A Travellerspoint blog

Central Serengeti - Tanzania Safari

Shaging, charging and killing

Our home for our last 3 nights was Lemala tented camp in central Serengeti. Yes, more tents, no lions repelling walls, and more 1 minute showers with the water buckets but an itty bit fancier and with wifi in the dinner tent.
Our 3 days in Central Serengeti were just as amazing as what we have already experienced. On our first day, we saw 1 more cheetah walking around looking for prey, 2 more leopards (!!!) one of them feasting on a dead wildebeest.
Look at that face... Nothing says "bugger off" more than a leopard looking at you like he wants you for his next meal.

Although I don't mention them all, Central Serengenti also has tons and tons of different species and is a great place to see the Big 5's.
Our funniest moment of the day was to see a lioness trying to get it on with her mate. During mating week the female is the one deciding when she wants the nookie. And she wants it A LOT- every 15 minutes at the beginning!!! Then as the days go by, the stand down period gets a bit longer but they still do it 20 to 40 times PER DAY. And if her lion didn't get his viagra prescription on time, she'll shamelessly go seduce another lion. We had first row seat to see that happen, And the lady gots moves!! She starts by running circles around her male, and then throws herself on the ground belly up to seduce him. When he didn't bite the first time, she did it again. But the lion must have had a long night playing poker with the boys because he got annoyed and chased her away. So she found another male a few meters down and started the seduction dance again. The male followed her for a while and we thought we'd see lion porn in the making, but no. The new prospect kept looking back at the other boyfriend and decided to stick to the bro code. Bro before nympho.

Day 2 started on a sweet note. We saw a small lion pride with a mom giving a bath to her cub and then the cub helping his mama cleaning herself. Such sweetness.
Then we had a bit of a scare, again. We were driving down a road where we came across a huge elephant with a tusk half broken. As soon as the elephant looked our way, Wilfred knew he didn't want us anywhere near him. Then David and I saw the signs. He started to walk purposely towards us, kicked with his foot then digged in the ground as a bull would do before charging a mantador. Wilfred put the jeep in reverse and kept going until the elephant stopped following us, which was quite a ways. Then comes 2 safari jeeps. Wilfred advised them to turn around, especially because we heard an elephant charged & hit a jeep and injured 2 tourists on Sunday. The 2 jackasses waited about a minute and drove towards the elephant despite the warning. The elephant turned to them and charged the jeeps as fast and powerfuly as you can imagine. He missed the last jeep by what seemed like inches!!! That was crazy to watch!!
(this is not grumpy trump but 2 cute siblings playing together we saw a little later)
At the end of the day, we were treated to a magical sunset over the Serengeti. Just spectacular!!
Last safari day. :(

While driving torwards the sunrise, we came accross a very large and thick cloud of what looked like fog. But of course, there's no fog in the dry heat of the serengeti. Turns out it was dust, an incredible amount of dust created by an incredible amount of bewildered wildebeests. Looks like the migration followed us. I know dust and wilderbeest sound like nothing exciting but in the light of dawn it looked stunningly chaotic.
Then a bit further, we saw it all unfold. A gang. The mafia of the Serengeti. 19 of them. 19 lions on a mission to kill. 3 females, 1 male and a bunch of big and small cubs.
Wilfred knew it was about to happen. David had the camera ready. It all happened so fast. One kill here!! One kill on the other side of the road!! One kill further in the field!! Wilderbeests screaming, fighting for their lives, suffering for excrutiating long minutes. Then it started again. Same lionesses going for kill #4' then 5. A cub lion "playing" with a cub wilderbeest, making it suffer before finishing him. Kill 6, and then 7. We witnessed 7 kills. Well that's a bit of a lie. David witnessed 7 kills. After the 2nd kill, I had so many tears rolling down my face, I couldn't see a thing. Yes, yes , lions need to eat, it's the circle of life, the strongest survives, bla bla blah... It's still traumatizing to see. And 7 kills for a pride of 19 is greed. The last kills were just opportunity kills. Wilfred said he's never seen such mass killings in a day from a pride. Then we heard over the CB 4 more kills were made while we drove away to have our picnic breakfast.
For the rest of the day, we asked Wilfred to take us away from the dozens of safari jeeps hurdled around the large pride eating their all you can eat buffet. We drove around and enjoyed the ever changing landscape of the Serengeti and surounded ourselves with thousands of zebras, wildebeest, gazelles, elephants,buffalos.... For the last time. Until our next safari.
A weird thing about coming across big herds of wildebeests is that they see you coming but always decide to cross the road as fast as possible in front of the jeep instead of running away from it. And the Gazelles must have had the same teacher in their Tourism class. "Now children, what do we do when we see a big automobeast coming our way?" All together " Always assume you're on the dangerous side of the road and quickly cross in front of automobeast to the safe side!"

Wildebeest and hyenas came to sing us lullibies for our last night. And a big lion came to drink from the water boiling station right there, behind our tent.
We heard more animals that night then any other. The whole gang was there to wish us farewell.

If you ever thought about doing a safari, do it!!! Access2Tanzania and our guide Wilfred did an amazing job and we recommend them wholeheartly!! Seriously, do it!!!

Posted by Rattrays 15:38 Comments (1)

Camping scare and the great wildebeest migration

Fear and wonder

Shit just got real people!! I usually write the blog in the order things happen but this time, I have to start with our night instead of our day. Tonight Wilfred joins us for dinner looking a bit nervous and figidy then told us how he went to take a shower 20 minutes after we got back from our safari day. The staff tents do not have a shower in them so he went to the staff "shower" with his bucket. Once he unzipped the tent to get out of the shower he came face to face with a lion. He said it was less than 10 feet from him!!!!! Poor Wilfred froze in fear, than threw the bucket of water and ran as fast as he could to his tent. Once at his tent he looked back at the lion who crouched and kept staring back at him. The poor guy was still shaking telling us his story. Wilfred has been a guide for years, he's seen those killing machines taking down 200lbs wildebeest without breaking a sweat. He's also seen thousands of lions but never from outside of his steel armory on wheels.

That's not it...but here's a small interlude to remind you of how easy it would be for one of those beasts to tear you appart in seconds...

Around dessert time we started hearing weird throaty animal sounds. The same kind of sounds we had heard the night before without knowing what it was. You guessed it, they we lion talks. After a while, all 24 guests went silent. There were more than 1 lion talking, all pretty close to us and we were all in the big dinner tent with the sides lifted.
(Here's what it looks like during the day)
At night, the rule is to have one of the staff accompany you back to your tent so they can chase wild animals away if you meet any. One of the couples go back on their merry way to their tent with one of the staff. That's until a bunch of other guys started yelling to the guy in Swahili NOT to come back. Standing between 2 oil lamps on our tents' path was the king of the jungle himself. (Whaaaat?!?!?). That's maybe 100 feet away from the dinner tent and also about 100 feet away from our own little tent. A couple of guides went to get their jeeps to try to scare him away. But this one is a younger lion. Not easily scared and doesnt want to go anywhere. After a while he finally moved a bit further but since lions cannot be trusted, the guides escorted each one of us to our tent by jeep. As I'm writting this, we keep hearing lions around the camp. We're safe in the tent but it's still very unnerving. Especially that the staff told us this had never happened before. I wonder how much damage that little multi-tool we have next to our bed would do to a big ass lion? Don't think any of us will sleep very soundly tonight.

Ok... Now that that's out of the way, let's go back to the fun, less scary part of the day...

Everytime we swear that it will de impossible to top the last day, Tanzania makes us into big fat liars. 3 words: The great wildebeest migration. This should be called the "greatest most incredible migration of millions of animals that will make you doubt your sanity & vision and definitely blow your mind" I'm not even exagerating here.

We based our itinerary on being able to witness this event. Did we have any idea what we were in for? Not a damn clue!! The Great wildebeest migration is the seasonal movement of all wildebeests and zebras from Tanzania to Kenya, then back as they are following the rain/food/water. I dont think our imagination had clued in on the immensity of this spectacle. We thought we'd see maybe 5,000, maybe 10,000 wildebeests and zebras. Imagine our surprise when 5,000 soon became 100's and 100's of THOUSANDS!!!!

Everywhere we looked, there were animals on their way to Kenya. Look right, look left, the horizon is peppered with beasts. Nothing we could have imagined came any close to the reality. It's so hard to quantify how many we've seen in 2 days. Wilfred said between 1 and 2 millions... We're going to stay conservative with 1 million. Pictures don't do it justice but this will give you a bit of an idea.
The award for cutest animal of the day goes to a young elephant walking along side of his mom and baby brother but kept running after a bird and shooing him away with his trump. "Biwd! I's alweady told you dis is my gwass. Shoo cwazy biwd!!" (Yes, we make them talk too...). I will upload the video later today.
And the award for most disgusting moment goes to the lioness chewing away on a dead wildebeest and then dragging it to the shade. I wish I had a scratch and snif app to make you live the whole experience the way we did. Oooor maybe not. That'd pretty mean of me!
(The nice piece of jewelry she is sporting is a tracker)
That's it for now. Time for another game drive!

Posted by Rattrays 04:27 Comments (3)

Feline Friday and Lions on the rocks

Its all about the big cats

The Big 5's: the Elephant, lion, buffalo, black rhino and leopard. Most everyone comes to Tanzania in hopes to see them upclose but you need a bit of luck to see the 2 last ones. Wilfred told us he goes 1-2 weeks without seeing a leopard or a black rhino. We most have won the safari lottery because after seeing not 1 but 3 black rhinos the day before, we saw a leopard on our way to our next destination. Leopardo Decaprio (yes, we started naming them during our down time) crossed the road in front of us and hid in the bush right next to our jeep right before starting a staring contest. See him?
After a low growl he disappeared in the woods and crossed back the road further behind us. Big 5 list all checked off in about 24 hours!! Whoooo!
After 2 hours of African massage aka sitting in our jeep driving on super bumpy dirt roads, we made it to the southern Serengeti where we learned that today was Feline Friday. While we did see 18 lions the day before, our luck was created by Wilfred and his eagle eye ability to spot lions from across a football field. If it wasn't for binoculars and camera zoom, those lions would have been big dots on the grass for us. But Feline Friday was different. This is the day that all kinds of big cats were close enough to take one pounce to lick (or chew) our faces off.
(Here's a sleepy cheetah)
Our home for the next 3 days was Kati Kati camp. Huge tents with a bed, a shower and a toilet in the middle of Ndutu overlooking a lake with wildlife all the way around. There's no running water so when you want to take a (quick) shower, one of the guys come over with warm water, poors it in a big buket, hoists it up in the air and gravity takes over through the shower head.
The super akward part is that the guy stays behind the tent in case you need another bucket full. Truth is, it's part of the experience and even if it's a challenge to wash hair and body with about 1 minute of water, I wouldn't change this for running water. Before dinner, we sat and watched a bit of what they call bush tv or what Canadians would refer as sitting in front of a campfire looking over the Serengeti. For dinner half a dozen guys go around each tables with different dishes and pile it onto your plate. Everything we had was pretty tasty. All the employees are super nice and very helpful!! We love Kati Kati camp.
Saturday's special was Lions on the rocks. You'd think that we're all lioned out by now.. But no. They are such gorgeous, fascinating yet very dangerous creatures. Don't be fooled by their sweet kitty cat look, they are known to kill not only for food but for the fun of killing. The highlight of our day was a pride of 14 lions hanging on and around big rocks.
And then we were blessed enough to see a lioness welcoming back a lion from the pride that had been gone for a while. Here's the little video we took .
We also had the chance to experience our first day of the great migration but we will talk about this tomorrow since I cannot stand being one more minutes on my ipad while in the middle of this incredible place!! Laters!

Posted by Rattrays 10:30 Comments (1)

Safari day 1 and 2

Holy valcanic crater packed with animals!!!

After an unbearable 9 hour layover at the airport in Ethiopia, we finally boarded the plane to our final destination. (Sorry Deb, no food pics for that flight, the food was hurting our eyeballs just as much as our tastebuds.) We landed in Kilimanjaro where Wilfred, our guide from Access2Tanzania was waiting for us. If you've been off resort in Mexico or a poor island in the Caribbean it should be easy for you to visualize what Tanzania looks like outside of their national parks. Village after village of homes and businesses looking like your grand-pa's crumbling old shed and even pieces of plastic hanging from a tree used as a roof. Heart wrenching. And then you see those amazingly strong women dressed in tradional african dresses carrying big buckets, Huge banana bunches and even woodpiles on their heads. You also have the Maasai people, a semi-nomadic tribe wearing bright colored sheets wrapped around their body, hanging around the roads with their cattles.
First day was in Arusha, where we did a bit of shopping and a lot of sleeping to make up for our all-nighter in Ethiopia. Day 2 was our first official safari day. Destination Lake Manyara, home of baboons and climbing tree lions. First safari day people!!! Any idea how excited we were?!? The first animal we saw was a giraffe. Sure, we've seen them in zoos but this is different. Those are wild animals having us over in their own homes. Then we saw baboons, hippos, velvet monkeys aka blue balled monkeys (see picture above and pay closer attention this time), baboons, few zebras from afar, elephants, baboons, wildebeest, impala, gazelles, baboons, hundreds of birds and baboons. No lion climbing trees... But did I mention baboons? Moral of the story, if you dont have a strange fascination for baboons and birds like our guide has... We would not recommend Lake Manyara.
Day 3. We woke up to the sight of an Antelope with a morning woody trying to get frisky with his lady. And no, Antelope is not my new pet name for David... Our hotel for nights 2 and 3 is on top of the biggest crater in Africa. A Crater filled with tens of thousands of animals. Ngorongoro crater. This is where we feel our safari really began. It's incredibly hard to explain the emotions that takes over your soul. Excitement, happiness, wonder, overwhelmingness??? Imagine being 6 years old again on Christmas morning.... We must have made it on the "good list" this year because Africa was very good to us on our 2nd day of Safari: thousands of wildebeests, thousands of zebras, thousands of impalas, hundreds of buffalos, 40 elephants, 30 worthogs aka pumbas, 25 hippos, 20 ostriches, 18 lions, 15 hyenas, 3 black rhinos (!!! Those are extremely rare to spot), and at least 1 baby of each family!! Calvin season is a fantastic time to visit Tanzania, what's better than seeing all those beautiful animals?? Seeing them carring for their wittle ones.

'Nough said... Here are a couple pictures.

Posted by Rattrays 20:49 Comments (2)

24 hours in Istanbul

From Mosque to Lost

Rise and shine virtual travelers. It's midnight, time to get up and go walk around Istanbul! Gotta say our bed never felt more comfy. After a night of tossing and turning since the body clocks were upside down, 7am still felt like midnight. But we got up like the troopers we are, to enjoy our 24 hours layover.

What is very distinctive about visiting a country with a large islamic population is hearing the call to prayer 5 times a day. "Day" is used very loosely here since 2 of them are in the middle of the night. I'm sure this might become mundain or even soothing for visitors to hear this after spending a bit of time here but it's a little eerie being awaken by someone chanting loudly in a microphone that can be heard throughout the city, including well insulated hotel room : asha(aaaahh-aaaa-aaaa)du anna(aaa-aaa-aaa-aaaa) la ila(aaaaaaaaaaa) il Allah(ahh-aaa-aahhh-aaahh)..... And this keeps going for quite a while. The call to prayer does exactly what it says it does. The translation is something like:I testity that there is no God but Allah, I testify that Mohammed is God's prophet, come to prayer, come to salvation (...). I want to make it clear that I dont think its the religious part of the chant that makes it eerie. I think being slapped out of sleep by someone chanting "somewhere over the rainbow" would be just as freaky.
Our Hotel was in Old town and had a few touristy spots we decided to hit. First, we stopped at the blue Mosque. On our way there, a very nice Turkish man started talking to us and offered to show us around the Mosque since it was on his way to work. Obviously, we guessed very quickly that he insisted on being our guide in hopes that we would buy a carpet from his family business. Little did we know that the carpets he was selling started at $900 for a 2 feet by 4 feet rug... Come to think about it, he did mention something about magic flying carpets before we got to his store. Maybe thats why it's so incredibly pricey, It could have been a good buy after all!! Back to the Mosque. Beautiful building, inside and out. Take off your shoes, women- you need to wear a head scarf, now take a look inside.
Next stop was Topkapi Palace, primary residence of the sultans back in 1465 for 400 years, converted museum. Huge palace but honestly not that interesting to visit other than their impressive armory collection and tons of different home items covered in gold and expensive stones, including an 86 carats diamond. 86. Carats. You'd need a mini crane to follow you around if you want to wear that puppy on your finger!!
After that, we went to the grand bazaar. That's over 60 covered street and more than 3,000 shops. There's a little bit of everything in there but its mostly hand painted dishes, carpets, scarves, laterns, and jewelry. 30 minutes in there was sufficent to grab a couple little souvenirs and get completely lost in Istanbul by leaving the bazaar from the wrong door. Yup. Completely lost for about an hour, we took the north exist when our hotel was south. We walked through dumpy little roads with not a tourist in sight and no one speaking english or even able to read a map to point us in the right direction. We finally arrived in a busy street and saw a cab , who declined to take us our hotel because he would have to do a u-turn. Hummm. What? At least, while the 8 cops we asked just before sent in the wrong direction, that cab driver pointed us to our hotel...
Now we are in Ethiopia, waiting for our plane to Tanzania. 9 hours layover. Its 4:30 am here and we are both pooped but really excited to finally start our Safari!!!

Posted by Rattrays 17:34 Comments (2)

It's here!!

Cancelled flight and tequila shots

We're going on a Safari!!!! A real A-freakin-frican Safari!!!!! A 9 day private safari in Tanzania, just the 2 of us and a guide!!! Please forgive all those "!!!!" It's just that in my head, I'm not just telling you this, I'm screaming, giggling and jumping up and down with excitement. David has been talking about a safari for the 12 years we've been together. After all those amazing beach vacation to French Polynesia, the Maldives, Los Roques and Turks and Caicos, we decided it was time for a bigger than big adventure in the wild instead of a relaxing time roasting under the sun.

We were booked from Boston to Istanbul (Turkey), to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), to Kilamandjaro (Tanzania), leaving on Sunday night the 22nd and arriving on the 24th - yeah.. the travel time is a little intense. As David went to verify our seats on Friday, he saw that our flight from Boston to Istanbul was cancelled. CANCELLED!!!! An hour of panic later, we took those lemons life hit us in the head with and bit into them after a tequila shot: Helloooo extra vacation day!! We re-booked a flight to Istanbul for Saturday instead and now have a full day in Turkey! One more Country to slap a pin on to our world map!
Our flight to Istanbul was perrrty great. 9 hours and 40 minutes in our... Ah-hem... First class seats (thank you united mileage plus loyalty program!!) with a 4 course dinner served to us at 1 am, a cozy lay-flat seat for quality shut eye and a 2 course breakfast served in "bed" before landing. These 2 travelers could get used to that kind of luxury!
It's funny how you have an image of what a foreign city will look like and when you get there, you realize that big cities are all similar. Concrete, tall buildings and big highways. Once you start venturing further from the airport, that's where you see more of the Turkish character. Mosques everywhere and apartments one on top of another, all beige, clay and mustard colors, with laundry air drying on clothes lines off their decks. Now we're checked in at our hotel, it's about 11:20am Boston/Quebec time but 6:20pm in Turkey. We'll stay around the hotel for the night to be well rested for an early rise to go explore around 7am tomorrow, which means it will be midnight to our Canadian brain. Yikes!!

Posted by Rattrays 08:19 Comments (2)

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