Tanzania: Northern Serengeti – Day 6

“Nothing but breathing the air of Africa, and actually walking through it, can communicate the indescribable sensations.”
– William Burchell (English explorer)

Northern Serengeti – Day 6

October 04, 2018

Our second day in the Northern Serengeti started by hearing the most soothing East African accented “Hello” (pronounced as a deep and soft Hu-loww) spoken softly outside our tent. This was our morning wake-up call that announced the arrival of tea or coffee and cookies to start our day. Once dressed, we headed to the dining tent for a breakfast that would have anyone who took all that was offered sleeping through the day like a lion.

As relaxing as that sounded, sleeping through the day was not on our schedule. After breakfast, we joined our guide Raymond and climbed aboard our Toyota Land Cruiser to join another family sharing the vehicle with us that day. It was late in the season and the large masses of wildebeest had already crossed, however talk among the safari guides was that it looked like there would be a small group of wildebeest crossing the Mara River today. So we drove north towards the Mara River to see.

Along the way, we stopped to watch a wake of vultures fighting over a wildebeest carcass and a small herd of elephants having a morning meal.

Soon after, we arrived at the Mara River and saw the wildebeest. They were gathering in the clearing above the river but were were cautiously waiting. Roughly a dozen other vehicles were also in the area, so we found a good place to park and waited.

Over the next hour the wildebeest continued to gather in the clearing. After even more waiting, they slowly began to walk towards the river and started to gather along its banks. Sensing the crossing was about to begin, the waiting vehicles started their engines and began slowly inching forward to gain a better vantage –  while keeping enough distance to ensure they wouldn’t spook the herd.

Unfortunately, one vehicle got too close. As predicted, the herd retreated back to the large clearing and waited. Knowing that it would be a while before the herd attempted to cross again, Raymond asked if we wanted to drive back across the River to see the crossing from another vantage point. We all agreed and we headed west to cross the river at a location that would not spook the herd.

After crossing the river, we took a detour to look for some other wildlife. We watched a large heard of elephants cross a high plain west of the Mara River and watched several smaller herds of wildebeest that were headed south towards the high clearing above the river. As we stopped to view another herd of wildebeest on the high plains, we heard a lot of exciting chatter on the radio. The wildebeest were headed back towards the river. Raymond put the Land Cruiser into gear and sped towards the crossing location. After a 15 minute very bouncy ride, we arrived at the crossing location. As we were already on the South side of the river from crossing earlier, we had a great vantage point to witness the herd running across the river towards us.

Normally, the Mara river looks like a peaceful ribbon of silk that winds its way through the Serengeti. What isn’t quickly evident is the massive African crocodiles waiting submerged just below the water’s surface. The crossing of the wildebeest is a real-world game of chance, where each wildebeest’s chances of crossing safely depends on the number of other wildebeests crossing at the same time and the number of crocodiles waiting below. We were there late in the “crossing season”, so the today’s numbers were small, likely around 100 animals and at least two wildebeests were taken down by the waiting crocodiles. A couple of minutes after the mass of animals crossed, a single wildebeest made the attempt and was attacked by a crocodile. It managed to get away and emerged on the bank very close to us. Though still alive, it had a large gash of missing flesh and we somberly pondered the fact that it would likely die from infection anyway.

Moving on, we drove through more herds of wildebeest that had safely crossed today and in the days prior. Along the way we also saw Waterbucks, Impala, Hippos, and Banded mongoose. We also saw many interesting birds including Drongos, Lesser grey shrikes, a Grey-headed kingfisher, and an African-crowned eagle.

As the day progressed, word came over the radio that a leopard had been spotted in an area not far from our location, so we headed over to take a look. At some point earlier in the day, the Leopard had killed a wildebeest and had cached it in an outcrop of boulders where it was currently napping. As we watched, the leopard woke from its nap and returned to its lunch, where we had the opportunity to watch the leopard continue to feast on its kill.

Finally, with the day closing, we followed the Mara River South and then headed back west towards Chaka Camp . Along the way, we came across a mother hippopotamus and her calf, and later a gigantic African crocodile. On the road back to the camp, we drove right next to a sleepy Spotted hyena that seemed more concerned with its nap than our presence. A short time later, we were back at Chaka Camp.

Chaka Camp is a mobile camp that is assembled and disassembled as it is moved to follow the Wildebeests migration. Given this, we expected more rustic conditions, but were pleasantly surprised to learn that our safari tents were furnished with lighting, artisan furniture, running water, flush toilets, and a hot bucket shower. After cleaning up, we headed to the lounge tent, grabbed a Safari Lauger (my third beer of my Tanzanian beer trails). While Christine studied a book on African wild dogs, I used the camp’s Satellite-based Wi-Fi to post a couple of iPhone photos we took along the way for the family back home and recounted the day’s adventures and sightings with other camp guests.

Soon there was the call for everyone to head to the dining tent. After being seated like we were at a fine restaurant, the Chaka Camp dining staff announced the evening’s three-courses. As with breakfast and lunch, there was more food available than any of us could eat and all items were expertly prepared. I had this crazy idea about losing some weight while on safari, but the food was just too plentiful and too good.

After dinner, briefly relaxed in the lounge tent before the excitement of the day caught up with us. We retired to our luxurious safari tent and fell asleep to the sounds of the Serengeti.

Siku ilikuwa nzuri sana. Lala salama.

 

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