Serengeti shall not die! So said the movie. Yes, it has changed but still mesmerizes. As I ramble about our Safari.
I am narrating from memory as I did not make any notes.Tara helped with the editing and a few insights. A few pictures are mine and I suppose they are adequate for my blogs. But luckily I could borrow pictures from Raxit's website, who you will think is a professional. You can see the whole album if you click on it. In fact, you should!. Especially to see the many close-ups of the birds and the beasts.
. I have heard people rave about Masai Mara, but Nandini chose Serengeti. She was told that Serengeti was not as crowded as Masai Mara.We landed at Arusha on July 9th and stayed overnight at a lodge which itself would be an enjoyable experience. But we were on our way early on 10th morning and after a briefing by the head of the tour company, headed to Tarangire, a two hours ride.
We stopped at the gate of the park as our guides had to get the paper work done at the game park office. It was also the time to stretch our limbs and eat our packed lunch. Our safari had already begun as we saw some gazelles and many` birds welcoming us right there.
Soon we were churning up a dust as the road was not tarred and were clicking away at Impalas, Zebras, Giraffes, a few Wilde beast and many Elephants. Thank god for digital cameras which let you do this and then delete the bad ones at leisure.Which in my case are many!
|The elephants digging the dry river to find water, And other animals benefit once they are done.|
Zebra and Wilde beast are said to make a good team. Zebra for its memory and eyesight. Wilde beast for its sense of smell. The guide said that Zebras while small in number in the group take decisions and the w.b's follow!
Almost at the end of the day, we sighted two lions male and female sitting on the river bed. The guide said it was the mating season, but this couple appeared to be unaware of this. Suddenly the lady got up and entered the tall grass along the river and the male, it seemed reluctantly, followed after a while. I guess the guides brought us here as a finale for the day. It was quite thrilling. My first wild lions! Though a bit disappointed to see the lion king meekly following the lady! A roar was in order and be more picturesque and dramatic.
Frankly we could have stayed in Tarangire for another day. The terrain was varied and beautiful. The safari lodge, within the park itself, was wonderfully located at a height. We could see a number of elephants ambling along right below us. It was a fitting end to a great day of safari.
|A view from our lodge. It is almost dark|
|Sunset. A bonus!|
We slept in tents with a number flaps which we could zip in. Tara gave the tents a 3 or 4 star. We zipped ourselves in, practically entombed ourselves and had a fitful sleep. We took this extra care as we were warned not to walk alone as wild animals could come in anytime of the night.
Woke up early had shower and were all set for a good breakfast and the next leg of our journey.
We continued for a while at Tarangire and saw a line of elephants heading towards a small lake near the road.An impressive sight as they crossed the road to get to the lake.
The pictures below give you an idea of one of the Jungle laws! You survive only if you have discipline. You could see that babies were invariably between adults and the adults were also ever watchful.
|The elephants troop in|
|This little fellow was tardy in keeping up and lifted his trunk to announce he is approaching us to cross. Photo Raxit|
|Others in the lake quietly make way as the elephants walk in!|
|The matriarch trumpeted and walked out and the rest obeyed and followed. Tara had heard the trumpet and as a mother and teacher she was duly impressed with what followed.|
|Peace and tranquility|
|Photo courtesy Raxit|
|Ever watchful the vultures take their job of keeping the park clean very- seriously|
|It is not fair but we were no more interested in monkeys|
|As we cruised along looking for game I saw a broad line of white stretched along as far as I could see. I knew we would see birds, was not expecting this amazing view|
|You see birds on flight on the horizon and I guess if you could fly you could see tens of thousands of birds from the sky.|
Our next stop was central Serengeti. Nandini had changed plans a bit as the migration had started a little early and the wilde beasts had moved from western Serengeti. Serengeti in Maasai means endless plains and it was no exaggeration! Even though we had seen Giraffes earlier. They really stood up in the plains and we did see many lions.
Suddenly the driver took a turn on what seemed to be an endless plains and soon we were in touching distance to these lions.
The next three days were all in Serengeti and the plains stretched as long as the eye could see. I guess the drive had become a bit tedious, specially for the kids, as we drove around looking for new experiences. We saw more lions, thousands of Wilde beasts and Zebras (not so many) who as per our guide formed a team with the wilde beasts.
I did not mind the gap between discovering new prides of lions as I could sit down and watch the plains go by. Each succeeding day the numbers of wilde beasts we saw went up.
A lesson learnt:
We all know that fellow passengers on an aircraft pay different fares. It is not good to ask how much as either it will make you or them miserable, depending on who had paid more! Similarly do not ask fellow lodgers what they saw during the day. I learnt this lesson after Tara spoke, she is the friendly one, to a girl she met in the evening. The girl had seen a leopard kill and go up a tree to enjoy her kill and god forbid she had seen lions mate.The game lodges also have logbook wherein you can write what you saw.
Then we met another person who had waited at the river Mara the whole day to watch the crossing and did not see any. The reason was that it had rained on our side of the river and there was enough grass for the thousands w.b's that had arrived and waiting. This conversation influenced us and we were not too energetic the next day after lunch and were late and thus missed a crossing of the wilde beasts across the river Mara. In fact, this crossing is the selling point and the highlight of a safari to Serengeti.
I had imagined the crossing was something similar to our kumbh mela. That all the beasts would congregate and camp and at an allotted time they would commence crossing by jumping into the river. I wondered whether the first beast to cross was selected by the group. I know it is all by instinct, but still thought there could be a method. In fact they cross both ways depending on which side looks greener. I suppose the beast which crosses first is the hungriest of them all.
Obviously a bridge would help them, but that would be interfering with nature and also make a big dent in the tourism revenue for both countries. In fact we saw a causeway across the river. But it appears that the beasts do not use them. May be it is too narrow and would create a stampede (again reminiscent of kumbh mela) and prove more harmful. Many would fall into the water and be attacked by the ever present crocs. I was told that the casualty was four in the crossing we missed. Some sixteen hundred had crossed.
|For some reason this carcass of a wilde beast was not attacked by crocs|
This emigration of the wilde beasts is truly phenomenal as each season upwards of a million and a half beasts cross the river. As they swim across the river in a frantic hurry, there are crocodiles waiting, a few die of heart attack and some weaklings get pulled in by the crocs. I have seen the videos and it is exciting or heartbreaking depending on your nature. Around 150000 of them do not make it to the other side each year and provide food for the crocs. Also we hear lions prefer w.b's and one reason for the lions flourish in Serengeti.
It appears the gods knowing our nature, we are known as pulichar (read veg) brahmins, did not let this killing happen in front of us. Sad that the others in the group also missed it because of us. In fact, most of the wild animals we saw were mild or contented beings. As if one was a rishi and brought peace and tranquility for the day. But I am not complaining. We had a great time.
The chase: But it was not all dull, we had our share of excitement. We saw a chase! As we waited and almost gave up a cheetah which was seen hiding in the distant grass, Neil and Nandini saw, suddenly sprang and gave a chase to grab an infant gazelle and luckily the infant escaped.
|Hope you can see the infant on the left.|
|Spot the leopard!|
|I thought it was a small rock in front|
|It surely is not a bridge of rocks. But the dangerous hippos|
The kids in our group, Neil, Nikhil and Sanil did wonderfully well and we are very proud they managed some long rides which seemed endless. We did about 2000 kms in all. Some roads were rough. I am sure it would not be half as fun if they were not there with us.
Our guides Cosmos and Adriano of Easy Travel in Arusha were very good. Good drivers and good attitude. They had a lot of experience and spotted birds which I would have surely missed. They say a safari of this nature depends a lot on them. They can make it or break it. And they did well.
Here are more pictures of Lions, Hippos and many many Wilde beasts.
As we continued our journey we saw her sitting under a tree right next to the road. She looked tired. Cosmos our guide said she was pregnant and would probably deliver in two weeks.
Here are a set of pictures borrowed from Raxit which pretty much covers the three lovely days in north serengeti and Ngorongoro. It is a flat caldera, the lid of a collapsed volcano seemed to be specially made for the photographer. The animals stood out against the horizon.
The tents and services were excellent and right in the forest. However I and Tara decided to zip in every part of the tent.
|Lucky for us that they decided to walk towards us|
|This one looked at me and said I will remember you!|
|Our grandchildren Nikhil and Neil. Sanil their cousin in the middle. And we are proud of them. They did very well through out the safari!|
|And US with our friendly and capable guides form EASY TRAVELS, Arusha|
Raxit, Tara, Neil, Nandini, Nikhil, Cosmos, Nidhi, Sanil, Adriano Anuj (Raxit's brother).
Raxit's parents Meera and Avinansh in front
|Three cheers to Raxit, Nandini's husband for his very professional Photographs and for doing it with such dedication and thoroughness|
|Three cheers for Nandini, our daughter, for making this memorable trip happen and for including us seniors.|
Is it wishful thinking?
I read that there are now about 30,000 lions in Africa. Compare this to about 1780 or so tigers scattered around the many designated tiger parks in India. When we saw our first and only tiger in Kanha about 30 years ago the person who spoke to us from the conservation project claimed there were 3000 tigers.
While in teens I had seen a tiger (or a leopard?) cross the road as we came down from Nandi Hills just 60 kms away from Bangalore. I still remember it was blinded for a second by the car light and then took a leap towards the woods. A memorable sight. And tigers could be seen at Naama chilume in Devaraayana Durga hills (around 90 kms away).sixty odd years ago. But today there is no mention of wild life in these areas. Hopefully there are few leopards or cheetahs which have managed to survive.
It reminds me of a story in our family how my uncle found a tiger cub, may be the mother was killed and he adopted it. It was a pet and as it grew big it started to attack hens and other domestic animals, soon it was going after dogs. So my uncle decided to give it to the Mysore zoo. I have seen the tiger when my cousin pointed it to me at the zoo. I was quite small at that time. He said the tiger still recognized my uncle whenever he visited the zoo, which of course was not often.
It was however encouraging to read about Hazzah and her efforts to conserve lions in Africa. I was shocked when I read that there were almost half a million lions in Africa 60 years ago. I cannot imagine how our safari would have been then. She is using Maassai warriors as Lion Guardians in Kenya. So Serengeti has changed, but still mesmerizes us. I wish there was less poaching and senseless killing. I wish her all the best.
I said to myself we also have our National parks. We surely seem to be making an effort to preserve our wild life but only time will tell how successful! I read in TOI today that we spend 150 crores of Rupees per year on tiger preservation in 46 different reserves. In 2011 only 16 tigers were poached and it had increased to 59 in 2013. No reasons given why. We also read about the constant conflict between the wild animals and us.
While we owe it to ourselves and to the future generations to maintain wild life and make it grow, I have no clue how this will be really achieved. I hope others do.