Leaving the Serengeti we moved north to a Nomad Tanzania camp on a private reserve in Loliondo – about a 4 hour drive but we stopped alot.
We’re generally totally alone on the plain, but rarely a truck rumbles by, spewing a contrail of dust. The amazing part is that in the rainy season the plain develops areas that can best be described as “quick mud” – like quick sand, but gooier. Trucks sink 3 or 4 feet until they hit the underlying bedrock. Drivers then spend 2 or 3 days digging their truck out by hand. That’s why there are 3 drivers in most trucks. The plain is littered with the open graves where trucks were once buried
Along the way there were giraffes (including some beautiful young)
And of course – herds of wildebeest ……….
…and zebras and impalas – could never get a shot of the impala defying gravity with their amazing leaps
And a female warthog with piglets, who adopted a wonderfully prayerful pose while rooting in the soil
Felix knew that Dickie loved reptiles so we stopped for every one. Never saw a live snake – just a dead puff adder. A favourite was a large leopard turtle. Beautiful shell pattern – and big. Worth a lot on the illegal pet market
We also stopped for lizards – occasionally following them into abandoned aardvark burrows
Our new camp at Loliondo used yurts rather than tents. Remember yurts from Grade 4 World Geography?
Same wonderful service; very good food; open bar….and the yurts are big and even more luxurious. Clearly you want to be a boy scout in Mongolia.
(And once again we are the only guest – and Sarah has preceded us to Loliondo so we know the conversation will be great!)
Below our yurt, with sleeping area and washroom
At Loliondo, in addition to game drives we would have 4 memorable experiences – a walk in the bush, a night drive, a visit to a Masai village and dinner with the camp staff.
First the walk in the bush. There were 5 in our merry band – Liz & Dick, Felix, John Lula (the ranger/guard) and a Masai guard.
John is carrying a very big gun…believe it was a .459 calibre – certainly close to a half inch bore. The bullets were appropriately also very large – about 5 inches long.
The Masai’s spear is not a decoration. The edge of that long leaf blade is sharp enough to shave with. And it was really heavy. He mainly walked behind Dickie who was concerned he might be the one clumsy Masai – one stumble and it would be “Dick on a stick”.
The reason for all the firepower is – you guessed it – Elephants and Buffalo (the “E/B Factor”). No one cares about lions or snakes.
Our briefing was simple – if confronted by an E or B “Do Not Run”.
After due consideration Liz and Dick decided this was all a ploy. While we stood our ground, the other 3 would run like hell and leave us as buffalo bait.
Now you’ll see in the following pic that John has his pants tucked in his socks. Nothing is said about this; but Liz and Dick notice and promptly tuck our pants in our socks to avoid creepy crawlies, snakes, poison ivy, or whatever John our heavily armed guard is trying to avoid.
At the end of the walk we ask John what lethal animal or plant we had so cleverly avoided by following his lead - “Oh” he replied. “These are new pants and I didn’t want to get wildebeest shit on the cuffs”. Danger averted.
It’s very different walking on the ground instead of standing 8 feet high through the roof of a 3 ton truck.
It’s much harder to see things. Trees and brush get in the way. And the animals move faster than you thought. They seem more cautious of us than when we’re in the truck. Predators move on foot, not in vehicles.
But the big difference is that discovery that the savannah floor is full of holes. Bunny holes – the ideal size to snap an ankle; warthog burrows – suitable for interring a mafia hit; all the way up to aardvark excavations where you could park a Smart Car. Liz and Dick watch their own feet and the feet of the person ahead.
It’s interesting but definitely not conducive to taking photographs.
Liz decides that if we’re going to stare at the ground we might as well be productive. She decides to take a picture of each of the myriad of wildflowers that no one notices until they constantly stare at the ground
But stopping and starting with the Masai with the razor sharp spear, a pace behind, does not seem like a great idea. Sanity prevails. Flowers wait for another day.
We return to where we had seen a disembowelled zebra kill the afternoon before – that day we waited to see if the lioness would return to her kill but she would not as long as we were there (bad photo below – somewhat gory)
Today – there is not a SPECK of anything where the zebra had lain – just some blood stains on the grass. The veld cleans itself with frightening rapidity.
We close with a touching experience – a Grant’s gazelle calf, only a few hours old, is lying is the grass. We almost step on it. It has no scent at this age and by lying motionless has the best chance to avoid predators. The cat’s optic wiring is sensitive to movement and they see in black and white.
The calf is the definition of innocence. Like an allegorical Renaissance painting
And Liz – with the gazelle in the background
The walk was an interesting experience – not photo productive, but we learned and laughed.