The searing sun beat down as the wind whipped against our skin. We left a cloud of red dust behind us as we tore across the land, in our white safari van. Our heads poked out the top, eyes focused…we were in pursuit of something, but what…we didn’t know. Seconds before, a Swahili voice crackled across the radio and Carlos, our driver, took off like a shot. The road was very bumpy and we were wishing we had buckled ourselves in.
Lions, eleven of them in fact, were tucked in together on a sandy hill underneath a small bush. They blended in with the surroundings and you could barely see them. The safari vans were lined up along the road. Other drivers had heard the same call we had, and the whole park seemed to have congregated around the lions in minutes. The lions didn’t pay us any mind, as they yawned, stretched and snoozed in the afternoon heat. Wow, our first glimpse of lions in the wild.
We had seen our fair share of animals before we headed to the camp for lunch; birds, crocodiles, hippos, gazelles, elephants, waterbuck, zebra, monkeys and baboons. Right before we headed into camp we saw Jumbo the Elephant, it must have been the biggest elephant in the whole park. Even Carlos our driver said he was big, and he sees elephant everyday! We’d had a full day and it wasn’t over yet.
When we arrived at our camp for lunch we were greeted with cool towels and cold pineapple juice. What a treat after the hot and dusty journey we had been on. The sun was scorching and we consumed great volumes of water, which also meant we had to stop for washroom breaks. Luckily, we timed them well and there was no need for me to duck behind a termite hill posing as bait for whatever fierce creature lurked there. We enjoyed a meal fit for a king, where we were able to view elephants at the watering hole, and cooled off in the swimming pool. There wasn’t much time to spare before our evening game drive began.
The sun seemed even hotter during our evening drive, if that could be possible. We hadn’t been out long when the radio crackled and Carlos told us to hold on. We tore off across the grasslands, making one corner on two wheels. Ally looked at me with excitement in her eyes. “We are after something Mom, I wonder what it is?” Carlos had this way of building the anticipation. We knew it must be something big, but he never told us in advance. I suppose that was his way of avoiding disappointment. Two cheetahs were the objects of our rush. We were closer to them than the lions and there weren’t as many Land Rovers and vans lined up along the road. It was amazing watching them basking in the late day sun surrounded by antelope. They were apparently not too hungry! We got to know that when Carlos was focused on the radio, something big was about to happen.
We also stopped off at a Maasai village. The Maasai people are known as the warrior tribe in Africa and are nomadic cattle herders. They are the only tribe to have kept most of their traditions and continue to wear traditional dress. Their Shukas are woven cotton, often in red plaid and their shoes are made from old car tires. They often wear fancy necklaces, earrings and skin tattoos. We decided to pass on their preferred lunch of cow blood mixed with milk. Ally and Meg were adorned in beaded jewelry and joined in on a traditional dance, jumping as high as they could. We were also shown how to start a fire with two sticks and the ‘sheet of a donke’. It took us a bit to realize they had their vowel sounds mixed up. A Maasai guarded the grounds of our second Safari camp, which was a good thing as the camp was not fenced. The evening before, a leopard had wandered through camp and elephant were known to appear as well. We took the warning seriously not to travel around camp without the escort of the Maasai. YIKES!
The next morning we were up with the sunrise and out for another morning game drive. The radio was quiet as we passed from Tsavo East to Tsavo West National Park. The landscape changed, the vegetation was green and lush and there were mountains in the distance. The watering holes were abundant and it looked like this would be the land of plenty, but where were all the animals? Our morning had been pretty quiet; we saw lots of antelope and gazelle and the odd dik-dik, but nothing really exciting. Mark had resorted to shooting photos of the mountains, landscapes and baobab trees. We were travelling at a fairly quick pace as animals were scarce, and I started to doze off. All of us nearly went through the front windshield when Carlos slammed on the brakes, threw the van in reverse and told us to be silent.
There, before our eyes, was a leopard lazing on the branch of a baobab tree. What a sight! We captured the moment on camera and within seconds Carlos was on the radio. Another safari van was coming down the road behind us. Carlos gave instructions for them to approach slowly, but it was too late. The vehicle spooked the leopard and we were its only viewers that morning. Carlos hadn’t seen a leopard in two years! We felt so lucky!
|Hmmm, what are you guys up to?|
The days were jammed packed with excitement and the animals and views were spectacular. We feasted on gourmet meals and fell into bed exhausted in the evenings. Seeing Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance, during our last game drive, was an added bonus. What a thrill it was to have been on safari in Africa!
|Some of the photos taken at our camps.|
|If you look very closely, you can see Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance.|