Safari has been, by unanimous vote, the best week of our trip – no contest. I will have to apologize in advance that both my vocabulary and my point and shoot camera are woefully inadequate to the task of sharing our experience with you. Every vista was spectacular. Every game drive packed full of beautiful and exotic animals, often in mind numbing quantities.
We slept mostly in tents (albeit quite fancy ones) in pristine natural environs. There were never more than 14 guests total in our camps and sometimes we had them all to ourselves. We were served meals by friendly camp staff that taught us rudimentary Swahili and built us roaring campfires they referred to as bush TV. After dinner they would escort us to our tents as lions and other predators sometimes roamed the camps at night.
We stayed one night in a lodge on a working coffee plantation. The views were yet again lovely, but the best part of this accommodation was the pool. Safari is very dirty business. Dust sticks to your sunscreen, and on top of that you must frequently apply bug spray to attempt to thwart the bugs – most especially the biting tse-tse fly. Add to this that water is very precious in eastern Africa and showers are required to be extremely short. Flushing is on a very necessary basis only.
Every day we would set out to drive the parks in our converted landcruiser with our driver/guide Kessy, searching for animals to observe and photograph. Kessy was a huge repository of information, and we learned as we bounced around in our seats. The big five is a term leftover from the days of hunting safaris rather than photographic ones, and refers to the five most valuable animals when dead – elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo. In addition giraffe, zebra, hyena, hippos, cheetah, baboons and wart hogs are high on everyone’s list to see. We saw them all, plus the huge heards of wildebeast that make up the world’s most famous migration. Sometimes the animals were far away (park regulations require that vehicles stay on the roads) but often they were very close, lions in particular would roam around the tires of our truck. I'm sure you know a group of lions is referred to as a pride. But did you know a group of hippos is a float? And a group of giraffe is a stretch? (except for you John Watson - we are sure you already knew :)
One of the highlights of our trip were the walking safaris we went on with our two Masaii guides. They spoke very good English, and we compared notes on everything from body piercings to marriage to religion and politics while traversing a wide-open piece of the very scenic Ngorongoro conservation area.
Our last accommodation, Camp Lewana in the Serengeti, was our favorite. The food was good, the service excellent and our fellow guests super fun (hellooo to Brooke, Lauren and Courtney!) After dinner the staff would sing and dance around the table and we all got up to join them. They said we were the only group ever to do so. All those other people were definitely missing out.
It is now the too quick end of our 8 days of safari, and we are headed to Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania, to rest up and enjoy our last days with my parents and the pristine waters off the African coast.
My best advice from our whole trip thus far is, if you have the ability to go to East Africa, you should immediately make plans to do so!