I’ve been back from my travels for a week now and the photos are starting to filter in from the under water camera enthusiasts with whom I was scuba diving.
And then there are the 600 pics I took in my two weeks with Kelsey, about 400 of them from our safari. In retrospect, I can’t get over how many different types of beautiful animals I saw in a few weeks.
I started with the amazing underwater world of fish, coral and other creatures and then proceeded to the new-to-me world of shockingly strange and beautiful birds (Kelsey’s comment was “Mom, you’re a budding ornithologist”)
and then, of course, the incredible variety and quantity of the African mammals, the antelope – from eland to dik dik, cats – lion, leopard, and cheetah, to graceful giraffes, eloquent elephants, harassing hyenas, beady-eyed buffalo and so forth. My pleasure in alliteration drove Kelsey nuts. The wildebeest and zebra migration was in full force in the planes of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area so we got to witness tens of thousands of these large animals on their annual voyage.
The Northern Parks
One of the pleasures of the safari was that each national park was so different. We visited Tarangire (also known as Elephant National Park), Lake Manyara, Serengeti, and Ngorongoro Crater. One of the challenges was how much driving we did and how tiring it was. We stayed in both tented camps and lodges. The tented camps are much smaller with a couple dozen guests at most and, therefore, one is more likely to have animals wandering up to the tents at night.
New Years on Safari
We were in the Serengeti Wilderness tented camps on New Year’s Eve. There was no acknowledgement that it was new years by the small staff of Tanzanian men who ran it, which was a little disappointing. Kelsey and I were in bed by 10pm. I awoke at about 12:10 am to the sound of a very large animal munching brush right outside our tent. Then, I realized there were two of them, one on each side of the tent. It was most certainly two Cape buffalo, the most dangerous of the “big five” animals.
The rule is not to leave your tent if you hear an animal outside; just stay inside. The camp provides a whistle should a guest feel they are in danger and need to get someone’s attention. I wasn’t really that worried but I did giggle several times during the 15 or 20 minutes of munching until the two buffalo wandered away – I’m usually not a giggler so it could have been nerves. Kelsey was not amused. This was truly a unique way to start the New Year!
Almost as exotic as the animals are the people of the Maasai tribe who live and farm within the Ngorongoro conservation area, as well as many other parts of the country. The Maasai, more than any other of the120 plus tribes in Tanzania, have made great efforts to maintain their traditional lifestyle and dress. They are pastoralists, or wandering keepers of livestock, and live in circular mud and straw huts out in the fields.
They favor bright red or royal blue blankets as clothing, though some still wear a more muted brown or dark red, and produce and wear elaborate beaded jewelry around their necks, arms, and legs.
I had a strong desire to stop our guide every time I saw these cheerfully clad people along the road but Kelsey’s disapproval of handing out small bills in exchange for taking photos prevented me from indulging my photography habit. I know that many photo books have already been published on this tribe but I can’t help but want to create my own.
I managed only one stop of our Land Cruiser for a Maasai photo and it is of a teenage boy who is getting ready for his circumcision ceremony. By collecting money from roadside photographers, he can contribute to the cost of the ceremony. He has likely just emerged from a month of seclusion with elder men from his tribe and other boys his age in which the men educate the boys about their role in the tribe. Maybe kind of equivalent to the bar mitzvah ceremony in the Jewish tradition. At least this boy didn’t have to learn hebrew!