Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Predators

Don't have a lot of time here - exhausted and have to get up in a few hours to take the ferry to Zanzibar, but wanted to let my loyal blog readers (mom) know that we made it safely back from our first safari adventure.

Selous- the largest animal preserve park in all of Africa - is incredible. As we flew in on our tiny, four-passenger plane (a Piper), i was immediately struck by a rather strong surge of cabin fever as i realized how we were truly in the middle of a fucking dry jungle in Africa.

Really, there is almost nothing there - just a few tiny houses, villages and safari camps full of palm leaf-roofed huts and tents.

We were transfered to our camp via safari land rover (with an open back and high seats), and on the way, baboons ran across the road and the place was lined with bones and skulls.
Our tent was deluxe - flushing toilet and working shower - all courtesy of the Rufigi River right outside.
The first afternoon, we met a fantasic Dutch couple - Mariska and Bas - who were our tablemates and adventure partners for the two days they were there.
We did a guided walk through the village outside of the camp, which was really something to see.
Here are people content with no electricity, one radio among the 4,000 of them for news about the outside world and a pool table in a grass hut for entertainment.
within 2 minutes of strolling through, we were tailed by about 40 of the village children, all of whom, upon seeing that we were the friendly variety of mzungu (white people), were holding our hands and wanting to model in our sunglasses.
Nights at the camp were filled with the sounds of wild animals - mainly the hippos in the river, who sound like they're laughing all the time - Haw haw haw - an occasional hyena (ooo-oop) and of course, the crashing and branch breaking of giant elephants walking through the camp.
One night, there was a lot of yelling in Swahili, as some scary thieves robbed the two tents on the end which led to screaming and the camp staff chasing the thieves through the forest. Crazy that this would happen in such a peaceful place were the greatest dangers are wild animals, where everyone knows each other, and where there's no easy way out.. the camp manager said it was the first time it had ever happened. we got lucky.
Anyway... the animals.We were about 20 minutes into the wildlife park - the only car around - as the southern part of Tanzania is much MUCH less crowded than the north, where most people go to safari. Our driver (Hamedia, who grew up in the the aforementioned village along with a few others on the camp staff, all of whom were the most hospitable and welcoming people around) spotted some elephants peeping at us through the trees. he killed the engine and about 10 elephants emerged, complete with baby in the middle and a huge angry guy at the end of the line. As they crossed the road, the big one flared its ears and ran its head into a tree. He was right behind the car. When he stepped onto the road, he threw his head around, flared his ears again and began to charge toward us. I turned to Hamedia, expecting him to start the engine and floor it, but he looked at me and said 'Hakunamatata' (remember from the Lion King? 'No Problem'). Sure enough, it was just a mock charge. The elephant turned and continued walking. Apparently mock charges are the general rule unless their target moves, in which case they charge and trample.
After this jaw-dropping scene, we saw crocodiles, monkeys, warthogs, a ton of giraffes, zebras and wildebeasts. As we reached the turnaround point - a huge lake, we had lunch, then went a bit farther, turned a corner and stumbled across ... not one, but TWELVE lions, all camped out under a tree. Yes, an entire pride of lions ...
There were four adult females, some adolescents and a cub, all intertwined lazily in the roots of the tree, some on their backs, some on their sides, some with their heads pressed together, some getting up to stretch, some staring at us ...
It was UNbelievable. I could have watched them for hours ... could have watched their every move. Instead, we watched them for about 20 minutes, then drove a few yards away to find the male lion passed out under a palm bush. He was on his back with his bloody teeth showing. He hardly moved at all in the 15 minutes we stopped there staring, but i got about 60 photos of those bloody teeth.
On our second safari drive, we came across the same pride - this time camped out under the tree we'd had lunch under our first day. This time, a lioness was lying a bit away from the rest of the group with the remains of her kill right next to her ... The head and neck of a zebra minus the eyes (which they eat first, we were told), its legs and its rib cage, stripped of the meat. Vultures were perched overhead waiting.
Had i seen this on Animal Planet, I might be a bit disgusted. In reality, it was fascinating. The other lions all looked like they'd overeaten. But still adorable, on their backs, sleeping and being lazy ... ignoring us.
So yeah. Lions. They are so SO awesome.
After our trip to Zanzibar, we will go on another short safari in the north. These are going to be hard to beat ...
Back at Steph's now in Dar. Karin - poor thing - is sick. I am williing myself not to be. Went on another little run with the expats tonight - they do their 5K every week. Refreshing. Needed some exercise after doing nothing but sitting in a car or boat or pacing around a camp where you couldn't leave for fear of being trampled by an elephant or decapitated by a lion for 5 days.
Until next time ..
Oh wait. Steph has something in her swamp cooler. It's scampering. Let's hope it's a gecko ..

1 comment:

kimfarnell said...

Hi Shauna, your safari sounds amazing..... you ae having quite the adventure from what it sounds like. Up in Breck so finally had access to blogs, I really enjoyed reading them! Please be carefull, have fun and I will see you soon.
Love you sister!