In this post, we will be going through days 2 and 3 of the game drive in Tanzania. You can find Part 1 here where we visited Tarangire National Park and spotted 3 out of 5 of the “big five” list of animals. Days 2 and 3 will take you through Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Lake Manyara National Park.
The safari game drive was what my friend and I did after climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and celebrating Singapore’s 50th national day in the process.
A day on game drive
A typical day on game drive begins with a breakfast at your safari lodge prepared by your personal cook. Your guide will then collect you from your lodge to begin the day’s game drive.
On day 2 , our guide, Innocent brought my friends and I to Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) which was designated a Unesco world heritage site in 1979. Its most prominent feature? The crater. In essence, it is a large volcanic caldera teeming with life.
The featured image of this post was taken in this crater and you can see a ring of mist all around it. This didn’t dissipate until it was after noon and made for some tricky driving while we were on our way.The route taken by the vehicle is as such: It goes up to the crater rim, enters the mist and slowly winds down into the crater.
The NCA is unique because while it protects wildlife, it also allows for human in-habitation.
The Maasai are a cattle, goat and sheep herding people and living in the NCA afforded them to right to go down to the crater to graze their animals. During wet seasons, they move into the plains but during dry seasons, they tended to stay in the adjacent woodlands.
You may visit the Maasai Cultural Bomas elsewhere in the NCA to experience Maasai culture but it was not an option my friends and I chose.
And now… the animals.
One of the first encounters were these zebras and they were just lined up perfectly for us to take our shot. I remember for this group, they were reasonably near the vehicle. If you were to take some time to scrutinize the photo, you would realize that the two zebras at the back were brown-striped instead of black!
Poof! There goes my childhood pictures of white coated zebras with pure black stripes.
Innocent dropped another bombshell on us – beneath their pure white coats, the zebra’s skin is actually black.
This was shaping up to a be a great day of (un)learning and before long we found ourselves in a similar situation as yesterday. With a crackle of the radio, we were in the midst of dozens of safari Landrovers.
The reason, we discovered later, was that there were lionesses about hunting. Excited, we thought this could be “the chase”, National Geographic style.
We then spent the next half an hour or so watching a group of 4 lionesses tracking a stray zebra. It was bizarre as the lionesses seem to just take their time admiring their prey which was a contrast to the high intensity chase sequences seen on TV.The zebra eventually got away and the lionesses slung in between our vehicles, coming close enough to enable some really close-up shots.
Calling it quits, Innocent drove away for us to see more animals elsewhere.
While little has been said of dying, old age and disease is real in the animal kingdom. In order to make it easier for them to graze , these older buffaloes tended to live near where the green grass thrived.
Mortality thus reminded, we drove on to our lunch area where we could reflect on life.But first, a sneak peek at our lunch!
This is a typical lunch you might expect on a safari game drive. You’ll get an egg sandwich, fried chicken wing, biscuits, muffin and a fruit juice box. The fruit juice box will also be very familiar to you if have climbed Kilimanjaro as well.
As there have been previous reports of eagles circling overhead and stealing lunches, Innocent suggested that we ate our lunch in the vehicle – something we dutifully did.
After admiring the hippopotamuses twiddling their ears in the lake near our vehicle after our lunch, we set off again.
The dark knight
Suddenly there was a flurry of activity on the radio and after a short spell of wondering whether or not we were about to be thrown from the vehicle – we did not get thrown out – we arrived to a herd of Zebras. Again.
“Rhino in the distance,” Innocent declared, pointing. It subsequently took a lot of gesturing, clarifying and asking before we finally saw it. Even with a 20X zoom, it was barely visible.
The black rhinoceros population in the crater dwindled from 108 in 1964 to 1966 to 11-14 in 1995. Though far away, we were fortunate to be able to sneak a glimpse of this endangered species. It is said that because they are so endangered, rangers were permitted to kill other animals in defense of the black rhinoceros; This is some thing that they were not permitted to do for other animals.
Leaving the Black rhinoceros, we were just short of the elusive last of the Big Five. Thus far we had in chronological order encountered the African elephant, Cape buffalo, the lion and most recently the Black rhinoceros. We were just missing one – the leopard.
Just as we were thinking about the leopard we encountered a celebrity in our next animal. If you thought The Lion King references ended in the Kilimanjaro post, you are sorely mistaken. Presenting Pumbaa , the young warthog.
See there? Pumbaa!
While Pumbaa was almost an exact copy of what I was in The Lion King, I was unable to recognize hyenas in their natural form. I was also unable to ascertain that hyenas make that laughing sound that birthed the phrase “laughing hyena” which was a pity. On hindsight, I guess leaving them un-agitated was just fine for us.
We had a fruitful day at the crater and winding back up the road to the crater rim, we snuck in one last shot of the crater from on high. If you notice, there is a small white patch at the left hand side of the picture – a sand storm
Lake Manyara National Park
Day 3 repeated the cycle in day 2 but saw us instead at Lake Manyara National Park. To be perfectly honest, by then, I was tired out by the dusty conditions of the drive and the rocky ride in the vehicle we were in. It was good thing that my friends and I decided on a 3 day safari game drive instead of something that was longer.
Lake Manyara is famous for their tree climbing lions which try as we might, did not have a chance to observe. Defeated by the lack of activity on the radio and also the general quiet of the guides we met, Innocent took us to the far end of Lake Manyara – Maji Moto board walk.
Here, we saw a whole host of birds, only some of which are pictured below.
While we may not have seen quite as many animals as Tarangire National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Lake Manyara makes up for it with its picturesque beauty.
The trip to Lake Manyara National Park was a short one and before long we headed back to the lodge for lunch and it was time for us to make the long journey back to Moshi, where we started.
Climbing Kilimanjaro was one of the highlights and more challenging of my holiday treks. And that is well and good. But it is through understanding the people and their culture that we truly make the transition from travelling just to acquire new experiences to really experiencing the moment and making the connection to something that is greater than our ourselves.
On this trip, my friend and I met with Innocent, one of the most humble, intelligent and down-to-earth personalities of the trip and by the end of the trip come to know him as a friend. I did not know it at that time, but his positive outlook on life, love for his work and humility was infectious and had an impact in how I viewed work and life.
Where will your next journey take you?
In a future post, I will take readers through our route to Kilimanjaro airport, our unscheduled night in Kenya and the process for claiming a delayed flight.