Today we bid goodbye to the Plantation Lodge and set out for the first of our two mobile tented camp experiences (Liz looked longingly at the porcelain toilet in our suite at the Lodge before we left).
Serengeti Safari Camp is located in the Ndutu area of the Serengeti – about a 6 hour drive (but we turned it into a game drive so it was longer than a straight drive).
First up, you have probably figured out that Dickie is fascinated with the ground hunting raptor birds – dinosaurs in feathers. Here is his favourite at a long distance – the Secretary Bird, named for its splay of writer’s quill-like feathers hanging from the back of its neck
As one of those strange “life list” kind of things that you always wanted to do, we stopped at Olduvai Gorge (or Oldupai as they’re now spelling it). This is where Leakey discovered the earliest hominid fossils and established that we all did originate in Africa.
Then, as a real surprise, Felix drove us down the Gorge (road? who needs a road?) It was a journey through history as we traversed the millions of years of strata.
This poor fellow’s last trip………..
Then, staying off road, we drove across a vast sandy area (Felix announced that only a “confident” guide drives in this area – what does that mean??!!) on our way to see the shifting sands. We are fascinated by dunes – especially barcane dunes. This one has been traveling across the plane for about 5 years – it has moved a kilometre – it doesn’t look quite as neat in the photo…unfortunately…but it is crawling across the plane like some giant amoeba, flowing with the prevailing winds.
We’ll talk about Felix’s eyes in more detail in a moment, but here’s an early example. We’re bouncing along in the truck and suddenly Felix stops and tells us to stand up quietly. At first glance we see nothing
Then we adjust and see
The baby is too young to run away from a predator so the mother has a signal she gives it to freeze – most predators use motion as their signal. So we could get very close to the baby while it was in freeze mode.
Shortly thereafter we stop for lunch….we are officially nowhere. The only requirement is that it be shady so we’re under the only trees for miles. Tables and chairs are assembled; food and drink appear and we sit in the middle of nowhere eating a charming lunch (from Plantation Lodge) and being civilized. This process will repeat itself with great frequency and greater delight over coming days.
Liz digression here – female readers may be wondering about the – ahem – facilities in the middle of nowhere. As regular readers know, we are not experienced campers so I don’t regularly bound into the bush. And when you drink as much coffee and beer (not together, of course) as I do – this issue was weighing on my mind. But my genius friend April solved all that months ago with her present of “Pee Mates” (warning – possibly too much information to follow) – little plasticized tubes that mean you can stand and pee (I’ve always maintained that when women learn to stand and pee we can take over the world). Pee Mates are great – especially when the beer all comes in 1/2 litre bottles!
A Massai herding child appears (remember, we are nowhere) and Felix shares water and a photo opp with him. The child should be at school but the parents choose to have him herd their cattle and goats. Big problem for Tanzania and more specifically the Massai
Our “animal du jour” is giraffes. We still care for lions and zebras and gnus and birds, et al .. (well except for the tse tse flies who have never seen an Off Repellant ad and are therefore unaware that they shouldn’t bite you when you have Off on (neat oxymoron)….but giraffes are the animals of the moment as we come down the from Ngorongoro highlands into the Serengeti plains. There are a lot of them!
But the best part about giraffes is watching them move. We keep meaning to take a video – will do so at our next opportunity but as we write this we have just returned from a fine lunch at a South African winery who had no giraffe on the menu.
Felix has a dangerous and fearless sense of humour. We are watching giraffes who are standing digesting while Liz and Dick pontificate on the intestinal processes of African Ungulates. Felix decides that we – and the giraffes – are getting boring, stops the truck and hops out and chases a large giraffe – resulting in the following series.
Time to discuss Felix – he’s not actually a human guide, he’s an acronym for a new Dick Cheney/Haliburton “Hunting System”
Find Every Lion In Xtremis
Felix – while driving the truck over the proverbial “roads to hell”, and answering Liz and Dick’s endless questions about the Tanzanian education system, and avoiding running over a snoozing zebra – is constantly scanning the plain and the sky. Suddenly an announcement.
That rock on the horizon is actually a hyena and the dot in the sky is a vulture and both of them will converge – THERE!….and we’re off. The truck leaves the road that isn’t a road and lurches across the plain. After a bumpy ride we arrive at the first of many post kills. The following is a video of the hyena and its meal
Following is a composite from various post kill photos. There is a hierarchy of players – the primary killers (lions, cheetahs and quite often hyenas) the top of the food chain scavengers (hyenas) then at least 3 tiers of vultures (the big nasty brown ones, the intermediary spotted and the smaller browns). At the bottom of the chair are the jackals and Maribou storks….and inevitably the insects and micro organisms who turn everything back to dirt (except the skulls….they remain).
We’ve not seen an actual kill, so this phase is missing (we both admit to not regretting seeing Nate the Gnu or Wally the Warthog torn apart) – but hyenas and kill are common. Their massive jaws can crack bone to eat the marrow, The sound of cracking bone is the Muzak of the Serengeti
More videos to come in a day or so – we’re off to swim with Great White sharks!!!!!!