Feb 25 to Feb 27
Very good Bombardier Q400 took us from Kigali to Kilimanjaro Airport in less than a couple of hours.
Late arrival and off to the Kia Lodge where we were told to 'relish' in our stay.
The comedown from the six stars at the Kigali Serena to the two stars at the Kia Lodge was palpable –damp concrete floors, a shower where the shower head had only two jets functioning, one for the hot and one for the cold, so it was a major challenge to jump from scalding to freezing single streams of water and all the while attempt to wash -but who cares!
With five hours sleep we were up at 04:45 for the one-hour drive to Arusha Airport and onwards to wilderness again.
Met Letizia and Ric at the lodge and everyone got reacquainted.
Smooth sailing single engine plane with two legs of thirty minutes each delivered us to Ndutu Airstrip (emphasis on strip) and a five-minute drive from our extraordinary &Beyond Serengetti Under Canvas. in a Bedouin style tent with ensuite bathroom with outside bucket shower. There were nine tents at our campsite, which is run by &Beyond and it is truly extraordinary. Service and attention is top notch while the food is outstanding.
Unfortunately some rain has bothered us and so there was a lot of dampness everywhere. But after the rain always comes the sunshine and so the morning game drive on day two was perfect. Note to blog: Our Guide and driver for F-1! We were entertained with what is described as Tanzania massages as he gunned the four-wheel drive though major ruts and water puddles Hussein is practicing through the plains as all the while we were getting soaked by the driving tropical storm – well still better than Montreal’s blizzards.
Saw 278,628 wildebeest on our first game drive. As we explained to our driver we got the exact number by counting the legs and dividing by four. Close-ups with giraffe, impala, many birds, gazelle, a few hippos et al.On the return towards camp we visited an active Maasai Compound where about 125 live. Truly nomadic, these are the descendants of a fierce and proud African people. Still they live without electricity or even kerosene lighting. Simple but highly functional huts thatched from sturdy vines usually house four including two children. There was a small fire-pit for cooking in each abode. Water had to be hauled from whatever the source. Camp is moved twice a year and the principal activity is herding cows and goats for consumption. The Maasai’s have discovered the value of the US dollar from curious tourists, so it is US$100 per vehicle up front to visit, converse, ask whatever amount of questions and see a hut.
We were entertained by a tribal dance in which Sylvia, Diane and Letizia participated. The men showed us the traditional jumping dance of Maasai warriors. Frankly most everyone appeared a bit bored by the whole production but as it brought in some money for communal use, they went through the motions.
This was an interesting stop for sure especially given the history of the Maasai, but in some ways it is sad as inevitably progress is catching up and closing in. Just like the plight of indigenous populations around the world, one wonders how long this can last?
Our real purpose to visit the Serengetti plains was to see as much wildlife especially the big predators as possible. On day one we had good views of a male and female lion resting in the grass but there wasn’t too much activity.
Therefore a major trip highlight was our very close encounter with a huge male lion on our second game drive. He was followed out into the grassy area where we were parked by an also very large lioness. We were the only vehicle present and had unobstructed views from say 20-30 yards. The lions communicated to one another through deep guttural sounds that could be heard at great distances especially in the clear and silent African morning.
It was thrilling to be in total silence and to hear this and to see the lions walking so close by.
Especially impressive was waiting as the lioness directly approached us from say fifty yards en route to the male after being summoned. As our video clearly shows, she came within two or three feet of the side of our truck on the way by. The power is so obvious and the animals so magnificent.
Not hard to imagine what these animals can do to their prey and woe betide anyone who is ever attached. No chance whatsoever – they are lightening fast fierce, wild and love meat.
Note to blog: later in our trip we observed some idiot outside his vehicle jumping and waving his arms to see if he could get a resting lioness to get up. We reckon he was thirty of forty yards away and had the lioness made a charge or the male lion that was no doubt lurking somewhere nearby, the expression ‘dead meat’ may unfortunately been apt.
As a side note, we thought we were in for some lion hanky panky when the two met up, as there was some serious sniffing and rubbing going on. Alas, despite our urgings they decided to separate and lay down for a snooze.
Came across a giraffe carcass that stank to high heavens to put it mildly – no idea how it died but the buzzards will make a feast of it.
Another favorite moment was observing a lioness with three young cubs relaxing and playing in a thicket in close proximity to the remains of a wildebeest that must have been downed the night before.
Getting ready for the afternoon game drive. Most everyone is having a lay-down except for the birds and the three wildebeest that are close-by our tent. Really want to see the elephants – only time will tell.
Well time was told and there were no elephants to be seen. Had a good viewing of three cheetahs from say fifteen yards. A mother and two teenage offspring. They were resting in the hot afternoon and weren’t too worried about us. Some great pics as the mother would often sit up and alertly check the plains for predators (and there are many for the cheetah) while the cubs rested.
There were hippos aplenty and so many beautiful coloured birds. Monkeys and baboons abound. We were a little disappointed as we thought we were to witness the famous river crossing of the gazillion wildebeest and their confrontation with crocodiles, but, we were told this was not the right place nor the right time of year for that. We did witness the very young wildebeests, as this was their ‘dropping’ season.
There are two million wildebeest on the plains and we were amazed to see a galloping herd that stretched for as far as the eye could see right to the edge of the horizon. At night they stop and form big herds that circle to protect themselves form the, lions, hyenas and their other predators.
The Serengeti Plains are beautiful. Vast stretches on grasslands interspersed with rivers, mud holes, lakes, flattop acacia trees and a vast array of constantly moving wildlife. It is the stuff that movies are made of and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
The &Beyond Under Canvass Tents are a whole other story. Here we were in the middle of the Serengeti, in our own very luxurious tent with flush toilets (although they took five minutes to refill after each flush). African carpets on the floors, beautiful carved wood furniture and a butler to ensure you lacked for nothing. Of course, no going out alone after dark and we did hear buffalo grazing adjacent to our tent during the night.
We are very fortunate to have been able to experience this including the tropical downpours and the sea of mud that surrounded our tents. We had to wear rubber boots to navigate to and from the main camp to our tent. It all added to the excitement and intrigue especially for Sylvia who decided to wear her regular shoes out to the main tent for breakfast and departure our last day. Well the slippery red mud got the best of her and she took a dive! Made quite a mess of her clean pants but it all ended well and was good for some good-natured laughs.
Off to the airstrip and a twenty minute hop to Manyara for our last two days of Safari at the world renown Ngorongoro Crater
in a Bedouin style tent with ensuite bathroom with outside bucket shower. Your stay includes three meals daily, soft drinks, house wines, local brand spirits and beers, teas and coffees, scheduled safari activities, refreshments on game drives and laundry.