was fine and said goodbye to the familes of giraffes, elephants, warthogs and impalas I had seen every day. Just before we go to the airport we spotted another leopard. This one was in a tree a bit closer to the road so I hope the pictures are a bit clearer.

Flight back to Tanga was uneventful and I’m now back in Korogwe and the heat again. I was so nice to have been in cooler climates for three weeks but I have also been fed so well my trousers are starting to feel tight so I needed to come back to Korogwe to eat less! I have no idea how Zoe managed to loose so much weight in Ethiopia – everyone I have met so far in Africa seems to have put on weight here! I blame our mothers for this – forcing us all to clear our plates all the time and building into a habit of eating everything put in front of you even if you are full! This isn’t good when you are in cultures where the hosts think they haven’t fed you enough if you leave a clear plate!

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About becksupeverest

Took a leave of absence from work and decided to work as a volunteer in Tanzania based in Korogwe, a small town in the northeast of the country (combined with some travels around East Africa). The project is to look at the cost base, strategy and business plan of a tree nursery NGO - one of the Gatsby Foundation projects.
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