When our time at Nyakato Health Centre was over, eight of us ventured onward to the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater. We were divided into three 4-wheel drive land rovers. The Brekke’s were in one, with driver, David. The honeymooners, Sue and Keith (happy one-year anniversary) were with Freddie. The glamorous Serengeti dames (Lori, Cheryl and me) were with our dashing driver, Adam (aka Cuba Gooding, Jr.).
It was a long drive to the Serengeti National Park and along the way, our vehicle with the Serengeti dames got a flat tire! Fortunately, each vehicle is equipped with two spare tires, so Adam got to work while the three of us found a little shade under an Acacia tree. Unfortunately, spare tires don’t help much if the jack doesn’t work – Adam was unable to raise the vehicle high enough to change tires. He called Freddie, who was at least 15 miles ahead of us, and he came to our rescue. Away we went, again…
We arrived at the gate of the Serengeti, the drivers registered us, and then we had another lengthy drive to our “tented” resort. All vehicles need to be off the park roads and at their destination by 7pm and we just made that deadline. Adam explained that rangers at the gate are in contact with all the lodges to insure that people arrive safely at their destination. If not, rangers go out looking for them so they are not roaming around the Serengeti at night.
Our “tented” camp was certainly unlike any tent I’ve ever been in! The camp consists of a large tented lobby/dining area/bar and then several smaller “tents” where we stayed. They really were tents – with canvas walls and ceilings however they had solid wood frames and foundations, electricity and plumbing – even ceiling fans! Since it was dark when we arrived we had to have security accompany us to our tents and then escort us back again to the dining room for our evening meal. There are no fences around the camp so animals are free to roam in the area. Our evening meal was absolutely fantastic! For the first time in my life I ate Blue Parrot fish, and it was some of the best fish I’ve ever had. (I hope I didn’t eat Nemo – I don’t think he was a Parrot fish.)
The next day we headed out to see the animals, and we were not disappointed. First we were greeted by hundreds of zebras, impalas, gazelles and wildebeasts. This was followed by Masai giraffes (tallest giraffes in the world) that were so close to our vehicles we could practically touch them. They certainly didn’t care that we were taking pictures as fast as our cameras could click – maybe they liked being the center of attention! The tsetse flies got us, but actually they were less of a problem than I thought they would be – but those bites still hurt! We also saw cape buffalo, many baboons, dikdiks, a few elephants, topis, wart hogs, and hippos.
After we exited the park and were driving along, it happened again – another flat tire!!! And of course, Adam’s jack still did not work. The good thing this time is that Adams’ vehicle was the first one of the trio and not the last, so we just stopped for a few minutes until David and Freddie caught up to us. Within the minutes, those guys had the tire changed and away we went.
We then stopped at a Masai village and were given a tour of their homes and school. The Masai are so fascinating – there are over 120 different tribes in Tanzania and the Masai are the most traditional. Their diet consists of animal blood and milk and meat – that’s it! No grains, fruits, vegetables, etc. Their lives are spent out on the plains with their goats, sheep and cows – and those are the only animals they eat. No wild game. Wives are bought for the price of a cow – a young, beautiful woman may even sell for 25 cows. The girls/women have no choice but to marry the man who buys them – and the husbands can have many wives, if they are wealthy enough to purchase them. Learning about the Masai tribe certainly made me greatful to have been born in the United States!
Our second night was at Serena Safari Lodge on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. What a great place to stay! Again we had a fantastic meal – I had Nile perch. The next morning started early as we headed down a steep, dirt road into the bottom of the crater. The zebras and wildebeasts were everywhere. As the day wore on, we were fortunate enough to see “the big five” – lions, one leopard sleeping in the crotch of a tree, four black rhinos, more elephants and lots of cape buffalo. The lions looked quite content and were resting quietly under a tree. We soon found out why – nearby were the remains of a wildebeast? zebra? The lions were done with it and now the vultures, jackals and hyenas were having a feast.
By early afternoon, we had to head up and out of the crater – via a very steep, rutted dirt road. For me who doesn’t like heights, it was a bit unnerving, but we were soon on our way to Arusha. Along the way we passed through many rural areas and villages. It was nice to see the markets and children on their way home from school. We also saw several Masai boys that were dressed in black and had their faces painted white. These young men had recently been circumcised and were now entering adulthood. They had to spend 90 days away from their village as part of this ritual. When they return to their village, there will be a big party and these “men” will now be free to buy a wife (if they have a cow to buy one!)
We made it to Arusha and went on to KIA Lodge near the airport where we had some “day rooms” so we could take a quick shower before heading to the airport for our flights home. In a wonderful farewell gesture from Tanzania, we were given a fantastic view of Mt. Kiliminjaro. The summit was clear and beautiful. I kept thinking “Kevin climbed to the top of that!?!?” Way to go, Kevin – that was quite an accomplishment. I’m proud to say that I know you!
In closing, I’d like to say the entire trip was fantastic and I enjoyed it all! Many thanks to all the members of our great team and to our great leaders – Jeff and Sally. Your work and dedication to this project is so very much appreciated…